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When Pope Francis Came to Philadelphia

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In non sewing related news, today – two weeks ago, Pope Francis made his debut in the US – first stopping in Washington D.C., then NYC, and finally, Philadelphia.

I’m not religious by any means. I joke with my grandmother, a hardcore Roman Catholic, to pray for me when she goes to church. She attends everyday. My beliefs… or non beliefs… or whatever beliefs stem from my mom dying when I was just a teenager. It has been ten years since she passed, and it’s still hard for me to see a mother and a daughter together – shopping, lunching, whatever. What kind of being could take her away from me?

I texted my dad these same thoughts the Saturday Francis was in town, his response, “You and mom had good memories. Consider her in the other room. You two will meet again.” I do hope and believe I will see her again.

Philadelphia was eerie the Saturday and the Sunday Francis was here. It was a surreal, one-of-a-kind experience. The city literally shut down. No work. No trash removal. No mail. Philadelphians who were in the “traffic box”, AKA Francis Festival Zone, were quarantined Friday through Monday. If you left the zone, you couldn’t come back in until after. Almost every street within that zone was cleared. Either car owners removed their vehicle(s) before Francis’ arrival or the city towed them. I went running that Saturday morning, and it shocked me to see National Guards at every corner and people walking from miles aways towards Center City. It felt like someone else, someone foreign, had taken over and that a pilgrimage of some sort was taking place.

It is estimated that one million people came to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia. Whether that it true or not, it made me question – maybe this religious thing is legit? It was inspiring to see people, believers, come out for him. I was moved. It could be that there was a reason that whoever is in charge of this universe took my mother away from me. I may not know yet, I just have to trust. Have faith.

Since her passing, I’ve always felt my mom to be a guiding light in my life. She’s still alive, she’s still here, but not in a tangible, breathing form. She’s just in the other room.

I only took my camera out that Saturday night. My camera is my baby, my pride and joy, and I treat it as such. I didn’t want to risk it getting damaged in the crowds. Here are a few snaps from that night.

