By Her Side

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“Sing of Mary, pure and lowly, Virgin Mother undefiled
Sing of God’s own Son most holy, Who became her little child.
Fairest child of fairest mother, God the Lord who came to earth,
Word made flesh, our very brother, Takes our nature by his birth.”

– “Sing of Mary, Roland F. Palmer

On the Feast of the Assumption, 2019 I was at mass feeling a bit melancholy. The day before, my family and I had driven seven hours back to Iowa after moving Grant to college in another state. The second born, our eldest son, was ready for his university adventure at my alma mater. He had been on campus many times over: for rousing football games, exciting Homecoming celebrations, and several ceremonious graduations. Though we were taking him to a locale that was both familiar and very much like coming home, the unexpected emotions that assailed my heart with every passing mile of the return trip were a painful rending.

His sister had graduated the year before, and I foolishly thought I knew how to do the college move-in the second time around. I did know how to move her in for sophomore year, but I had never moved him. No, this little boy had grown from a chubby-cheeked toddler to a young man before my eyes, and it was hard to say good-bye and drive away. It had been piercing to give one last hug and turn away from his embrace, the one who had yet to be embarrassed by his mother’s hug and hair ruffle.

A Journey with Mary

“How did Mary do it?” I wondered throughout the liturgy. How could she watch her infant son, nurse him tenderly and care for his need, and stand back while he went out into the world on His own? The second verse of this song, sung at that mass, gave me a glimpse of a boyhood journey closer to their parting from her parental protection.

“Sing of Jesus, son of Mary, In the home at Nazareth.
Toil and labor cannot weary Love enduring unto death.
Constant was the love he gave her, Though He went forth from her side,
Forth to preach and heal and suffer, Till on Calvary He died.”

Constant was the love He gave her, though he went forth from her side. She had watched her son leave the shelter of her roof. I could turn to her example to stay close to mine in prayer as he went forth from my side. There need not be great distance between our hearts.

Emotive musings were interspersed throughout my worship. Each reading and song brought new hope and inspiration. At the moment of consecration, I saw the Pieta upon the altar. Blessed Mary was cradling the broken, lifeless body of her precious son, her own issue. My heart broke for her loss. Even in agony and death, she was faithfully by his side. The Feast of the Assumption was a celebration of the enduring love she both gave and received.

“Glory be to God the Father: Glory be to God the Son;
Glory be to God the Spirit: Glory to the Three in One.
From the heart of blessed Mary, From the saints the song ascends,
And the Church the strain reechoes, Unto earth’s remotest ends.”

Praise in the Pain

Praise. Of course, I needed to praise God through the pain. I needed to praise Him for remaining with my son, no matter his physical address. I needed to praise Him for the myriad of moments I had been able to witness in his life. Memories flashed: moments of joy and growth, silliness and reverence interspersed with little boy dirt and hormonal adolescence.

As Father broke the bread and concluded our prayer, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace,” joy filled my heart along with a perfectly chosen memory.

Transported back in time to our front pew in Minnesota, two-year old Grant was beside me on the kneeler. A warm little body leaned over and whispered, “Grant us peace? He just said my name!”

My son’s name was part of the perfect prayer that my heart needed that morning and each one that ensued. By her side, He will grant us peace. Indeed.

Copyright 2020 Bonnie Shaw

Bonnie Shaw is wife to Chris, mother of four perpetually hungry offspring, and in continual anticipation of summer and hot weather. An educator by degree and lifelong learner by habit, she consumes stacks of books, inhabiting both her imagination and contemplation as she seeks connection with truth, ideas, and the laughter of friends traveling the same road. In relentless pursuit of more perfectly trusting in the Lord’s divine mercy, she is so very thankful for His grace and the peace and shelter of His presence as well as the example of others who love Him.