My very wise Aunt, who is also my Godmother, told me that the key to a long, happy marriage is to put God First, then my husband and then my children. It took me 12 years to figure out exactly what she meant but, since then I have tried to make that my life’s motto.
So, today, I will write about how and when I met my first love, Jesus.
In 1959 my parents moved from our home in Norwalk, California to a brand new house in Buena Park, California. And although I am uncertain on the exact details as to why, my sweet little Grandmother Bellamy came to live with us. She was a caring Grandmother who showered all of us with love and affection. She took care of us when my parents would go away for weekends or out on dates. One of the things she insisted on, and my parents backed her up, was that she take us to church. I was 7 years old when I first walked into St. Pius V Roman Catholic Church. I was in AWE! There was no doubt in my mind that God was there. The smell of burning candles and incense filled my senses. The statues and stained glass windows filled my mind with visions of Heaven. I started Catechism classes in the 2nd grade. Back then the Sisters taught our classes and they were always kind, but strict. I made my First Holy Communion in the Spring. That was my first encounter with Jesus. Grandma was faithful to her committment to see that we were raised in the faith in which we were baptized. I was confirmed at 12 and became a “Soldier of Christ”. I have so many memories of those years attending Saturday Catechism and Sunday Mass. I remember the many questions I would ask my grandma about faith and when she could not give me an answer she said, “Well Debbie, that is a mystery and we will learn the answer when we go to Heaven.” Whenever I was good or kind to someone she would say, “You just added a jewel to your crown in Heaven.” She taught us all of our prayers and I remember saying the Rosary with her on many occassions. I had no doubt in my mind that she loved Jesus. She always demonstrated that love by her words and actions.
I have a vivid memory of a time she gave all of us a half dollar to go to the store to buy candy. As we were walking I was flipping that fifty cent piece up in the air and catching it in my hand. Well low and behold if that coin didn’t drop into a bed of ivy. I searched and searched. It was lost. I was devastated. I ran back home crying to Grandma that I lost my money. She very calmly and gently said, “Let’s say a prayer to St. Anthony. He is the patron saint of lost things. He will help you find it.” So we did. Not going to lie, I was skeptical but, on faith I went back to where I dropped the coin. When I got there I looked down, and there it was! Shining as bright as the morning sun! Oh yes, I believe that St. Anthony is the finder of lost things. I can’t tell you how many times he has come to my rescue!
I was not always appreciative of the sacrifice my little grandma made to ensure I learned and understood my faith. When puberty started setting in there were times I rebelled because I wanted to sleepover with my friends and not get up for Mass on Sunday. Oh and yes, sometimes I even resented it. But, Grandma was always firm and did not give in, even when I was being a brat. No, I didn’t understand or appreciate what she was doing for me. And at 13 when my parents split up, I stopped going to Mass. But, you know, there was always that light inside of me that shined and radiated. It kept me searching for what I already knew. It kept me longing to grow those seeds that were planted by my dear Grandma. Longing and searching until I met my second love, my husband.
I am thankful to God that my little Grandma was alive to see me married in the Catholic Church. I am thankful to God that she was was alive to see my children baptized in the faith. I am thankful to God that He gave me the grace to tell her “Thank You” so many years later. I am thankful that God gave me a grandmother who sacrified, loved and cared for me so that I can say “Jesus is my first love”.