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24 Comments

  1. Reply

    Lucy

    Hi Maddie, I wasn’t sure whether to respond to what you wrote, then I decided that as you wrote honestly and publicly I should do the same. It’s ironic that as I typed those words, I pictured words I read many moons ago in the Jewish Holocaust Centre. Those words are what I base my entire life on. In summary, “They came for the Jews, I was not a Jew I did not speak up”, this is followed by Gypsies, Disabled people ext until until “finally they came for me, there was no one left to speak up.” That day I committed to speak up for those who have no voice, because when I was a child there was no one to speak for me. Sorry to have deviated slightly but it felt right.
    To your latest message, gorgeous photos, I live in UK and only part of US I’ve been to is NY 4 days after 9/11. The trip had been booked for months to see a dear friend and terrorists weren’t stopping my SO and I going.
    I’m sorry for you that you lost your Mum in your teens, I guess there’s no easy time for such a thing but I think teen years are especially hard. Particularly if the relationship was good. This sounds trite, please believe I’m serious. Rejoice in the memories you do have of your years together and the foundations your Mum helped you lay down for life. Those things are truly a gift.
    I “lost” my Mother before I was even born, so I like you see “Mother/daughter relationships” and it hurts at times. BTW I’m 58. The first 16 years of my life I was abused on every level by both “parents” and a select bunch of their friends. That time made Hitler & the Spanish Inquisition look like an afternoon picnic in the park. I honestly can’t think of a thing I did then or since to deserve it.
    Long story shorter. I got out of their home though not their lives until they died 15 years ago. Was abused by professionals in my life & ex husband. Then I met an incredible man, a man with a lot of pain and his own demons. Together we filled the gaps in each other and slowly for both some of the hurts healed. After 20 years together, not always easy ones, but the days that were hard I always knew that while living with him felt difficult the idea of living without him felt impossible.
    Dec 17th of our 20th year (2011) he proposed in our favourite eating out place. Because we had a 19 year age gap he wanted to delay the wedding until I turned 50, which would happen in Feb. So we planned to marry 17th Feb (2013). One Spring evening he went to buy milk, newspaper and a treat for me because we’d had words. On the way home, just 5 m from home he collapsed. 4 days later he defied the Dr.s by staying alive 2 hours after being taken off life support and coming round. He couldn’t speak verbally, but his eyes met mine and he pressed my hand in a particular way that had always been our “I love you” when we were in public. With my blessing he died 17th April 2012.
    Again I have not and will never do anything in or with my life to make me deserving of losing the one person who made me almost whole.
    I’m not religious, though I have a faith in that I am a Taoist. I do believe in a creative being when I see the markings on the feathers of a Barn Owl, the fragile beauty in the petals of a wild flower smaller than my finger. When I see any of the truly beautiful things that make up this world. That includes a stranger smiling as they go by, or reaching out in compassion when someone looks sad. It covers the many good things people do to/for each other as opposed to the horror humanity is capable of.
    I do not though believe in a “Personal Creative Power” a mystical parent intent on smoothing my path and keeping me from pain. I was never able to have my own children, the abuse damaged my internal workings too much for that. So instead I’ve done my best to help raise other people’s when they couldn’t/wouldn’t.
    I can’t blame anyone or any mystical/supernatural being for my life. It is what it is. What’s really important is what I do with it as I live it. I try to be the best kind of person I can at all times, and when I fail to own to and rectify that failure asap. I rejoice in the good things I have had, even as I grieve at their passing. I’m one single insignificant scrap of life in squillions of other life forms on this planet, but I have the choice to try and make my life count or not.
    Maddie, you’ve had a terrible loss and are still grieving (I don’t believe it stops, we just learn to handle the loss better and smile more often than cry at the memories), you have a very special gift in your memories. Enjoy your life and in doing so you’ll pay tribute to your Mum and Dad for the gift of a happy childhood. Take care of yourself, have FUN.
    Sorry this is so long :~(

    • Reply

      maddie

      Please don’t apologize. It’s comments like yours that let me know that I’m talking to real people, not just a wall or an empty internet universe.

      Grieving never stops. You’re right on that. It’s just goes through different phases. The grief from death makes you learn that life can be cruel, even to the good people. Like I write on my about page, it’s not always unicorns and beautiful flowers. People die, people hurt, people kill. That is why I think it’s important to fill your life with ONLY the people and things that matter. Sewing was one of those things and the community surrounding it was another.

  2. Reply

    brigidboyer

    Maddie,

    I am so sorry that your Mother died. I couldn’t imagine having to handle that. I think I too would be questioning why on earth God would let something like that happen, except that I know that there is a reason behind everything in God’s ultimate plan, but He is NOT the author of evil.

    I want to encourage you that there IS something to Christianity. I am not a Roman Catholic, but I am a Christian, and I can tell you I could not live a day without my faith in Christ. He is the only reason I can live each day with assurance and peace. Jesus Christ not only came down to earth to live the perfect life for me, and you, but He gave His life, so that you and I could live in eternity with Him, if only we choose to believe in Him and confess our sins.

    I don’t know if you are ready to handle all this yet, but do know that I will be praying for you.

    • Reply

      Cynthia

      Beautifully said, Brigid. I, too, am a Christian and rely on Christ daily to see me through the trials we all face and to celebrate his love and glory in the good times. I miss my mother too and understand Maddie’s grief. Losing a mother is devastating. Maddie – please give Christ another chance. Don’t worry about religion – those are man made and fallible. God won’t fail you, though.

