Four Generations of Service

On Earth as in Heaven, Right here in my heart

I held her worn, yet wiry hand. 

Minutes earlier, her great-granddaughter Emma had been crowned the May Day queen.  Although most of my grandmother’s memory faculties had long since left her, I could distinctly tell that she was taking in all the pleasures that these moments were affording her.  Surrounded by students, families, and friends, she couldn’t help but smile and exclaim in jubilation as she discerned all that was occurring.  It was almost like she was a kid again.

As a young lady, growing up in the modest white house just above where now sits the faculty parking lot, Mary Jane Scheller had been part of the first graduating class at Mater Dei High School in 1950.  Opened to meet the growing need for Catholic education on the west side of Evansville, seventy-five years later grandma would still tell her favorite story about the duck following her into school one early morning.

But on this particular day, transported by my dad (her son), Jim, who graduated from MD in 1971, it was as if she had landed in heaven.  As Mass began, and the congregation stood, she began to creep out of her wheelchair, and we quietly let her know that she didn’t need to stand.  But she would have none of it.  Holding my hand, she crossed herself and I watched those ancient prayers purse her lips as her previous chatter quieted into a solemn, pious pose that seemed to defy her senility.  As the Mass continued, and she grabbed my hand once again, kissing it with others’ hands during the offering of peace, I could palpably feel her walking these hallways decades ago.  Through the 90+ years of wear, I could see her face reflecting in my son and daughter sitting on the stage, and I could feel the miraculously divine link coursing from her through me. 

As Fr. Droste beautifully described the honor that God desired to bestow on all of us, in due time, and the honor that we should return to Him in all that we do and are, I thought of the thousands of people that had passed through this hallowed space.  Once just an unassuming, low lying area out the back window of my grandmother’s home, three-quarters of a century later it had become a spire by which we aspired to greatness as God ordained, where we are called to go forth and serve others. 

Repeatedly choked up by the experience, it was apparent that we were on the path of immortality; that grandma and I, quietly sitting there together, were somewhere between heaven and earth, witnessing the beauty that comes with a sacrifice for something much greater than ourselves, just as Mary had embraced over two thousand years before.  No loss of faculties could change it, no loss of awareness could diminish it, no loss of understanding could deny it. Four generations had passed through this sacred ground, and ever for a brief moment, four generations shared memories and meaning that will carry on long after we pass.          

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