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My mother loved St. Patrick’s Day. I dreaded my first one without her.
Saint Patrick’s Day had been my mother’s favorite holiday. It meant more than parades and parties; it was a celebration of her heritage. Like any Irish mother, she was fiercely proud of her roots. She kept a neat home, a beautiful garden, and took care of the birds in her yard. Her death a year earlier, though not unexpected, had left me grief-stricken, and I dreaded my first March 17 without her.
One day in early February I was in a lawyer’s office, where my sister, Maureen, and I were finalizing my mother’s estate. I barely heard what the lawyer was saying, though. My thoughts were on Mother. I missed her so. The sound of papers rustling jolted me. “I just have to make some copies,” the lawyer told us. “Then we’re done here.”
After he left I turned to Maureen. “I can’t believe it’s been a year,” I said. Maureen was quiet. I quickly added, “But knowing her, she’s probably flitting around up in heaven, cleaning, working in the garden, looking after the birds.” Maureen grasped my hand. The lawyer came back. Maureen and I signed the final papers, hugged and said goodbye. “Try to have a good Saint Paddy’s, Kathy,” Maureen said. “She probably misses us too, but you know she’s with God.”
Yes, I thought on the way home, Mother’s at peace with the Lord. If only I could feel at peace. I picked up the mail and pulled up the driveway. On top of the pile of envelopes was one addressed to me, from the Carmelite Friars. I opened it up and saw it was a Saint Patrick’s Day card. In February? I wondered. That’s a little early.
I stared at the card before completely taking in the scene. A tall tree and flowers along a road, a wooden fence, a tiny cottage with birds on the window boxes. And as I read the words of the old Irish blessing, I could almost see Mother in that cottage, and hear her speak the words to me: “May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”