The mother full of grace. The epitome of mothers was captured in beautiful song. The Ave Maria. Repeated in many languages. To me, and to many. The mother of all mothers.
Then there was my mom.
My own mother was full of grace.
In more ways than one.
Mother’s Day is just around the corner. In Part Three of our Series on Special Mothers, I provide you with a tribute to the former Jelena Stefanic.
Nearly ten years ago, my mom died. Her Americanized and married named was Ellen Panza.
An Angel who graced us with her presence on earth.
A Mother Full of Grace and Gentleness
I was my mother’s oldest daughter. Devoted.
She had four daughters. My sister Niki is her only other surviving child.
She too still suffers from her loss. So much.
A mother’s reach is forever. At least ours is.
Grace means different things to many people. It’s somewhat intangible. And, yet, not.
I remember my mom’s soft touch.
She was gentle. Consoling. Loving.
Full of grace.
It was actually fun to be sick as a child.
Mommy would prepare special meal trays.
Complete with hand drawn notes.
Designed to promote my recovery.
She’d gently caress my hair and face
And seemingly make everything all better.
During her lifetime, my mother and I spoke daily.
Not once. But, multiple times.
She knew nothing about the internet.
Considered it an intrusion.
But, she knew everything about keeping in touch.
Mailed countless little notes with sweet loving reminders.
With more happy pictures.
Ones she quickly drew herself.
Because she was guided by a state of grace.
And knew that God was constantly looking out for us.
A Mother Filled With Physical Grace
I mentioned that grace means different things to many people. If you’ve met me, you know I’m clumsy. The apple seed must have darted across the field from my mother’s reach.
It wasn’t just that she was a ballerina.
Or moved gracefully.
It was that she was captivating.
In a more than beautiful way.
Her tiny body stood with the tender neck of a swan.
I watched as grown men were taken to tears as she classically danced.
For she moved the emotions that grace manages to stir.
As though angels were making their earthly entrance.
Her big black eyes were entrancing.
They could pull you in.
With warmth and compassion.
(As her child, they could also let you know you were in big trouble.)
At one time, I thought her physical beauty involved some vanity,
When she faced chemotherapy,
I realized that she used her state of grace to guide her.
She wanted so badly to live.
That the threat of hair loss didn’t matter.
Her family was more important.
She was full of grace.
A Mother Full with Grace and Service
My mom led a life of service. I remember her housing a church bell in our apartment when I was in first grade.
Teaching Sunday school around the same time.
Coming down with Rheumatic Fever in her early twenties and never knowing the significance. And taking in an autistic student to teach her dance.
She was in no condition to do so. But, it brought her joy.
Many years later, she would open a neighborhood dance studio. And invent scholarships for children whose parents could not afford lessons.
Ballet was her favorite. Her passion.
But, if the kids wanted to break-dance, she gave them floor time.
The Rheumatic Fever brought a lifetime of pain and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I feel so guilty that I never truly understood.
My mother worked it. She used her talents and developed a regime for others in pain.
She was honored by the National Arthritis Foundation for the exercise classes she developed.
She served the Church as a Eucharistic Minister.
And, gracefully praised the alter in dance.
She worked with the mentally institutionalized.
Even when her own pain got to her, my mother was there trying to make others feel better.
Because people that are in a state of grace give service.
A Mother Full of Grace Leaves her Mark
I think about how the Blessed Mother suffered when she lost her Son.
And the pain my mom went through when two daughters died before her.
Maybe Mommy needed some time to visit with them up in Heaven.
Barely scrawled, because cancer had moved to her brain.
It accompanied a set of rosary beads.
Of course, with a devotional prayer.
A reminder that she loved me. and that I was dear to her.
Her mark is there with a quickly drawn picture.
With a big smile.
I guess sharing is caring.
Until we meet again.
In a state full of grace.
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