I am a happy mammy. For three weekends in a row my whole brood is at home. It is unusual enough to get our older two girls home together but because of a few family events and now Easter we are having a great run of family time.
I love the banter and craic, sitting longer round the dinner table, Diarmuid recounting the details of every point and goal he has scored since he last saw his older sisters, the girls eyeing up any new clothes or bits of make-up.
Our youngest daughter, Méabh, is due to go to University in September. I am excited for her and I know she just wants to get through the Leaving Cert and off to college. I love the way Deirbhile has flourished at university, developing a wonderful confidence and a great social network. Caoimhe, now working in Belfast, is constantly juggling half a dozen projects. We nearly have to make an appointment to have a chat on the phone!
I love having my children home but I also love the lives they are building and I would never take that away from them. I do not want to tie them to my apron strings but I would have to admit, there is a loneliness about being a parent.
We raise our children to be confident enough to leave the nest and move out in the world. We want our children to become themselves not to be pale shadows of their parents.
Being a parent asks us to be generous with our love and with the freedom we offer our children. If that means that we live with the reality of missing them, so be it, that is the price of our children building their own futures.
In the midst of it all I have found myself thinking about Mary and her experience as the Mother of Jesus. Peter had realised that it was dangerous for Jesus to travel to Jerusalem. He tried to talk him out of it and got sorely rebuked – “Get behind me, Satan”. I wonder did Mary ever try to stop Jesus? Or did she know too deeply what it meant to have handed her own life over to God to ever consider trying to stop Jesus doing the same thing? Perhaps she recalled those days when her boy was young and got lost only to be found then in the temple in Jerusalem. He told herself and Joseph clearly that he must be about his Father’s business. But surely still she must have struggled.
Was she in the upper room at that supper which turned out to be his last? She would have seen the power behind his gesture – this is my body broken for you, this is my blood poured out for you – and would have known what it meant.
We are told that Mary is one of the women who remained at the cross when the apostles had run away.
How did she manage to look upon her son in his suffering? When my children are hurting, I would do everything to be able to take that pain away from them and carry it myself. What passion, what emotional and psychological crucifixion did Mary go through? But she did not leave him. She did not run away but stood there offering him her strength.
We are not told of the encounter between Mary and Jesus but surely, he must have gone first to her. Did she know this moment was going to come? Did she believe that God’s love and power could not be defeated, even by the scandal of the cross? And how she must have laughed and cried and wrapped him in her arms, her boy, made new.
And somehow the ordinary loving, missing and rejoicing in my own children has opened a door, letting me enter the Gospel and the wonder of this Easter season in a powerful and personal way.