For most of my life, I lived in the bosom of shadows. I was held against my will there. But the Light always intrigued me. I’d part the leaves of my abode, and peer out into the golden cheer, and wonder how it’d be to live in the Light forever.
But as much as others chained me to darkness, I too allowed them, by the darkness in my own heart: my willfulness. The unwillingness to bend in yielding to God. I wanted to be free, but I wanted to do it my way, my time. I wanted joy, but not the Cross, and so, while I did carry my crosses, I did so with a great deal of unpleasantness. There were more than enough storms wrought by external circumstances in my life.
But I did my part in creating more.
I was born into this world with a singular purpose: To raise my birth mother’s name to perfumed heights. From my earliest memories, she drilled into me, day and night, that I was to go forth and make her, not Our Lady, known.
At every family gathering, in every conversation with family or friends, I had to seize opportunities to perfume the name of my earthly mother. I had to remember how to praise her, use the right words to let everyone know how well she cooked, how well she raised us, her many sacrifices. Woe betide me if I ever let one pass up. After every “marketing opportunity”, there’d be a post mortem of my performance at home, and the report revised and referred to for the next ten years.
When I married and swapped the dark roost of my childhood for another dark pit of my own making, I was forced to further grow into my role as Ambassador-for-my-mother. She wanted me to shine in my job, in my kitchen and shine spiritually too, and when others were drawn to my light, I had to point them, not to the good Lord, but to her – so all would bow down and pay my mother homage for her success in raising a good daughter.
There was one problem. I couldn’t cook. Born into a family of cooks, I struggled mightily to serve up half decent meals. My mother was immensely proud of her cooking skills, and I was deeply interested to learn from her. But for some strange reason, she kept me chained to just a couple of recipes, and refused to teach me more. She hid her recipes. She gave excuses. She fumed over the way I managed to underperform in cooking even those few dishes.
I tried but couldn’t get the dishes just right. I hadn’t married yet, and the only kitchen I had to practice in was hers, so there was no chance to cook alone and build up my confidence. But even after I married, my cooking standards remained low, because I remained obedient to her to never try anything other than what she had taught me. I didn’t think of buying a cookbook on my own because despite living miles away from her, I would have needed her permission. My mother had chained me to her from my birth, and I remained chained to her even after my marriage. So, my pathetic cooking continued its downward spiral. My mother writhed in agony over the shame I was to bring to her, by being the non-cook in a family of those born to please palates. She wrote me letters entreating me to try and learn to cook decently the dishes she had taught me or I’d bring so much shame to her – she, who was known to be a wonderful cook.
Letter after letter. Call after call.
Why letters, in this modern age? She wanted me to read and re-read her letters and commit her words of lament and admonishment to memory.
One night, the pain of those words got a bit too much. The house was in a mess. Dinner was in a worse mess. I looked over at my calm and unperturbed husband, and shame burned in me at how I had failed in my duties as a wife. My mother’s words of how I had failed the family numerous times before, as a child, and even then, as a wife, burned their roots into my soul. I was barren, couldn’t bear him children. I couldn’t keep house. I couldn’t cook a simple meal right.
That night, I reached the end of my tether. I left my husband watching tv and retired to bed to hide the tears that flowed unrestrained. Silently, I screamed and screamed and screamed to God to take my life. Over and over I sobbed like I had never before that He end my life before I hurt my husband who had loved me enough to marry me but whom I could not make happy.
I prayed for courage to drive the car over the cliff that it would appear to be an accident, so my family need never be shamed by the stigma of my suicide.
I screamed and sobbed deep into my pillow. At some point, I slept off.
Towards 2 or 3am in the dark night-dawn, I was awakened by an awareness. I sat up and looked around the dark room, searching. I turned and looked at my husband, sleeping in peace, blissfully unaware of the nutcase beside him. Finding nothing, I settled back on my pillow.
And nearly died of utter shock.
At the foot of my bed, towering above me, stood Jesus.
Jesus of the many paintings, and yet, a Jesus, never seen before. His eyes a blue-green that did not belong to this earth. There was none of the expected tenderness in His eyes. He fixed on me a look that reached deep into my soul.
The look reserved for a recalcitrant child.
After the initial paralysis, I suddenly realized I had tons to tell Him, and I had to do it fast, in case He left before I was finished. So, I let it all out. All the pain, all that had happened. My lips unmoving, from my heart to my Lord’s. On and on I went, slipping and skidding in my rush to have them all out.
He listened to me in silence. Still and utterly within my pool of pain, stood my Lord.
Slowly, I wound to a close, every heartache brought to the light.
In the stillness, He spoke words I never expected to hear:
Let go, Relax,
Let go, Relax,
Let go, Relax…
Over and over, they washed over me, like waves bearing the Light of Truth and Healing.
Let go, Relax,
Let go, Relax,
Let go, Relax…
I began to see another vision unfurl by His side. I saw Mother Mary wiping the wounds of her Son. They were not the wounds of the scourging. They seemed to be smaller ones, less severe. Wrought by me? Perhaps. But it was not the focus then.
Mother was tending to her Son’s wounds. Watching her, I had the strong sense that it should have been me doing it.
I fell asleep hearing the words, Let Go, Relax but I felt these final words imprinted on my soul: Wipe My Blood.
I woke up on the morrow no longer the same. I sat in the mess of my living room, and looked at the Jesus in a picture. I thought of his words, Let go, Relax, but didn’t ponder them, didn’t try to discern their meaning. I let the words hang suspended in my mind.
I called my mother and told her about the vision and the words I had not rehearsed or even thought of came out: From now on, I will cook but I don’t care how I cook because Jesus came and told me it’s not important.
Not a croak out of my mother.
Never again did I agonise over my cooking for her sake.
But in my ebullience over this culinary freedom, I failed to recall and ponder the last words He wrote on my soul:
Wipe My Blood.