  3. Reply

    oonaballoona

    Beautiful post, Maddie. Pope wise, I think NY was a little less stringent (but only a little– a cab driver told me that George Stephanopoulos was refused entrance back into his neighborhood while walking his dog on the Pope trail). I ended up having my day match Francis’ path almost exactly, and there were lots of bemused cops, empty streets– except for the line to see him do his thang at Madison Square Garden, which at 1pm was all the way down to 23rd & snaking towards the Hudson. So many nuns. I didn’t know there were so many nuns in the city! And all in habits that looked out of this century…

    Ruggy likes to gently remind me that matter doesn’t disappear. There is a beautiful short essay by Aaron Freeman on NPR, on what a physicist would say to the bereaved. I won’t link to it here, because I think that anyone grieving should consider whether they want to read that sort of thing (and I agree with Lucy, just because years pass, doesn’t mean the grief is less). But the beauty and mystery of matter and photons and energy is as close as I get to comfort. “In the next room” thinking, for sure.

    • Reply

      maddie

      I know, right? So many nuns with legit habits. I haven’t seen one of those since Sister Act II yo!

      Even though was is not tangible is a mystery, I still believe that it exists. She’s here; my mom is still with me.

  4. Reply

    Lucy

    Oonaballoona, great comments, I’d appreciate it if you could mail me the link please.
    I belong to a Bereavement group and Dementia Forum (my widowed bil, who I’m a carer for has dementia) and it’s always good to have a chance to share other perspectives.
    talespinnerwordweaver@gmail.com thanks

    • Reply

      oonaballoona

      Happy to!

  5. Reply

    Liz

    Maddie, did you feel as if you were under the Nazi jackboot at the weekend? Were your friends taken out and shot on street corners? Were others brutally tortured by the Gestapo? Were innocent children locked in a building and burnt to death? Did trains full of inoffensive, ordinary people, old and young, rich and poor, leave Philadelphia, their destination concentration camps, with their gas chambers, starvation and worse?
    No?
    Then don’t compare your weekend to life in occupied France during WW2.
    That’s all.

  6. Reply

    Ros

    “it felt like I was in France when it was occupied during WWII. It felt like someone else, someone foreign, had taken over and that a pilgrimage of some sort was taking place.”

    WWII was not a pilgrimage. Having a foreign army invade and occupy your country by force is nothing like any kind of event you’ve lived through. NOTHING.

  7. Reply

    Basya

    Jumpin’ Jesus Christ on a Cracker, Maddy. How can you even consider making the comparison?

    I hope that you never have to live under the likes of Al-Shabab, ISIL, or the Nazis.

    • Reply

      Natasha Estrada

      Isn’t that exactly what you posted on GOMI? Trying to earn some seal claps are we? Honestly the fact that you even post on such a hate site sort of exempts you from being offended.

      • Reply

        maddiemadalynne

        Natasha: 100 / Basya: -100

      • Reply

        Basya

        Natasha, what the hell are you talking about?

        Madalynne, your initial blog post is -1000, if you consider mine a -100 and Natasha’s a 100. Really, you have no idea. Comparing your movement being knowingly restricted temporarily because a respected religious figure is visiting to fearing for your life under the regime of vicious thugs is beyond tone deaf.

        You should have been with me on my last vacation. Having a minute to run to shelter from when a siren sounded until a rocket hit. Good times, I tell you.

      • Reply

        Basya

        If you mean Get Off My Internets, you have the wrong gal, Natasha. I had a very brief sojourn there over the summer. I nuked my account after I realized how seriously being nothing more than a bystander is taken. Even in cases where bloggers post about endangering others’ safety. I wouldn’t call Get Off My Internets a hate site. Gossipy, yes. Immature, maybe. I wouldn’t go as far as to call the posters hateful.

        • Reply

          Natasha Estrada

          I don’t believe you. You typed a very specific phrase that was word for word what you typed on GOMI.

          Honestly I personally did not realize how shutdown the city of Philly was for a man in a hat who believes in mythical creatures. That sounds pretty oppressive to me. What else could you compare it to?

          Just because we’ve never been on vacation in a war zones doesn’t mean we can compare our experiences with what ever the heck we like.

