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Edmond J. (Skip) O'Neill has not received any gifts yet
Tucson Sunday Morning
Might we testify on this day,
That one January Saturday morn,
“No liberals, conservatives fell,
No Democrats, Republicans died,
The dead spoke a common tongue,
Here, the blood of each ran red,
And a little girl plays no more” ?
Yet, Sunday there is hope !
For Anna Marie on Valentine's Day 2009
Too worthy for any vase,
In jealous company
Of bouquets, chocolates,
And clever greeting cards,
One yellow rose grew
In the garden of him,
Rooted in thoughts of one,
Her soft bloom petals.
While asleep on my cot…
breakfast is served, -or not,
a father chops wood, – or would,
wheat may grow, -or maize,
kids make play, – or pray.
facts are known, – or “why ?”
the truth is told, – or lies.
blood flows, – or clots
a child is born, – or dies.
trains run on time, – or late
two make love, – or mate.
bottles are sipped, – or thrown
peace will out, – or war,
…All this, – as I snore !
Eulogy for Mom, - Contradictions
An old Irish proverb teaches, “A man loves his sweetheart the most, his wife the best,— .”
With all due respects to the folks at Hallmark, – today, Saturday, April 1st, 2006 is Mother’s Day, – at a time and place of our choosing, – in God’s house, -at His table, – and later today ,-on hallowed ground !
We recall the enduring love of a mother, and for some others, the life of a sister, friend, good neighbor, - Mary Veronica O’Neill.
For the past several years before her passing from us, in the early hours of this January 14th, in her room at Little Flower Assisted Living Center, Charlotte, NC, – my mother, born in south Philadelphia as Mary Arico, 2nd generation Italian-American, was a contradiction. Increasingly frail, weakened, hunched over, seemingly part of the chair where she sat in her room, — she remained strong in spirit; Eyes blurred by diabetes, — she maintained her vision; In a world of dizzying complexity,— she projected a simple woman of quiet practicality. Always the mother, — at 81, Michael, Trisha and I were still children in her eyes, even in our 40s and 50s. It is as if we were not meant to grow up, as if adulthood was the singular province of a mother alone. And maybe it is ! Or, at least it was until this January 14th.
My mom passed away to within several hours 14 years ago when my father died. And, although it was painful to lose our dad, I maintain that the passing of one’s mother is unique, and affects her children in far different ways than when a father leaves us. For when one’s mother dies,— I believe, it marks a complete severance with the past as if there were an ubiquitous umbilical cord that binds our affections, and makes us grounded in the world. For unlike our fathers, we are intimately, and inextricably connected with our mothers as their very flesh and blood in the womb. The Greek philosopher Aristotle alluded to this phenomenon when he observed “Mothers are fonder than fathers of their children because they are more certain they are their own. “ Yes, our childhood died along with our mother 2 months ago. But, like her, we are born again.
My mother was a contradiction as Jesus Himself was, —is. He taught us that pain, even death, would not overcome us. *“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”* And, so also my mother rejected the mortal logic of her pain and death. For she lived in the contradiction of Christ, in the biblical irony of the prophet which says that “By His stripes we are healed.”
The English poet John Donne expressed so eloquently the contradictory promise of the Resurrection,— in his Holy Sonnet X. when he said, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And Death shall be no more; Death, Thou shalt die.” Donne, thru verse, summarized the paradox of the human condition, Jesus’ own mortal redemptive death, my mother’s frailty and pain, and release from these bonds in Christ’s and in our Resurrection.
A lifespan of 81 years on the one hand, and eternal Resurrection on the other, -contradictions of time and timelessness, mothers, the birth of children, -and being born again. In Ecclesiastes the prophet measured a lifespan in seasons.
I paraphrase: “There is an appointed time for everything, – a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, … a time to uproot the plant, a time to weep, …laugh; … mourn, … dance, … embrace,” and, – as we acknowledge here today, be far from Mary’s embraces. My family and friends, -yes, it is our time to be far from Mary’s embraces, the plant has been uprooted, – but we will dance again ! It is the contradiction of our Redemption, freely given to us by Jesus Christ, if we will believe that our mortal lives died on the cross with Christ and in bed at the Little Flower Assisted Living Center in Charlotte, NC, – in certain promise of the Resurrection.
As a true Christian, my mom was witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by which births, deaths, rites of passage, the life cycle, -time as measured thru seasons in the Old Testament of Ecclesiastes, are swept away. It is the contradiction, that the many crosses borne by a failing, diabetic woman of 81, and the pierced hands and side of the crucified man-God Jesus Christ transcend time, the seasons, and history itself thru the Resurrection.
Another prophet, of our time, -Groucho Marx said, “My mother loved children—she would have given anything if I had been one.” There were times as a child, – even the child at 57, when I must admit that I endorsed Mr. Marx’s world view, and not tongue-in-cheek either. For those times when I faltered, Mom, I am sorry for my transgressions, and indifference to your needs. I ask your forgiveness in Jesus’ name.
There is no doubt my mom would have put Mr. Marx in his place if she had heard Groucho’s words because she really believed she was blessed with 3 children always, especially Trisha (with Al), and Michael, who cared for her everyday, and even someone like me who cared mostly by telephone. She told me as much when we sat alone in the garden at Little Flower last year when I told her about how much I loved her, and would miss her when she left us. We all figured it would be the last time I would see her. But, God called her home in His own good time,- this year.
His late Holiness Pope Paul VI remarked about mothers and their children when he observed, “Every mother is like Moses. She does not enter the promised land. She prepares – the world she will not see.” Mary bore 2 healthy sons and a daughter, lived into her 82nd year. With my dad, she prepared her 3 now grown children, and 5 grandchildren for an earthly land of promise she will no longer see, – from here. But, Jesus Christ assured us that she is in a heavenly promised land with my dad. It is the contradiction of our humanity, the Resurrection, and our place in it.
Finally, I end this humble Mothers’ Day card, with a prayerful reverence for mothers,- sentiments I share about my own mother, in verse by the 19th century American poet Samuel Coleridge: “The love of a mother is the veil , —of a softer light , – between the heart, and the heavenly Father.” Mary Veronica Arico O’Neill loved us well. She is now in the full Light of the Heavenly Father by the Redemption freely given by His Son, thru the promise of the Resurrection for us, when I will no longer be just my mother’s son, and we will all be children of God.
-by Edmond J. (skip) O’Neill, delivered at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church, Philadelphia, PA
1 April 2006