The Path of Life

A few favorite memories of my mother:

She is recuperating from the birth of my brother and is lying on the bed. For whatever reason, she decides she needs to get out of bed, but discovers that she is too fatigued to sit up. We determine that it would be easier for her to slide onto the bedroom floor and then stand from there. A few moments later it becomes clear that our plan is not actually easier. She is helpless, I am seven, and we are laughing like lunatics. To this day, I don’t remember how she got off the floor, just how hard we laughed.

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My brother is now a toddler and we have taken a family vacation to Arizona. One damp morning we visit the Grand Canyon. We arrive so early that even by the time we are ready to leave the mist hasn’t yet burned off. As we prepare to load the car my father plops my brother down in a puddle, which resulted in a classic photograph of the “crying kids are funny” genre. It’s almost time to go and my mother wants one last look. We leave my father and brother behind and run back into the canyon, dashing along one of the paths until we get to its end. We didn’t go very far, but who knew when we would be there again? We wanted one last look.

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Fast forward a dozen years to another trip, this time to Italy. Motion sickness has followed my mother, brother and I across the Atlantic on the flight we barely boarded at Logan. The subway ride manifested that my Italian skills had deteriorated more than I thought they had, and the walk from the subway to the hotel was confusing and desolate. Even though we wanted to crash, we dragged ourselves back to the subway to head into the center of Milan. As came back above ground at the Centro we exited right next to the Duomo, so close we could touch it, too close to even see the tops of its spires. I looked straight up at its grandeur and had to laugh at our grumpiness. “Oh, right” I quipped. “This is why we’re here”. My mother spread her arms wide and repeated “This is why we’re here” in a tone that made it perfectly clear that her “here” was the whole world, was life.

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Six months ago. Mom has lost her phone. We know it will turn up, but decide to drop the $15 on a replacement anyway. I go with her to the, since I am most well-versed in getting the cheapest phone from the cell phone store.  The clerk doesn’t recognize our deadly combination of stubbornness, techno-aversion, and thrift; he still gives an upsell the old college try. “Don’t you want this one? It has a camera.” My mother, barely suppressing her giggle, reaches into her purse to pull out the wildly anachronistic disposable camera she still uses. “Why do I need a camera? I already have one”. I can’t believe she got that out with a straight face.

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This weekend’s psalm proclaims “Lord, you will show us the path of life“. That image comforts me –  I don’t have to aim for an answer or a goal, as long as I’m on the path it’s OK to still be journeying. I think most of us have the tools and insight to know when we are on the right path. God gives us consciences and hearts made for goodness and love. To truly listen to those things is to allow God to show us the path of life. The path of life is right in front of us, if we look for it.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus have a revelation in the breaking of the bread: With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Their previous blindness to the person of Jesus is overcome by this new awareness. In the mundanity of a solemn walk and a shared meal they see the truth and have their hearts set ablaze.

It seems appropriate, this Mother’s Day, to reflect on the things I have learned from my mother. If I had to choose one lesson that has been most important to me, it is learning how to see. We can see the world as a series of catastrophes or as a series of opportunities for laughter. We can allow the world’s beauty to cut through our plans and our frustrations, or we can keep our vision clouded by the problems of the world. We can focus on the negatives of life or we can use the cameras of our hearts to capture grace.

So that’s what I’m most grateful for: being taught how to see sacramentally, how to find God in all things. I believe that is what has set me on the path of life.

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5 Responses to The Path of Life

  1. Rae says:

    I love, love, love this. I really admire how your love of life which you clearly got from your mother is so wonderfully evident.

  2. Shannon says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful reflection. I have been enjoying your blog for a few months now, and I am always impressed with your insight and depth. I love reading about the intersection of your faith and your work in music – I too am a Catholic, and a professional, classical musician (oboist). Thank you and keep up your wonderful work!

    • felicemifa says:

      Thanks so much for reading, and for commenting. There is an interesting intersection of faith and professional performance, and I think that it gets paid a lot of lip service but doesn’t often get a thorough explanation. I often struggle with the conflicting priorities, and how a desire for musical excellence fits into a modern liturgical paradigm that doesn’t place as high a priority on it as I do. All the best –

  3. Pingback: Namaste | Felice mi fa

  4. Pingback: What I Did For Love | Felice mi fa

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