I imagine that when I am old and grey (God willing I make it there) that there will be no sweeter reward of a life long lived then that of my family. I am so excited to see the faces of my children and grandchildren. I cannot wait to meet them and embrace them. I cannot wait to be a mother and protector of the souls that God gives me the privilege of bringing into this world. To me I believe it will be a taste of heaven before I even get there (again, God willing).
I imagine that that is what life is sometimes like for my grandparents. I specifically think now of my Father’s parents, Lou and Yvonne Hamel who I have always called Nanny and Papa. I mentioned before that I traveled home for their 65th anniversary in January. After all, how many people get to experience their Grandparent’s 65th anniversary?
I am incredibly blessed to have 4 of my 5 grandparents alive. I will sometimes think about losing one of them and I can barely stand the thought. They have each been so present in my life. They have carted me all around Chilliwack, they have attended recitals and more recitals, they have loved me as much as I can imagine Grandparents can with the demands of their ever expanding lives.
Nanny and Papa’s celebrated their anniversary with a blessing at the end of the 9 am mass at St. Mary’s in Chilliwack followed by a lunch at my parents beautiful house. It was a much later hour than their 6 am marital mass which was celebrated in Medicine Hat on January 28th, 1947.
It was in all respects a perfect day. It began for me bright and early. If I travel alone back to Chilliwack I always get to stay with the kids in their room, which is really exciting. It means that they will sometimes harass me first thing in the morning, which is jarring at first, but then it is alot of fun. It also means that when I inevitably come in at the wee hours of the morning I get to kiss their sweet little cheeks as they lay in mostly silent sleep.
This particular anniversary day, January 28th, 2012 to be specific I arose and rushed to get ready. This is apparently a Hamel ritual as we seem to be incapable of getting out of the house any other way. Jen, Darren, the kids and I made our way to my childhood church where we joined the rest of the more punctual members of the clan. Dad arranged that we would play and sing the music for the mass. We were able to revive such Hamel hits as “How Beautiful” and “Ave Maria.” It felt good to be in the musical comfort of those that I grew up with.
I must admit that I had a very hard time with Ave Maria which was played at communion because Nanny and Papa came up first to receive the Eucharist. I could hardly contain my emotion. This act of faith so humble and beautiful was almost more then I could bear. This sent my mind on a flurry of thoughts and memories that washed over me with pure joy.
I specifically remembered a similar incident a few weeks prior when we were at our good friend Todd’s cabin in Windermere, BC. We went to mass at 9 am on Sunday with a few of our friends from Calgary. The day previous we had spent in Golden, BC snowshoeing, visiting and ending back in the glorious Hot Springs near Windermere. That Sunday morning throughout the mass I began to think about how incredibly blessed I am. How I have little to no regrets. How my faith has shaped who I am. Here I was with a group of well adjusted group of young adults who like me and my husband had decided to live a life dedicated to Christ and his church. There was no excessive drinking, no drama, no complicated or sorted relationships, no ridiculous escapades, the night before at the cabin. There was no incident of concern from the night before. Our faith has truly transformed our lives.
At this point we were still considering whether I should travel home for the Anniversary, so naturally Nanny and Papa came flooding into my mind. Suddenly I was totally absorbed and completely overwhelmed with the thought of the gift that they had given me.
The gift of my faith.
The gift that they had painstakingly defended and passed to my father who nurtured it in our home with my mother and passed on to me. If you know me you know that it is a significant part of me and it always will be. I cannot speak highly enough of this gift. I cannot explain enough the peace that it has brought to my life. I cannot describe to you how it has guided me to make decisions that I can always look back on with contentment. I cannot convey how deeply it has shaped my marriage. This is without a doubt to the most excellent and exquisite gift that we can be given.
If you do not understand this gift 0f faith, please do not judge those who have it as it is a precious yet difficult thing to possess. It can unnecessarily define you. It can cause others to hate you for your association to God, to Jesus, to his Church. Those who believe in God, who have the gift of faith have had to learn many hard lessons about judgement and condemnation and misunderstanding. We have been very wrong. We have been humbled time and time again.
But we are also very right.
I promise you this. At the foundation of all this confusion is a still a quiet voice that longs for unity and Love himself to reign on this earth. While we have made many human errors I believe that the truth that we possess can and will transform the world. I believe that I can and will transform the world, through Christ who strengthens me in all things.
These were the thoughts that were floating through my head that Sunday morning and have continued to take root in my mind.
At lunch I sat down with Nanny for a long time as we poured over picture after picture. We looked over the early years of their marriage. Their first home. Their first baby. We even looked at pictures when they resided in Camrose many years ago when that beloved first baby, named Mary Virginia for a certain mother of God, was born. I was able to identify mirror ‘lake’ and a few familiar landmarks. This is literally where Robbie and I are now, at the beginning of it all. Things will change for us and change again. I’m sure we’ll make many more moves and make many more friends over the years. But the things that I am sure will remain steadfast are our Church, and our love for each other, which comes to us through a loving and good God.
Nanny and Papa. Thank you for the gift of my faith. Thank you for believing that it is True. I am so immeasurably happy with my life and the circumstances of my existence and I know that this comes directly from the Truth that you have held so dear through your whole life long. Thank you for praying for your children and grandchildren.
Robbie and I will never let go of this most precious and life giving, life changing gift of faith. We will hold on to it until our dying day.