The calendar is pretty full today.
It is, of course, the Feast of Mary and Martha of Bethany - a story as parable about the ways to serve God.
On July 29, 1974, eleven women who had been ordained deacons in the Episcopal Church boldly and courageously acted on their vocation, discerned in community, of a way to serve God as priests in the Church.
On July 29, 2008, my mother died. I was, in my way, attempting to serve God and the people of God through the church, attending the Lambeth Conference at the time.
My mother was not the easiest person in the world to live with. You may have noticed that the apple does not fall far from the tree.
Never one to just pick up the phone and call, she nevertheless expected her children to do so. She also made no bones about the fact that we were a source of great disappointment to her.
Oh, she never said that flat out and would be horrified if you said that about her in her presence, but the truth of the matter is that we could never do enough - be enough - for her.
A typical phone call would go like this: "Hi, Mom."
"Who is this, please?"
"Elizabeth? Oh, Elizabeth! I didn't recognize your voice. It's been so long."
"Mother! I called you two weeks ago. Remember?"
"Yes, of course I remember. I'm not that old, you know. But, that was two whole weeks ago. That's a long time. You don't think so now, but you just wait until you are my age and your kids don't call you. Then, THEN, you'll understand. So, how have you been . . . .?"
She was a certified travel agent for guilt trips, often planning great excursions well in advance, but most of them were impromptu side trips. Like the one above.
And yet, it's the strangest thing. The phone calls are the thing I miss most. I even miss the maddening parts - the hint and innuendo of guilt - because once you moved past that, if I could get her to tell me a story, or, perhaps, share a recipe, she was wonderfully entertaining.
I especially loved to get her to give me an involved Portuguese recipe over the phone. It almost always involved directions with her hands which she never seemed to remember that I couldn't see.
"Add about this much crushed red pepper."
"How much, Mom?"
"What? About a tablespoon?"
"No, no, no! THIS much."
"What? About a handful?"
"Yeah, I guess you could say that. Well, maybe a little less than that. 'According to taste' as they say. You know, I could show you better if you lived closer."
"Mother, we'd kill each other if I lived closer."
"Oh, don't say that. That's not nice. I brought you up with better manners than that. And, anyway, if you lived closer, you could stop by more often. I could show you things instead of trying to explain it on this damn phone. Did I ever tell you what your grandmother used to say . . . .?"
And then, out of nowhere, would come a story - a FABULOUS story - one I had never heard before. One that added another puzzle piece to the story of my family life, and the crazy way we all relate to one another.
I miss those damn phone calls most. Not having the ability to just pick up the phone and call her. Talk. Learn. Even with the guilt.
The evening I learned of her death, Katharine Ragsdale took me to Whitstable for oysters. We sat and watched the sunset, eating oyster and drinking wine, Katharine listening patiently to my mother stories.
This is the picture I snapped from our table on the porch of the restaurant. I keep it on my desk to remind me of that great line in our Eucharistic liturgy:
"For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens."
When I see this picture, I imagine my mother at the brightest part of the setting of the sun. I trust she's met up with Betty, Susan Russell's mom, who died just a few days before my own mother died.
Sometimes, I can hear my mother's voice in my kitchen, giving directions as I cook or bake, and I find great comfort - and even a bit of a giggle - in the words of that Eucharistic preface prayer.
Rest well, Mother. I can't call you anymore, but I do pray for you. Every day.
So, you hear from me now more than you did when you were alive.
Guess that's why it's called heaven.