Pics of Last Year

The World Press Photo exhibition is on display at Canadian War Museum these days. You see such pictures sometimes on the internet, in presentations you skim through. Colourful or toned-down, beautiful or horrific, telling of ordinary or amazing moments. In exquisite captures of life glimpses, death is many times featured as a reminder that we are only given one limited chance to make it right.

I felt just that as I was strolling through the labyrinth of panels. There were fires, and guns, and gangs of South America; Russian university graduates, now prostitutes, exposed through almost Romantic-like nudes; refugees crying for help; the inevitable discourse of pollution and deforestation; abused women of Africa; abused-otherwise North Koreans; terrorism, the new type of war… Whether human red, forest green, water blue, blood was there in the photos, pulsating under live skins or wasted on the ground.

With every picture left behind, my sense of gratitude grew. Clean water, safe home, the end of communism in the Soviet block, my decision – then constant determination – to get over abuse and toxic relationships, civilization (whatever whoever says, that is a Western invention), friendship, love, family, care…

I did not speak much this evening. We ate a rather ready-made dinner, the five of us – I must admit there have been better family portraits. My teenage daughter disappeared shortly afterwards, anger still on her face. It has been a hard year for her, the last few months in particular. But hey, wounded pride keeps her from saying sorry and start anew – for now. I exchanged a few more positive thoughts with my son and marveled quietly at his change of attitude lately; he’s also been a great help around the house. I glanced outside the window at the beautiful garden my husband and I managed to put together this past spring and summer – was it proof that our marriage works? Night slowly settled in. I held my little one as she went to sleep and I cried for forgiveness.

Indeed, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. Only love and faith last. Love cures prostitution, hunger, violence, greed, pride, indifference. Love is our humanly attribute which makes us in God’s likeness. Life is love. Even The Beatles were right: all you need is love. And every picture, sad or happy, beautiful or terrifying, darkened or hallowed, one way or another is about love.

As I said my prayers, I looked up at the icons on the wall, straight into the eyes of Jesus and His Mother. Infinite calm, unbound steadfastness. Always there for us. No need to worry. Just believe.


One birthday party

It was a joyous event. No milestone really, just making real something I’ve had in mind for a while: throw a party for mothers. I invited mothers and grandmothers and godmothers of all ages from within a day’s travel distance. As I was adding people to the list, I myself was amazed at how many women I’ve come to know in the fourteen years of our Canadian residence. Blessed, that’s how I felt.
Whether accepting or not, all wrote back to say “what a great idea”. I said why not, after all if we don’t celebrate ourselves first, how will others know we like to be celebrated? And who’s gonna do it? You know how the story goes: kids are mostly ungrateful, husbands are usually forgetful. In order to save themselves some trouble and grumpy mothers’ mood, they’ve even invented this special day a year, Mother’s Day – by extension, Women’s International Day (though it’s not exactly the same – about this, maybe another text, stay tuned).
I didn’t want another Mother’s Day or another birthday where I get frustrated as I end up doing things so they actually happen. I wanted a Mothers’ Party with gifts in the form of potluck contribution. Lots of women poured in and out the house that Saturday afternoon with the most diverse and delicious dishes no caterer could have put together more lovingly – after all, it was mothers who took care of this meal! My garden was in full bloom and we had glorious sunshine and perfect temperature for this party, all special gifts from God. He also sent Holy Fire, straight from his tomb in Jerusalem – no kidding. It had come to our church that very afternoon after a long journey throughout the States and Canada, and one of the ladies so graciously brought me a candle lit with It. Another friend commented: you must be pretty special to get Holy Fire for your birthday. Indeed, the blessings kept multiplying.
They came with flower bouquets which miraculously lasted for two weeks after, and pot flowers which still adorn my desk or my garden. They came with heartwarming wishing on exquisite cards and gifts of books and toiletries and jewelry and good wine … and they all smiled and laughed and were truly merry! In and out the house they went, and I could barely catch them to exchange a few words, that’s how many they were. Each found company in others, they moved around seamlessly, like mothers do, knowing how to make things happen, who to speak to, what to say. Or maybe not. Yet, the smiles on their faces told the story and it was a happy one – it was all that mattered.
I couldn’t go to sleep until very much later that night. The energy and excitement of the day were flowing through my body with immense gratitude for these beautiful women in my life who have given me the most beautiful birthday celebration and in the joy of knowing we had done it together: I had launched the invitation, they had responded wholeheartedly. Crying and laughing at the same time, I raised from my bed to have a look at the flame of the Holy Fire in the candle: the wick had turned into a heart, which was literally ablaze with love. I’ve never experienced anything so humble and great at the same time. Christ was there with me, saying “I love you” in His truly awesome way, and tears of pure joy sealed the kiss which I blew to all the mothers in this world.
I love you. I wish you could have all come to this party. You’re doing the greatest job ever. Never forget that and never forget to celebrate yourself, even if they forget to do it.