As my mother’s health declines steadily I have been dreaming about her and thinking about her with increasing frequency. I am told she whimpers and cries in her sleep and my heart breaks for her. There was much that she did as a mother that was at the very least inept: she sent me on car trips with a priest who was her rapist. I am a mother and I struggled to find anywhere in my own head for that information to fit. But upon reflection I understand. She was in denial. She had to maintain a very rigid denial, otherwise her whole world would have shattered. She had to hold her husband close and keep the family together. She had to bind us to the Church because her faith was the only source of strength she had. To have admitted to herself or to anyone else the crimes being perpetrated by the two priests in our life would have destroyed everything that was holding her world together. Everything. And she couldn’t risk that.
I have struggled greatly since first finding out about her rapes. But my shock, horror, anger, are fading now, as her life, too, fades. And what I feel is a tender sadness for all that she suffered at the hands of this man, and for all that she endured having to watch her husband’s struggle with his own teenage, then adult, abuser- her Parish Priest. Never telling her husband that she knew, never sharing the horror of her own rapes by the second priest. Both of my parents protecting each other – they thought – both of them engulfed in their own private hell.
And now I remember the little things my mother did for me. The poodle she knitted for me as a child. The Easter nests and Christmas stocking she lovingly prepared. The letters she wrote, the music tapes she shared with me. The prayers and the candles. I am thankful for those memories, and in turn I pray for her:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord look upon you with gentleness and compassion.
May the Lord grant you peace and take you swiftly into His loving arms.