I looked in awe through the low double-hung window at a winter’s full moon. I had gone halfway up the stairs and stopped; midway offers a direct view of the sky. This moon appears brighter with a crisper white light. The intensity of its glow dims the view of nearby stars.
As I was looking out the west window I noticed my long-haired silver cat, Meadow, had come down to me and back up twice as if trying to move me along. I think my halting has confused her. I watched her walk across the area rug to the oratory and back. Looking at me she offered a soft meow as if encouraging me to move on, wanting me to make my way to the chair so she could rest in my lap.
The moon’s light passing through the window is filtered by a silver screen, creating a cross-shaped halo, with the moon at its center. The simple beauty of this illuminated cross fills me with peace and softens the walls of memory. Its Lent, a time of growing by the increasing Light.
I sat down on the steps, leaned against the railing and released a sigh. It had been a very long time since I had allowed myself to reflect on the absence of family. In the light of that full moon, history comes like old photos in cardboard boxes; random, layered, and compelling.
There on top is the warm sepia image of my mother with alluring dark eyes and wavy black hair. Her face wears a calculated smile like a model in a catalog. She is too young and inexperienced to protect the children she bore. She’d sacrificed one lamb, a little girl, to her husband and herded away the others, believing she could keep safe the rest of her flock.
A little farther down is a worn crackled image of a black and white father, too insecure to be other than angry, without the capacity to be any other way. I remember him now as if he were some old man who lived down the street. When I learned of his passing several years ago, my only emotion was that he might, finally, be at peace. It didn’t seem to matter to me that he, as an old man, had been baptized over the kitchen sink of his double-wide trailer.
The memory that comes next is fading like an old Polaroid print. The deteriorating image is of one of my older brother whose name I choose not to speak, from whom there was no escape…ever. I feel confident that he maintained the legacy of our father somewhere in the northern woods.
There are other memories floating up; the overexposed images of my young adulthood. Those out of focus years still lay in an imaginary shoe-box, scrambled without chronology. I do not feel the need to make sense of what remains; those years don’t define who I am anymore.
Sitting on the steps watching the haloed moon as pieces of my past come into focus, I recall a bible verse …pray for those who persecute you…be a child of a different Father…He makes His sun rise and rains fall on the evil and the good…if I love only those who love me, what reward, what healing will I gain? (Mt 5:44-46)
Mercy. Compassion. Both must be given to be received, or more definitively, a concurrent movement.
The years of walking with God have softened my heart and, once the longing abated, left a curiosity of what “family” is. And though I play with words, I fall short of describing what I do not know.
In the full moon’s shadows I also remember women friends. Those who in their earlier years faced the perils of childbearing and with their husbands struggled to maintain families centered in Christ. I am dumbfounded as to how it all works, and in awe that it does at all.
What I have as family is a kitty sleeping on the landing in the shadow of a winter’s full moon. That is enough for now.
Image courtesy morguefile.com.
Stay in touch! Like The Catholic Garden, Morning Rose Prayer Gardens’ page on Facebook: