Lorraine Murray

Cherishing the prayers of a patient mother

An intricately woven nest is tucked away in the crook of a cypress tree near my deck.

The nest is nicely positioned, so rain and wind won’t damage it, and is high enough to discourage predators.

One day, I spotted a twig sticking out of the nest — and upon closer inspection realized it was the tail of a female cardinal, whose brownish feathers blended so well with her home that she was nearly invisible.

I can see her from my upstairs study window and sometimes peek down at her during the day. There she is, hour after hour, day after day, quietly and patiently waiting for the eggs to hatch.

With Mother’s Day approaching, I remember how patient my own mother was when it came to the ordinary tasks of life, whether it was knitting sweaters or sewing dresses for her girls.

She was so meticulous as she pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric or looped the yarn around the needles. If she made a mistake, she simply retraced her steps, sometimes pulling out stitches and starting over without grumbling.

She brought that same patience to making pie crusts from scratch, using flour, water and shortening, and carefully smoothing out the dough into a big circle with her trusty wooden rolling pin.

She used scissors to trim the edges and then pressed a pleasing pattern into the dough with her fingers.

Her patience also extended to explaining the intricacies of high-school algebra problems to her impatient younger daughter, who went to her in tears with homework assignments that seemed impossible.

My mother sharpened a pencil, straightened the edges of her scrap paper and sat down at the kitchen table with me.

Then, she took her time explaining the solution, going step by step, until finally the “ah ha!” moment hit me — and I grabbed another pencil and began working the next problem while she watched.

I believe my mother’s virtue of patience accompanied her to the afterlife, where her love became instrumental in my returning to my Catholic faith.

You see, various liberal arts professors at the University of Florida wrecked my belief in God, and I became the stray sheep that wandered far from Christ’s fold for about two decades.

In the Father Brown mysteries by G.K. Chesterton, the detective declares about the thief, “I caught him with an unseen hook and an invisible line, which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.”

The little twitch upon my heart that drew me back to Christ happened when my husband returned from a trip to New York and mentioned he’d lit votive candles in memory of my parents in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

This was many years after their deaths, and the incident shook me up, because I realized I’d never prayed for the repose of their souls.

That moment led, slowly but surely, to my walking into a church and uttering my first tentative prayer in years, which was simply, “Lord, help me to believe.”

I believe my mother had been patiently watching over me — and praying for me — for years.

To me, it makes sense that mothers, even after leaving this earth, would still be devoted to their children and still wish for their offspring’s happiness.

Every Mother’s Day, I light a votive candle at church for my sweet mom, and remember how she protected and loved me for so many years.

And it wouldn’t astonish me to know my mother is preparing a place for me, where someday — I hope — we’ll be together again. A nice little nest, in a protected part of heaven, cozy and safe, where nothing could ever harm us.

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Lorraine writes about leaving — and returning to — Christianity in “Confessions of an Ex-Feminist.” Her email address is lorrainevmurray@yahoo.com