This is Mary Margaret’s story:
Mary Margaret was born into a Roman Catholic family. As a child she went to church every Sunday. When she reached school age, she knew that she would soon be “an adult” in the eyes of God: she would soon receive her first holy communion. In May of second grade, when she first received the host on her tongue, she knew how important it was that Jesus had died for her sins.
Mary Margaret attended twelve years of Catholic schools. She had a very close relationship with God. When she started college, she continued to attend mass weekly. She was majoring in chemistry, but really, she was at college to meet a nice Catholic boy that she could marry and start a family. Two weeks into her freshman year of school, she did meet a nice young man with whom she almost immediately fell in love; however, he was Jewish.
Sol was everything she wanted in a boy. He was charming. He was funny. He cared about the environment. He cared about people. He was handsome, and almost immediately, he made her feel like she was the only girl in the world. Sol was majoring in poly sci, and he had plans to attend law school. He wanted to be an attorney and help people.
Sol fell in love with Mary as well. After four years at university, Mary and Sol decided they wanted to marry. Both sets of parents were worried about the intermarriage of faiths, but Mary and Sol decided they would be fine. They would raise the children to learn about both faiths, and when the time was right, the children could decide which faith they would rather follow. Sol’s mother, Bracha, found this irksome because she knew that her son did not attend temple regularly, and Mary’s influence would win out in the end.
Fourteen years later, Mary Margaret and Sol had four children. Bracha’s fears had come true, the children were being raised Catholic. Sol had gotten so busy in his law practice that he eventually stopped going to temple all together. His children were being taken to the Catholic church every Sunday. Bracha did her best to teach the children about her Jewish faith, but they did not want to be converted. Bracha, although polite, felt contempt for Mary Margaret. She wanted to be Safta not Grandma. She wanted to have Passover meals not Sunday dinner.
Mary Margaret knew how much Bracha disliked her and it broke her heart. Mary was a good mother and a good wife. Mary did her best to show Bracha respect. She sent Hannakuh gifts and called on Rosh HaShanah to wish her a happy new year. Mary Margaret even learned to cook Kosher meals to please her mother-in-law, but to no avail. Sol told Mary not to worry. His mother was stubborn, but she had love in her heart. She could not express love for Mary, but Sol was convinced she felt it.
One summer morning, Mary Margaret was sleeping in. The children had all reached ages in which they could either fend for themselves in the morning or they wanted to sleep in themselves. Mary had been up late the night before finishing a Barbara Kingsolver novel, so she needed a little extra rest. Sol got out of bed like usual, and he kissed her on the cheek. He held the kiss a little bit longer than usual and he stroked her hair. Mary Margaret did not open her eyes, but she smiled. “Love you,” she said.
Seconds later the phone rang. It rang three times. Why did Sol not pick it up? It seemed impossible that he could have left that quickly. The phone rang again. Annoyed, Mary Margaret rolled over and picked up the receiver.
“Hello,” she said.
“Honey, it’s me.” It was Sol’s voice.
“How are you calling me? You just kissed me,” she said. She felt confused.
“Honey, I left for the office two hours ago. I didn’t even kiss you this morning because you looked so peaceful,” he said.
How could this be? She could still feel the moisture from his lips on her face. Had she dreamt it?
His voice was laden with sadness. “Mary, my father just called. My mother passed away a few minutes ago,” he said to her.
Mary smiled, although tears welled in her eyes. She had not dreamt the kiss. She knew in her heart that Bracha had stopped on her way to the next life, to make peace and let her know that she truly did have a place in Bracha’s heart.