Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Part II Mother’s Bible - a geography in pen marks and food stains

A couple of years ago, I wrote about receiving my mother's Bible, which has served as a cryptic map of her interior life. Today, I continue my quest to know my mother….

Besides family photos, one of the things I value the most is my mother’s Catholic Bible.

Copyright 1988, it is entitled "Christian Community Bible." I have used it as my primary text since I received it after her death on August 30, 2005.

When paging through it, I find traces of my very private mother.

For example, on the inside front cover, she used a felt-tip pen to proudly write her name, Lillian Bosco. Below it, she wrote in pencil Healing - 2 Kings 20:5.

I locate second Kings in the Old Testament and make my way to Chapter 20, verse 5, which reads, "I have heard your prayer and I have seen your tears. And now I will cure you."

Mom's annotations are everywhere. Like an ongoing conversation with herself and with God, every marked passage offers clues to her life.

I wonder why she drew a line around Chapter 5 in Book of Wisdom, a passage which compares the godless to the godly?

On the next page, in Chapter 7, Verse 7, she marked with yellow highlighter "I prayed and understanding was given to me; I asked earnestly and the spirit of Wisdom came to me."

Even the coffee stains and food smudges appear expressive.

What kind of energy or hurriedness made her eat and read the Bible at the same time? Or was it simply that her Bible was open on the kitchen table while she passed vegetable soup, drank tomato juice and served pasta sauce that inevitably splattered the pages?

What was her intent with those brackets around verses 21 through 24 in Sirach 37? "A woman will accept any husband but some girls are better than others. A woman’s beauty makes a man happy and is all that he could wish for. If she is kindly-spoken and gentle he is the most fortunate of men. When a man marries he acquires a future, someone who understands him and who will help and support him."

I have concluded that my mother spent most of her time reading Psalms since so many are marked in one way or another. Psalm 91, subtitled "A night prayer," must have been her favorite.

Stained with coffee spills, oiled with greasy fingerprints, discolored by exposure to light, these passages must have been left open as incense for shelter and protection.

While venturing through Mom’s Bible, I work very hard to look beyond her markings to discern her calling, her searching, her rejoicing.

I hope for a glimpse of her bravery. I pray to see a healing of her brokenness. I wish to brush up against her love one more time.

It's not hard to see that her passing has been less about letting go and more about holding on.

Sitting here thumbing through Mom’s Bible, seeking God’s voice in my own life, I admit that I am listening for her and wanting her back.

2009 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon is a popular columnist and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place in National Federation of Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. Recently, her work took second place in the South Dakota Press Women Communications Contests. To contact Paula Damon, email pauladamon@iw.net or join her blog at http://my-story-your-story.blogspot.com/.

No comments: