Monday, August 3, 2015

In Honor of My Grandmother and Our Dead Car

My Mom's mother, Mary Jane Hehmann, was one of the greatest people I've ever known.

Her husband, my grandfather, passed away in 1975 by choking to death in a restaurant.  When he died, my grandmother was left to care for their 8 children all under the age of 25.

"Mom-Mom" (as we called her) was one of those stalwarts of Faith.  She never missed Mass, and her Faith was a part of her being (as it should be for all of us).

She loved all of us grandchildren with an immense love.  Her house was a place we loved to visit because there was candy everywhere and, to my knowledge, if we asked her for anything as grandchildren, she never once said no!



As a kid, I always thought of her as an otherworldly bundle of love, and she seemed to be the twin sister of Santa Claus.  Loving, generous, and full of warmth.

As awesome as a grandmother as she was to me when I was a kid, I think my favorite memories of her are when I was a young adult and started to recognize that she was also a real person as well.  One time I went to play poker with her and my two uncles.  She had her "smokestacks" of quarters and dimes, and she was in it to win it!  I tried to introduce a new card game I'd learned in college, and she pulled her money back and said "I'll sit this one out" and my uncle later (only half-jokingly) warned me not to mess with poker!  :)

From that point forward, I began to see her not just as Santa, but also as a wonderful PERSON.



When I called people to let them know I was going to the seminary, Mom-Mom cried on the phone and didn't have much to say.  For some reason, I got choked up too, and she was the only person that I cried while I was telling them about going to the seminary.  She was so happy, and that was very humbling for me.


In my second year of seminary, Mom-Mom's cancer came back (she'd fought it off in the past) and she knew it was the end.  She hung on for a few more months, but passed away in January of 2005.  I was able to make it to her bedside a couple of hours before she passed away.  She couldn't talk anymore, but she was praying a Rosary.


After the funeral, my Mom came to me and let me know that Mom-Mom wanted me to have her car.  It was a 2000 Toyota Corolla, and was about 1,000 times nicer than my Geo Metro I had been driving around.  Before she passed away, Mom-Mom wrote me a little note about how she was so happy about me becoming a priest and how she hoped her car would help me on my journey.


For 10 years the car got me back and forth to St. Meinrad 100 times, helped me get to hospitals and high schools and parishes and funerals as a priest, as I put on 220,000 miles on the car.  In all that time, I had to pay 600 dollars to get it fixed once.

a 2000 tan Toyota Corolla
One exception: my rims got bent over the years and hubcaps were no longer an option!

I never had any accidents or issues with the car in 10 years.

I could just tell that Mom-Mom was watching over me and the car.  As Catholics, we believe that this world is sacramental - it isn't just full of "stuff".   So while human beings are infinitely greater than all of the rest of God's creation, we still believe that all created things are good, and so I know that somehow my Grandmother had a role in watching over me and the car and she, through the car, played a big role in my priesthood that she was so excited for but never got to see while she lived on Earth.


Last night, at about 11 pm, I was driving home from a priest dinner, and the engine started making a noise, and I knew it had driven its last mile.  Even as it coasted and sputtered and kept fighting for another 10 miles, Mom-Mom was there interceding as it safely came to a stop near an interstate exit about 5 minutes from my parent's house.

It died at the perfect time as I didn't have any appointments or anything scheduled this morning, so I was able to go buy a new used car that is in the same spirit of simplicity that my 2000 Corolla that was willed to me from Mom-Mom was built on.

I pray that she watches over me, my priesthood, and this new car like she did for the last 10 years.  I have no doubt that she will!


Requiescat in Pace!