Cancer in Quarantine Diaries: Missing the Crowning of Mary and Looking for Hope
In this time of uncertainty, remembering the Blessed Mother means everything.
May means the schools are coming to a close for the summer. It means Mother’s Day and for me that means I sleep in, I get to go on a run while my husband and children roam the local nursery, choose new flowers for our front flower bed, plant them, and I get to enjoy the beauty of a new season.
May also means graduations and promotions. It means the opening of the pool season. It means the beginning of practices for the local summer swim league. For my large Catholic family, it can also mean First Communions and Confirmations and most definitely the Crowning of Mary.
But this year May looks very different. It means no new flowers for the front of the house as my husband makes the decision to stay out of public spaces as much as possible so he doesn’t bring home new germs. It means my kids’ promotions from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school will be done via video. It means no summer swim league. It means we wait for a new date for my son’s Confirmation. And it most definitely means not seeing our family for the annual crowning of Mary.
I wasn’t always Catholic. I was baptized Catholic, raised Protestant, and received into the Catholic church five years after I was married. I’ve been Catholic for 14 years and still very much feel like a neophyte. I don’t know all the Holy Days of Obligation. I still don’t understand everything we do with the rituals, but I’m still learning. I don’t know all the Saints, but I still try to live like a saint (little “s”) as I continue to learn about grace, mercy, and faith.
My mother-in-law loved the May crowning of Mary. She went so far as to make programs and every year invited all of her children and their families to their childhood home to sing and process to the statue of Mary. No, we do not worship Mary, but we do honor her and this is one way we do it. We reserve Memorial Day weekend for our annual crowning and it’s appropriate as we remember our loved ones who have gone on before us. In years past it was grandparents and great grandparents. Four years ago we added my mother-in-law’s name to the list and it was an emotional day for all of us. This annual ritual has become all the more sentimental for me as the May crowning is when I miss my mother-in-law the most. Not being able to crown Mary with the beautiful flowers from my father-in-law’s garden and remember my mother-in-law with her children and grandchildren in attendance is especially hard this year.
My mother-in-law’s faith and love for Mary resonates with me as I have grown in my faith. As I try to love my children as Mary loved Jesus, I know that I’ll never get it quite right. But I hold her as an example of unwavering faith. Mary said, “Yes” when many of us would have said, “Heck no, are you crazy?”
This year the pandemic put a halt on social gatherings. For our extended family of 34 we were not going to be able to get together for Memorial Day remembrances and to crown the Blessed Mother. Well, I guess we could have, but then again, it could have also jeopardized our healths. And I certainly wouldn’t have been able to join because being immunocompromised from cancer treatments in the middle of a pandemic sure does put a damper on social gatherings because they could literally kill me. Such morbid thoughts I have.
Our family chose to social distance and we did not gather to recite the names of those whom we remember: Marvin, Juanita, Nanay Oping, Tatay Felix, Mary Teresa, Claudia, William, Henry, Ellen, and Patricia. There are more, but their names would fill this page. Their names are written on our hearts.
Now, more than ever, I cling to the Blessed Mother for hope and for guidance. I look to her for reassurance as I come to terms with the fact that I have cancer and not just cancer, but cancer in the middle of a pandemic. I ask her to wrap her mantle around me when I have the energy to do no more than sleep or join my family for dinner.
In this time of uncertainty when my health can be further threatened by the lack of social distancing I hold on to hope and know that I am not alone. I see Mary’s presence in the gifting of meals from loved ones. I see her love in the text messages of support from family and friends. I see her guidance in my children as they grow in their independence. I see her in my husband as he selflessly takes over the household chores and do all the things I typically do for our family. This year, while we won’t bestow Mary with a crown of flowers as we recite the names of those we remember, we crown her with our songs and our remembrances.
During this time of uncertainty, one thing remains certain, we are not alone. It may look different for each of us. Wherever we look for guidance, love, or solace, it is there, we just need to take the time to notice it. And when we do, it doesn’t need to be crowned with flowers, but remembered with a grateful heart. And in doing so, it helps us to say yes to hope when we need it most.