These are some of the sweet lights that shone in the darkness of my childhood. I didn’t realize how important she was. I missed the sweetness, for the darkness was very strong. However, over time, the light began to win. It shines now, for my saint is with me. I see her sweet lightness and have become hungry for it. I seek it and delight in it. That’s what a saint does. The light shines through her and around her. It touches you, though she may have no other intention than to simply be herself.
The thing about growing up with a saint is that you never feel like a sinner. You feel free and loved. And you’re drawn to the sweetness like a moth is drawn to light, even though you don’t really understand what’s happening. Then, one day, you come to value the light. You realize the darkness is receding, and you are able to choose between the two.
One morning after a long dry spell, she said, “The trees along the sidewalk, they’re not getting any rain. No one is watering them. They’re prisoners. Look! That one is wilting. If it doesn’t rain, it might die! They’re prisoners.” It was true. Each tree was confined to its small square of dirt surrounded by the concrete.
She had the same concern for people. After my visit to her one weekend, she insisted on going with me to the train to see me off, even though I didn’t want her to go. I was always worried about her traveling around the city if she didn’t have to. As I got on the train, she stood at the door, calling, “I love you, Jessie. God bless you each and every day.” Her hand made a cross in front of her body. She had never done that before.
As the train door shut, I tried to make my words carry over the din of the engine. I had to tell her how much I loved her. The doors closed. I sat down next to a man.
“She blessed you,” he said.
“Yes,” I said. It was hard for me to speak. “You don’t see that every day,” he continued.
I know, I thought.
Through my grown wisdom, I’ve begun to see my saint for who she is, and my heart has broken open. Late one night, I found myself sobbing in my husband’s arms, realizing, “This is my true mother.” I’ve begun to understand all that she has given me—everything I describe to you here—things so light and sweet that my words fall short. This book is born from our friendship.