A Gift to Her by God
She woke up early morning before the dawn of light, and started cooking a large pot of oatmeal, while she put a fresh stick of butter on the table to soften for spreading on our toast. In-between warming a bottle of milk for the baby, she managed to put on a pot of coffee. She’d sip it while checking our school bags for sharpened pencils, copybooks, milk money, and nickels for recess. She gently held her baby to her chest with one arm, while helping the younger ones button their shirts, or tying their shoes, or pulling up their pants after they left the bathroom. She walked us to the front door with the baby still in her arms, and toddlers hanging on the hem of her house dress. In addition to checking the outside weather, she reminded us to put on a sweater or jacket and waved good-bye.
She began washing the breakfast dishes, and put clothing in the washing machine that usually ran all hours, until we came home at lunchtime. We always had sandwiches that were ready made with fresh bread, ham and cheese, and a tall glass of milk. We had a piece of fruit to eat on the way back to school. We were excited to get home after the school day to have a snack of homemade chocolate cake, and play outside or watch cartoons. We didn’t have a lot of chores after school, since she made sure that our playing came first.
The greatest joys shown through watching us children laugh and play, while she prepared dinner. We could always depend on fresh meat and vegetables as, chicken, hamburger, or turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn or green beans. We were never forced to eat something that our taste buds hadn’t yet developed to acquire. She laughed at our silly stories at the dinner table, while spoon feeding one of the toddlers in a high chair, or heating up some warm milk for the hungry crying baby. Our chores were to help with spoon feeding the youngest toddlers, or watch over them in the playpen, while she did the dinner dishes and cleaned up the messes that were left behind.
She taught us morals and the value of love, laughter, and honesty, with kindness. A day never went by that didn’t include her conversations with God that she'd share with us. She’s done this her whole life, ever since the first day she got married at sixteen-years-old, and had a child every year after.
She never hollered, used profanity, wore make-up, or owned any clothing other than house-dresses. We rarely heard her complain, but only voice the joy and satisfaction over preparing an abundant meal, or the fragrance of freshly laundered clothes, and a sparkling cleaned house.
She hardly asked for outside help, even from my father. Her greatest challenge in life was keeping her marriage vows blessed with the demands of a dominate husband, with misgivings of the old-school philosophy, which she understood and brought more compassion towards him. She miraculously overcame all the odds that were against her, by keeping her focus on the wellness and joys of the family, through the simplicity of meekness and love. She put everyone’s needs before her own, as though they were treasures and counted her blessings to serve.
She was certainly different from all the rest, for had given up her life - A sacred duty of responsibility of seventeen children whom she nurtured practically on her own. She turned around, which might have been a devastating situation of lack to a loving family. She did this by staying on the same age level of communication with every single child under her care. With what little education that she had; she certainly found the internal teacher within, that shown her way through faith, hope, and love.
Her health started to fail when her youngest child was six-years-old. The strength in her legs weakened, causing pain, and she developed partial blindness from Diabetes. I can still hear her whispers of prayers, and envision her kneeling before the Crucifix, asking for ten more years of good health, to continue her promise of taking care of the children. Her passion of love for the children was her greatest power of strength and hope in life that her health miraculously returned, until she met God face-to- face ten years later.
My mother’s struggles that she overcame gave me faith and hope to trust in the darkest night of my soul when I’d come to see my child as the reflection to the light.
In October 1958, when she gave birth to her eighteenth child, Mom was acknowledged in all the Philadelphia newspapers as the youngest mother to have given birth to that many children in Philadelphia. Alas, one was stillborn.
Causes Catherine Nagle Supports
Westwind Foster Family Agency, Christian Children's Fund, Compassion International, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Invisible Children, Save the Children