Yesterday, my grandmother, Emilia, would have been 100 years old. I remember when she passed away. The news came from Cuba to the eldest child, my Tia Libe, who couldn’t get a hold of my mother and called me to deliver the news.It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
This morning my dad forwarded an email from my Tio Emilio, a bishop in the diocese where the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity is situated. No doubt he has been very busy this past week in preparation for the celebrations surrounding this Jubilee year, the 400th anniversary of Our Lady’s appearance to the Cuban people.
No doubt he has been reflecting on the story of our Blessed Mother. No doubt the memory of his own beloved mother, my grandmother, was tugging at his heartstrings.
He sent a message to his sisters, my mother and aunts in the U.S., and by extension to his nieces and nephews — a message I’ll relate here, in abbreviated form because of its intimacy and beauty.
Tio Emi celebrated a private Mass last night for all of us on the centenary celebration of Emilia’s birth, noting that this makes it a jubilee year for the family as well. He noted some similarities in our family history to Mary’s experience, a story of two mothers, our spiritual mother and our family matriarch…
They both came across the ocean with a child in arms, and established a home to stay with us on our journeys.
One was from Nazareth, the other from Mutiloa.
One with Joseph, the other with Daniel.
One in exile because of Herod, the other in exile because of Franco.
Because of that, they called one Child the Nazarene, and the others they called Gallegos.
Then he lit two candles for Daniel and Emilia, because through them, love also unites us as a family, a beautiful allusion to the theme of this year’s Jubilee, Charity unites us. I was moved by the gesture and his relating of that story… this piece of my story… a story to pass on to my children, because it speaks to the greatest gift within our family, not in a literal comparison to the story of salvation, but to the human condition of it.
- That we learn love and sacrifice within the family.
- That we are first loved by God, and we love because we know love.
It’s kind of a conundrum, this cycle of love, but our family story seems to be wrapped around this mantle of love, even as generations have moved from exile to exile. We are never alone, have never been alone, even in our deepest loneliness and separation. And we can look forward to the glorious happy day when we are all reunited before the Author of this story.