Today is November 2, All Soul’s Day. I remember my mother taking me to church with her on many an All Soul’s Day, so that she could place an offering and light a candle and pray. On the way over she would tell me how much she missed her father, who had died of cancer when she was in her early 20’s. She would tell me what a great man he was, how everyone loved him, and how she wished that my brothers and sister and I could have known him. Then, after lighting the candle, she’d lead me into a pew and we’d pray.
As I got older the list of souls to pray for grew, while her alcoholism advanced. First there was her Aunt Sis (cancer), then her mother (also cancer), then my other grandfather (heart attack), friend Jay Loughlin (leukemia), the mother of one of my friends (cancer), and the father of one of my friends (cancer), and on and on. Of course now there are many, many souls to pray for on this day: more relatives, more friends, more relatives of friends, more friends of relatives.
As time goes on it’s not the years of her active alcoholism, or the many serious, life-threatening ways in which she let me and my siblings down that most often permeate my thoughts. It is instead images of her sober, sensitive, faithful days that visit me, and for that I am grateful.