The early century, two-story, red brick house on the 5400 block of Garfield Avenue contains history and memories, red and black shag carpeting, and a very much ready-to-burst-soon-to-be-first-time-mother toddling down the stairs. It’s some ungodly hour in the morning. Sandra faces a closed, locked door, and deep-sleeping parents on the other side.
“I’m in labor!” Knock-knock! “Dad!” KNOCK-KNOCK! “Mom!” POUND! POUND! “It’s time!!”
She calls her sister across town. How Sandra could remember the phone number, while in labor, on what was probably a rotary phone, no one will ever know.
“They’re asleep! I’m going to hang up, you call back. That might wake ‘em.”
Her sister calls as instructed. And the phone rings. And it rings. And it… They answered! Her parents, disheveled and half-asleep, run out of their room, gather Sandra into the car, and off they go.
I’ve been laying awake at night reading articles and commentary, watching speeches and news coverage about the recent events in our country. Maybe it’s because there are clear videos with blood and life leaving bodies, and voices of strain and stress to match. Maybe it’s because someone made a definitive choice to murder police officers, or LGBTQ+ people in a nightclub, or a pop singer, or whatever the next death from a bullet will bring.
But, mostly, all I can think about are mothers. Everyone has a mother. The threatened, the bruised, and the wounded have mothers. And so too the dead. The dead have mothers, and after enduring the pain of giving life, too often mothers have to suffer the pain of seeing it taken.
I have not lost a child, and I will never have children, but I’ve buried my mother. The woman who gave me life lost hers. When I realized that truth, days after her burial, the pain seared through me, like an arm being severed from my body in the most violent way. And this is probably as close as I’ll get to understanding what burying a child feels like.
But my mother died in the right order and the right way. Before me. Health complications. She wasn’t murdered. And while my faith tells me that she will rest in Christ and live in the resurrection, that just isn’t comforting. Not initially. Initially, it just sucks.
Sandra gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 7:14 a.m. on July 15, 1978. It was a Saturday. She named him Damian Gerard. This will be her only child.
She will teach him to walk, to ride a bike, to give a firm handshake, to pray. She will survive his tight rolling and tattoos, struggling in school, and bullying. She will see him in plays and musicals, dance the Bus Stop, and celebrate birthdays. Damian will go to college. Damian will come out. Damian will buy a truck. Damian will be broke. Damian will move to Chicago. Damian will become a Jesuit. And through all that, the only thing Sandra will need to know is that Damian is happy. And has friends. She will worry the most about the friends. And this will be the last conversation they have:
“Are you happy?”
“I am, Mom.”
“Do you have friends? People who love you?
“I do, Mom.”
These days, I want to be part of some sort of movement for compassion instead of destruction. I have ideas, I have suggestions, but the only thing making sense right now is prayer. It’s what my mother taught me whenever I was unable to reach out and hold someone’s hand.
Perhaps that’s all I can do: pray for these mothers, bear their needs, their losses, their tears, and raise them up. They bore their children and raised them as best they could. And now they’ve been stripped of their right to worry, to reassure, to comfort, to heal, and to hold their children. We may not find immediate resolution to guns and the unnecessary deaths they can produce. But the one thing very much worth doing, in this time, for them, is pray.