Tom McMahon's plans for this commentary got thrown into disarray through the death of his mother-in-law on the weekend. He's been on a long road journey to collect his sister-in-law for the funeral and has sent us this brief commentary on the puzzles of life and our relationships. We extend our condolences to Tom, Elaine and their family and join with them in celebrating the life of Elaine's mother, Jennie.
Like working a rubiks cube ... puzzling at first and then the combinations take shape…
Let's go back on the trail of Thomas Berry, John Muir, and the rest of those who have taken off into the wild blue yonder. I ask myself two major questions:
And my readers this is as far as I got when last Friday I answered our phone to hear the trembling voice of my son say "Dad, grandma is dead." Immediately my wife and I were on our way to South San Francisco and the eventual release of the body to the San Mateo coroner's office. Saturday and Sunday passed quickly with an abbreviated JOB Book Club Sunday meeting followed by a family gathering to discuss funeral arrangements. It was 3.30am Monday morning that I realized my usual commentary contribution to Catholica was sitting in my computer, ending with the name of deposed bishop Tom Gumbelton. It is 6.45am and I have had a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade bread (made it myself yesterday) as I ready this abbreviated article to send off to Australia. I leave mid-morning Monday for a 450 mile round trip journey to bring my sister-in-law to her mother's funeral on Tuesday.
Great Grandmother Jennie had open heart surgery repairing a damaged valve two months ago at age 91. According to the coroner's report Jennie died of congestive heart failure due to damage done to her heart over the past five to ten years when the condition was first spotted. Jennie was active, golfing three times a week, volunteering for Hospice, socially on the go with her life-long South City friends with whom she went to High School. Jennie was the mainstay matriarch of a family system into which I became involved when I married her daughter Elaine. My early McMahon family system and that of Elaine's people have had little in common. I have nothing to do with her burial, except to see to it both daughters get there. Perhaps it is best summed up in the unprovoked words of my youngest son: "Dad, why all this psychology?" I had asked him how his pregnant wife was doing, having discovered the deceased on Friday morning.
Although my family will never hear or read this I take this opportunity to speak well of Jennie Pariani. Both Jennie and husband Steve (deceased 30 years) were most helpful in getting Elaine and I started in family life. I the priest cut off from the church I served for 26 years because I had fallen in love and fathered a child. Jennie and I talked about the social difficulties in a small town where I had been hero parish priest for five years; we shared over time disappointments, Jennie defending me openly when faults of a now aging man were brought forth in days when we had a happy yet not perfect family. I am ever-grateful to this noble woman for her loving care of all of her people, including this writer. Jennie was genuinely human.
I don't believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus, nor do I look forward to that great promised day when all will rise from the dead. My father and mother live on genetically in me and I can feel daily the presence of my mother and the dad I never knew in everyday life. I can imagine the positive influence of ancestral people on our five grandchildren, a fine combination of genetic Creator-gifted talents. I will not waste my time on the negative socialization that attempts to nullify these genetic gifts. About to be 83 I will dream today of the grown up women who are presently 2 and 1 year olds and the persons they will be so well equipped with the genes of my mother-in-law Jennie and my own mother Mary.
Off now to spend the night in Soda Springs and then to Pioneer to bring home my sister-in-law. I'll be back next week with some valuable insights into "future church". By the way I wrote Brian to tell him how disappointed I was in NCR's Tom Roberts' concept of an emerging church. After the funeral I'll go to the Catholica Forum.
Tom McMahon, in San Jose, Ca. 24Oct2011
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