Sometimes there are moments in life that take our breath away. Moments that are so precious no matter what happens, how many years go by, they will stay with us and never be forgotten. For me, I will never forget how I felt the moment my precious, beautiful child was placed in my arms. I remember clearly the promises I made her as she lay staring up at me then suddenly I was overwhelmed and terrified at what life might throw at her.
It was Christmas 1990 and my daughter Gemah was three years old. My mother, daughter and I sat down to watch Cinderalla for the first time together. ‘Will I be a princess grandma and marry a prince,’ Gemah asked. ‘Of course you will,’ grandma replied and we prayed with all our hearts that she would marry a man who would love her for who she was, take care of her and be a wonderful father to their children.
On the run up to Christmas we attended Mass as we always did each Sunday morning. This particular morning we were up early curling Gemah’s hair and putting on her very best Sunday clothes. Today the children of the parish would be taken into the hall to decide who would play what part in the Nativity. Naturally, my mother and I knew Gemah would be chosen to be an angel. She had fair wavy hair, bright blue eyes and was the most beautiful, gentle child in the whole world. Mum and I talked about making angel wings and halo’s, beyond excited at seeing Gemah standing on the altar. It was something we had dreamt about since the day she was born. Our very own beautiful angel.
The previous year one of the younger children dressed as angel began waving and jumping up and down on the altar as soon as she saw her mother and stole the show when she shouted ‘love you mummy.’ Not a dry eye in the house that year. ‘That will be us next year,’ I whispered to mum.
Today Gemah’s blonde hair had been brushed and curled and her pretty cream dressed matched the ivory sandals with pretty bows bought specially for the occasion. Mass was over and the children were taken into the hall by the ladies who were organising the Christmas Nativity.
We sat together, mum and I, holding hands praying to Our Lady of Lourdes and waited. After what seemed like hours the children returned and Gemah had a huge smile on her face as she ran to us. I swung her up into my arms.
‘Tell me all about it my darling, what are you going to be. An angel? A star? Oh my goodness are you Mary?
We waited and then Gemah turned and grinned at her grandma.
‘Oh grandma, I’m a spider!
My mother opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. I managed to paste a smile on my face and asked once more.
‘A spider Gemah?’
‘There is a spider in the nativity?’
‘Yes and I asked if I could be it, I really want to be the special spider mammy.’
So it came to be that for the next couple of weeks, rather than spending time making pretty gossamer wings and a halo, I was scouring the shops for a black balaclava and stuffing cotton wool into black tights to make spider legs.
When the morning came mum and I sat in the pews waiting for the nativity to start with smiles on our faces, laughing at the child who brought such joy to our hearts. The music began and the children made their way down the aisle singing Away in a Manger.
We had to supress laughter as she made her way onto the altar waving her legs and swaying to the music before she began to weave her web to the songs the children were singing. Our laughter quickly turned to tears and mum and I held hands and cried watching the child we loved so very much doing cartwheels on the altar steps.
As spiders go she was the most enchanting beautiful spider in the whole wide world. She may not be the angelic being I had prayed for standing waving at her mummy but to me she was absolutely and utterly perfect and so many years later I can still see her standing on the altar smiling from ear to ear. We were so proud of her and if hearts could burst with joy, ours certainly did that day.
28 years later, once more, I sat in church waiting to see my daughter walk down the aisle praying with all my heart that God would have given her grandma the day off to come and be with us that day.
I looked over at the man she was to marry. Gemah and John had been together since they were fourteen years old and I thank God for him every day. He is every mother’s dream of a son-in-law and I love him very much indeed. The prayers mum and I made that Christmas day in 1990 had been answered.
On my knee sat my grandchildren Seamus and Finlay looking up me with smiles on their faces and my heart melted.
I heart whispers around me and I knew she was here. John looked over at me and I reached for my first handkerchief of the day.
As I sat waiting. I remembered that day so long ago when I had dreamed of Gemah standing on the altar dressed as an angel then suddenly the music began. I closed my eyes and willed myself not to cry then turned to look at her.
Wound into her bouquet were my mother’s rosary beads that Gemah had insisted on carrying along with the bible that belonged to John’s grandfather Brian.
My angel, my beautiful angel, floated down the aisle a vision in ivory. She may not have been waving her arms shouting out to her mummy but it didn’t matter. It had been worth the wait and I could not have been more proud. I closed my eyes for a moment and felt as though my mother was standing beside me.
Gemah walked down the aisle on the arm of her father and stopped briefly when she reached my bench and looked into my eyes. ‘Love you mam,’ she whispered.
I can still see her that day and hear her words of love. My own beautiful angel. I didn’t realise that the day she was born God gave me not only a daughter but a best friend for life whose encouragement, support and love makes this world a wonderful place to be.
Today is Gemah and John’s third wedding anniversary and I could not be more proud of them. They are the most incredibly loving people and their kindness to me is never ending. To them family is everything and the happy smiles on the faces of their children says it all.
How very proud grandma would be of you. As am I my darlings.
Happy anniversary Gemah and John, with my heart and soul I love you both so very much and may God bless you and the angels watch over you and my precious grandchildren always.
Your loving mother