  8. Reply

    Becky

    Maddie, thank you for sharing your heart. I didn’t know about your Mom. There isn’t a tragedy much worse than that. May you find peace, comfort, and hope in your grief. I join others who are praying for you.
    Keep writing and photographing. You are such an inspiration.

    • Reply

      maddiemadalynne

      Thank you, Becky.

  9. Reply

    Gwen Gyldenege

    Your momma is always near. Always. I can feel it. (she whispers to me – “that in the next room comment is dead on and she loves you very much”). Thanks for being vulnerable enough to share your story. If you felt a certain way about the Pope’s visit that doesn’t resonate with others, that’s ok in my book. I heard Clarissa Pinkola Estees say something the other day. “If everything could be understood, it could be forgiven.” I think that is such a beautiful thing. We don’t have to agree to coexist peacefully. Nor do we need to persuade another to our way of thinking. Know what I mean? (not saying that you are by the way)

    I’m proud that you spoke your mind and shared your experience which is yours and yours alone. Pain is pain. I hope one day, you will remember the peace, the sacred witness, within yourself that is beyond the trials of our human experience. And, I hope that each reader will find the space to allow you your own experience without needing to change it so they their path is made “right”. For what you went through is real and true for you, not necessarily for the rest of us.

    If we don’t explore our feelings, if we don’t let go of how we feel, if we don’t discuss (even if only internally with ourself and/or the Divine), then how can we ever expect to move beyond the place we have been? We’d be stuck, pointing fingers at one another for believing something that’s different or socially unacceptable at whatever time we’re in. We all have different paths for a reason, let us celebrate and honor each other for that.

    I believe everything happens for a reason too. I pray that you are gifted with clear signs and understanding on why your mom left so soon. Please, keep sharing. Keep musing. I’m grateful that you wrote about a religious “icon” from your non-religious perspective. It helped me so much. Much love and blessings to you my friend!

  10. Reply

    Teresa

    Thank you for such a beautiful post, Maddie. I was raised Catholic, but I no longer practice. I LOVE Pope Francis – he really walks the walk. I love how he is shaking up the Church. I doesn’t hurt that he took the same name as my now deceased but beloved father.

    I’m sorry that your words have raised such a stir. I understood exactly what you were trying to say (your movements were restricted and there were officials there with guns to ensure compliance) without feeling like you made a faux pas. You were not trying to offend anyone and your analogy spoke to me and helped me to understand. No, neither of us lived through WWII and you were not trying to make light of the suffering during that time.

    This one passage is not the point, people. Take your negativity somewhere else.

    • Reply

      maddie

      Thank you, Teresa, and I’m glad you could understand what I meant and take away something from what a wrote.

    • Reply

      Raphaelle

      Maybe neither of us lived through WWII, but my grand-mother did, she was a young mother in occupied Paris. So did my French grand-father, and my French great-uncle, who were both war prisoners in Germany. Two of them are still alive and over 90-year-old today, and yet, they still vividly remember the cold, the fear, the hunger, and the horror of war.

      I understand you did not mean it this way, but comparing your experience to these of the millions of people who lived through WWII does sound disrespectful and ignorant.

      • Reply

        Natasha Estrada

        She had already removed that sentence a couple of days before you posted this comment so what exactly are you complaining about? She has been respectful and removed the offending statement.

  11. Reply

    Allison Dougherty

    I’m seeing this well past the post date, but I can’t resist. Pope Francis did not come to central Pennsylvania, where I am, but he took all of our peppermint coffee syrup, nonetheless.
    “I’d like a peppermint-mocha, extra shot.”
    “Sorry, lady, no peppermint.”
    “No peppermint?! Why no peppermint?”
    “All the peppermint was sent to Philly.”
    “Whatever for?”
    “The Pope, he’s in Philly this week.”
    Ahhhh, Pope Francis must really like peppermint-mocha Frappuccinos, too.
    Love your blog, it’s so much fun to read.

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