The Godmother

When you are born into the Catholic faith, one must participate in what are known as the seven sacraments. As I recall they are called baptism, communion, confession, confirmation, marriage, holy orders (to recognize priesthood) and last rights (on your deathbed). Well the truth is you can only join in six of the seven sacraments as once you are ordained as a priest, marriage is off the table as years age the pope declared these two positions incongruent with their real estate plans. For those who require accurate information vs. vague memories of information I offer: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-7-sacraments-of-the-Roman-Catholic-church-And-why

I learned about this disturbing real estate information while listening to a radio talk show in the 1970s. While delivering for Mother’s Pizza in Oakville I would change stations on the car radio from music to talk radio, as one can only listen to KC and the Sunshine Band for so long. The guests on that radio show were a former priest and former nun, who married each other. This unique status put them in the rare seven sacrament potential… Until they were excommunicated. The couple told their story.

After their extensive historic research, they discovered that early on during the first few centuries of Catholcism, priests were all allowed to be married. The savvy pope of the time, realized that the church was losing all of its land to the heirs of these very married men of the cloth. In a closed door meeting, where I am sure there were beautiful candles supported by gold candlesticks, cheese and crackers, spaghetti and meatballs and very, very good wine, the pope presented a brilliant solution. After much debate, the pope removed his rather large hat and declared “priests could no longer marry”. This brilliant business decision, removed any chance of losing its vast real estate holdings in Europe and up until this century, the Catholic Church was the richest organization in the world. Then Apple introduced the IPhone.

My recollection of my baptism is a little hazy, as I was three weeks old. I believe I was wearing REO Speedwagon t-shirt, but as I said, my memory of that event is less than reliable. I did acquire a godfather and a godmother after that sacrament was over.

If you struggle with the definition of the word estranged let me explain. After that little ceremony, a rift occurred between my Godmother Margaret Anne’s parents and my father’s parents. My grandfather and Margaret Anne’s mother, who were brother and sister, had a disagreement over something about their kids and that ended the relationship for decades. Every Christmas my 5 siblings received presents from their godmothers, but I did not. It became a Christmas tradition that other aunts would get Dennis a present to compensate for the family feud as I was estranged from my godmother.

Eventually my grandfather died. At his funeral, Margaret Anne walked up to me and introduced herself. If you struggle with the definition of the word courage, let me explain. My godmother walked me outside of the church and said the following: “Dennis I am your godmother, we have never had a relationship but that ends today. I just met your beautiful children, and if you would let me, I want to be a small part of your lives.” I was touched , but she continued. “My family has a cottage in the Muskokas, and you and your children are invited up anytime. Get out your calendar and we are going to book a week right now.”

A much too long family feud was dissolved in seconds, and a new beginning was created by my godmother.

That courageous conversation led to a yearly Margaret Anne cottage trip that is etched in the memories of my children and myself. My son and daughter will speak of their cottage experience on an island in Muskoka for the rest of their lives. My life transformed from having an absent godmother to having the coolest godmother among the family. I will brag about my godmother at all family get togethers for eternity. The math was simple: Estranged + Courage = Relationship.

Cottage visits led to Christmas visits and regular phone calls. My godmother loved to chat, and those phone calls always lasted over a half hour. As time passed the connections diminished as life gets in the way. Margaret Anne beat cancer once and became a member of the Hamilton Bay Dragon Boat team. I would play piano at her annual charitable event.

This year her cancer returned, and this time this courageous lady was not going to win. A couple of weeks ago I visited her at Saint Peter’s Hosptial. Family suggested that I should keep the visit very brief as she was in exhaustive, incredible pain. Now when I arrived, she sat up. She asked me to adjust her pillows behind her back so she could sit up. As the conversation flowed she asked me to lift her into the chair by her bed. With tender delicacy I obliged , though I did question this very painful request. Slowly we managed to get her in the chair.

I suppose my Godmother simply wanted to have a brief moment of normalcy in her final cancer ridden days. We talked for about 45 minutes until my selfish desire to catch up, was overcome with my sense of seeing that I was exhausting her. We reversed the lifting process from chair to her bed, where she immediately closed her eyes, I kissed here forehead and I left.

The Godfather I and The Godfather II won Oscars for best picture. The Godmother has never won an Academy Award. I believe that oversight will be addressed at this year’s Oscars as I am going to “Make them an offer they can’t refuse.” My godmother Margaret Anne should be nominated for best performance by a lady in a supporting role, and if there is any justice she will win that well deserved statuette.

My godmother passed away this week. Rest in peace Margaret Anne.

Cue the blong. Though I composed this for a different friend, and a different death, the sentiment of the chorus remains the same…

3 thoughts on “The God Mother

  1. This was so touching and made me cry. I will never understand how this can happen in a family. Well maybe I can because my mother was estranged from her mother from 1965 til she passed in 1997. After years of “behaviour “ on my grandmother’s part, my Mom finally had enough and decided to cut ties. As a result, I never saw my grandmother after 1965. When my grandmother was on her deathbed and wouldn’t “let go”, the medical team asked my Aunt “Is there someone she needs to see before she goes? We can’t figure out why she’s hanging on.” My Aunt got on the phone and called Mom. After a brief conversation, Mom flew to Ottawa to see her Mother . She sat by her bed and held her hand . They hadn’t been together for over 30 years. 30 years of missed holidays and celebrations and opportunities for my brother and myself to have a relationship with our grandmother. Mom forgave her for everything that had “gone down” between them. A rift between 2 people that impacted others. What a waste. An hour after my Mom’s visit, my grandmother passed. Forgiveness is a gift that should be offered on a daily basis. Don’t wait til it’s too late.

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