Mom, Regina, always knew who she was, a child of God. And she knew where she was going, back to her Father’s house. She shared with me in her later years that God had given her a gift, a moment of insight during a time of prayer and reflection, about who she is. She said that she saw the day of her conception… she was “there” and God was “there.” God said, “Who will go?” and she called out, “I will go!” Without even thinking twice, she knew it was her time to begin her life journey.
She was born into a chaotic and violent world, the Berlin of World War II. Her earliest memories include bombing air raids, war-torn streets, lack of basic necessities, and death. But she was born into a family of faith. She had two choices, to be angry with God or to TRUST Him completely. She chose to TRUST. In her child-like trust, and with the love of her mom and sister, she learned that even in a violent and difficult world we can create beauty and find love! She kept that child-like heart for her entire life!
Mom loved life so much that she wanted a house full of kids… she joked about having her own soccer team! Well, she didn’t quite make it to twelve, stopping at number 5. Her training as a kindergarten teacher matched her child-like spirit so perfectly and made for some wonderful experiences in our growing years. She always had things us to do: art projects, visiting museums, music & dance lessons – even extra penmanship practice. We had lots of family time, playing board games and cards regularly! She made sure we learned to speak, read, and write German so that we could have a real relationship with our grandparents, aunts & uncles, and cousins still in Germany.
Mom loved to entertain! She met dad at classical dance lessons. They were paired because they made excellent dance partners. In their years together, they would throw New Years parties, rolling up the carpet and dancing the night away! Their love for entertaining and love of their faith caused them to open their home to bible-study groups, home masses, and singing practices!
Mom’s life revolved around music and prayer! She taught herself to play several instruments. I remember the peace and joy I felt as I lay in bed at night, listening to mom practice piano. She sang with us from the time we were born. We sang in the evenings, we sang in the car (to keep us occupied), we sang at church, we sang at bedtime. When we were not singing, she played music, classical of course, and Christian contemporary, and big band or jazz on occasion. We even sang while she tolerated her double-whammy 2-minute shots at the cancer center in these last years!
Mom’s heart went far beyond our home! She served in so many ways. Her joy was to lead worship! She served at prayer meetings and churches, pretty much anywhere she found herself for an extended time, in Joppatown, then Bel Air, later in Canada. For her last 10 years mom served at St. Peter’s in Oakland, MD. Through the years, she was involved with youth catechesis and adult faith formation including marriage encounter and cursillo. She served food to shut-ins and even baked communion bread at one point. Not to mention her service at local thrift shops where she found many a treasure!
Mom and dad opened their home to others who needed a helping hand or a safe place! Serving at the Army base in Edgewood, MD, mom always found young army men and women who were happy to join our family for Sunday dinner. When I was in highschool, I had a classmate who was in trouble. I implored my parents to give him a place to stay. They did, and even though he stole from us, they did not stop opening their home. We have several extra brothers and sisters who passed through our home during their life journeys.
The love mom showed people seemed to have no bounds. She always had time to talk to people and help people. One neighbor came running to the house one day with a young boy in her care who had gotten hurt. Mom dropped everything and spent as much time as it took to treat the boy, sing to him, and pray with him and the neighbor. And she never slowed down. At the age of 50 she became licensed in massage. For her, the healing nature of massage therapy was intimately tied to the healing ministry of Jesus. For the short time she practiced, she gave her whole heart to those whom she served.
Mom was a hugger! All her grandchildren LOVED their OMI’s hugs! Everyone tells stories of how wonderful her hugs are! One person shared with me that when Regina hugged her it was as if Mom was taking away her pain! Her oncologist shared with me that mom offered all her suffering for others. She never complained and did not act sick. She was always ready with a hug and a smile.
I was so grateful to be with mom from the time she entered hospice to her last breath. Even in her pain and discomfort, her generosity was clear in the continuous stream of visitors, her peers, her children, foster children, adjunct army children, and especially her grandchildren, who came to sit with her, talk to her, cry for her, thank her, and to return the love she gave them as she lay in her bed. And as much as she was able, she smiled at them, touched them, and told them how precious they were.
The Catholic Church teaches that it is better to suffer consequences for our sins here on earth rather than in purgatory because at least here there might be someone to hold your hand, give you a hug, pray with you, cry with you, or just sit with you, where-as in Purgatory we suffer alone. I like to think that between mom’s experiences in war-torn Germany, the challenges in the aftermath, raising 5 strong-willed children, and finally suffering 2½ years of cancer, qualifies her for immediate entry into the arms of her loving Father!
Regina always knew who she was, a child of God. She rejoiced in little things, the bright and the beautiful and she trusted God even when her life seemed in turmoil. And now she has her final reward, back home, in heaven.
Rest In Peace, Mom