April 19, 2012

What if she had changed her mind?

Thoughts like this one have been swirling around in my head all week.  What were the days like before she boarded that huge ship?  What fears did she have to overcome after her ticket was purchased? Was she excited?  Courageous by nature?  How difficult was it to say goodbye to her parents, not knowing if she'd ever see them again?--and she never did see them again.  Did she know how God orchestrated her circumstances and directed her to Ellis Island that cool fall day?   Did she consider the impact her leaving Ireland would have a decade later?  A century later?   

It is a mistake to look too far ahead.
Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.
~ Winston Churchill

In answer to a prayer for the last two and a half years about my relationship with my mother, a crack in the door of our hearts has opened and we're connecting.  I never gave much thought to how I am the fruit of a choice made over a hundred years ago by a Catholic girl following family to a new country.  I wonder:  how amazing is it that one hundred and twelve years later, her travel and story would bring a mother and daughter closer?

My grandmother's name was Mary McPartland.  She was born in Leitrum, Ireland in 1884, and as a young woman of sixteen, she traveled alone across the ocean to be united with her five older siblings already living in Buffalo, N.Y.  The ship she traveled on, the SS City of Rome, made its last journey that fall before being scrapped in 1902, it breaking down twice on its way to America with her on board.  She stayed in the steerage section of the ship with about one thousand other '3rd class' passengers.    

I wish I could have met her.  She died the year before my mother met my father.  I know so little about her.  Still so many unanswered questions.

But, for now, I am grateful to be drawing nearer to my mother.  She lights up, even smiles when I bring up her mother and her siblings.  She tells the same stories over and over, but she's talking, remembering and I am learning how to love my mother.

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