Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Good People Church

My much-loved mom, aka The Mom Unit in this blog, slipped away from us a year ago June 12— gentle and graceful to the end. She defined elegance, poise and gentility (such an old-fashioned, yet oddly unattainable quality these days). She navigated this mortal world of ours with a seemingly effortless, endless joy of life for almost 94 years.

Given all this zen, she also had the uncanny ability to serenely, but firmly, sort out a lot of the bullshit in life and distill it down into actionable life lessons. 

Here’s my favorite example this, and the most important gift she gave me. I was happy to share it with my family and friends at her celebration of life in May. And, after a year of remembering, grieving, laughing and loving, I am happy to share it here: 

I was raised Catholic, though my mom wasn’t. And I went to a Catholic grade school. It was pre-Vatican 2, so those days, matters of faith were pretty absolute, pretty black-and-white, aka, the good nuns, my teachers, called it. There were no shades of gray.

One particular day I came home in a second-grader snit. As I recall, that day’s religion class was about who would go to heaven. Turns out, according to the sisters, Catholics, because we’re Catholic, get the E ticket, the direct flight, the red carpet, to heaven while everyone else was on the “stand-by.”

I was an indignant 7-year-old. My perfect mom, a non-Catholic, was on the “stand-by list” to heaven?  My non-Catholic neighborhood besties, Peter, Susie, Steven, Pam, Barbara and Megan, were on “stand-by,” too? Inconceivable! How could this be?

Sitting with me at the dining room table, after-school snack perfectly plated (of course), Mom listened patiently to my pint-size theologic rant — probably  tamping down several major eye rolls in hindsight.  When I was finished, she thought for a moment, and then she said this: 

“You know, we actually all belong to another church — the Good People Church. I’m a member. You’re a member. Peter, Susie, Steven, Pam, Barbara and Megan are members. Nana and Papa Bailey are members. Our neighbors and friends are members. And, you know what?  members of the Good People Church go to heaven.”  She spoke with absolute authority on the matter.

Wow. The Good People Church. Problem solved. Case closed. Good people go to heaven. 

I thank my mom for introducing me to that special membership in the Good People Church almost everyday. It goes along with a bountiful legacy that includes a love for community, books, gardening, cooking, art, travel, social justice — and oh yeah, public broadcasting, prematurely gray hair and bunions. 

But the Good People Church? This membership is The Mom Unit’s most important, most enduring gift to me. My moral compass, Mom’s Good People Church has been  a life-long road map, a guide to finding and loving the Good People — the best people in my life — My Date, my kids, my grandkids, my extended family and my enduring friends. 

I’m not sure there’s a better roadmap, a better legacy.

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