Let there be light

I dearly miss my mother’s presence this Mother’s Day. It is my first without her in 62 years, as she died last November at the age of 95.

Adele Kolassa was a woman of exceptional faith in God – a faith that could not be shaken by tragedy. Her youth was stolen by the Great Depression. She spent the early years of her marriage alone as her husband fought in the trenches of World War II. And she grieved the death of her only son in the prime of his life. Yet countless times when I walked into her house, she would be in her favorite chair saying the rosary.

It’s said the first year after the death of a loved one is the worst for it is a year of “firsts.” As my first Christmas without my mother was rapidly approaching, I wondered how I would get through the holiday season. Everywhere I went I heard her favorite Christmas carol, “Silver Bells.” Many of my tree ornaments were sentimental reminders of past Christmases. Then quite unexpectedly things got better.

For as long as my mother lived in the Fourth Ward – which was 59 years – she belonged to St. Hedwig’s Church. She was a faithful supporter of the parish and attended weekly Mass without fail until the infirmities that come with being a nonagenarian prevented her from doing so. During the Christmas season the pastor, Fr. Matt Nycz, offered parishioners the opportunity to “adopt” one of 10 newly-installed chandeliers in memory of a loved one. I smiled as I recalled that one of my mother’s favorite expressions from the Bible is “Let there be Light!” Even though they were a tad pricey, I decided to adopt one in my mother’s memory.

The chandeliers went like hot cakes so that by the time I approached Fr. Matt, only one was left. I asked him which one was mine and he said none of the adopters had as yet asked for a specific one. I was elated, make that ecstatic, to be able to claim the first chandelier on the left at the main entrance. The reason? This chandelier lit up the last pew – where my mother and father had worshipped together every single week for years. They always went to church early so they could get the last seat.

They’re both gone now but the light continues to shine brightly – a source of comfort to me during my year of “firsts.” I am now awaiting the forthcoming plaque inside the church to memorialize my mother and all the donors’ loved ones. It will serve as a testament to the fact that St. Hedwig’s Church was a vital part of Adele Kolassa’s life and her spiritual presence will always be felt.