Before I went on vacation to visit my brother David I met with some families who were preparing for the baptism of a child. As we know parents are called to be the first teachers of their children in the ways of the faith, but they can be aided greatly by the Godparents they choose for their child. The prayers and example of Godparents can bring great blessings to the child or adult they stand up for as the Sacrament of baptism is received. In my life my Godmother, Mary Cook, had a profound influence on me. Mary was a widow for as long as I could remember. She had no children of her own; she was a neighbor of our family at the time I was born. We moved away when I was a toddler so I never got to grow up in her neighborhood in West Oneonta. But, I always kept in touch with her through the years and I always enjoyed visiting her in her old farmhouse. When I visited she would often put out a tin can of cookies to share from her front room that was never heated. She had wrapped each cookie individually and would unwrap them and present them to me with such pride and caring. She called them “Castle Cookies”; to me they were a precious gift to be found only in her “farmhouse castle”. (I wish I had the recipe, they were delicious).
Godmother Mary had a great appreciation for God’s creation and a love for gardens and animals. I loved visiting her goats, cats, dogs, and geese as much as visiting her. Mary was one of those gifted people who could tell you in great detail stories about her early childhood and daily life on the farm. She was born in Alsace-Lorraine in 1902. Her family moved to West Oneonta, NY when she was a child, but when her father couldn’t find steady employment he decided to return to Europe. She told me how beautiful it was as they sailed into France when the cherry trees were in blossom. When her father couldn’t find employment in his homeland he decided to take his family back to America. Their second crossing of the Atlantic was on one of the first ships to make the crossing after the sinking of the Titanic! Godmother Mary used such detail in her storytelling that she sometimes could talk for an hour about an event that took place in ten minutes. She talked with such excitement that I never got tired of listening to her. Her face would be aglow with delight just recalling and sharing her childhood memories.
Mary had a great love for gardens and animals, but I think it was her love of gardens that won out in the end if she had to choose between the two. Recently I spotted a woodchuck in the field behind the rectory. It reminded me of a story she once told me about a woodchuck that kept raiding her garden. She told me the story without sparing any detail of how she spotted a woodchuck in her apple orchard. Mary was about 80 at the time and not very athletic but it didn’t stop her from getting her shotgun, shooting the surprised woodchuck, skinning it and having it for supper! When she told me that story I thought she could have played Granny on the Beverly Hillbillies!
Mary lived all by herself but she always knew how her neighbors were doing in her small community. She helped out at the food pantry and was always praying for those in the neighborhood who were having difficulties. She also, for many years was the first parishioner to arrive at church on Sunday morning for Mass. She liked starting the day early! It was a trauma for her when they stopped having the 6:00 a.m. Mass on Sunday and then stopped the 7:00 a.m. Mass! For her the 8:00 a.m. Mass was just too late in the day. Mary’s joyful appreciation and love of the simply daily wonders of God’s love that surround us in nature helped me to find God in so many ways in my life. Mary has since gone to God, but I am sure that she continues to pray for me as she always did in her little farm house. I pray that all of you who are Godparents and or sponsors may be faithful and loving examples of God’s love as Godmother Mary was to me.
God bless you,