The following is a reflection by Gail Waterman on her friendship and faith journey with a fellow Third Order Dominican.
On the day of Mary Hickson’s funeral Mass, Tuesday, October 25, 2016, a small group of Third Order Dominicans, Mother of God chapter, gather at the funeral home to convey our condolences to Mary’s only child, Michael, and to bid farewell to our dear sister, Mary. Michael commented that his mother was truly a dedicated member of the Dominican order.
Mary and I had grand times traveling together back and forth to the Dominican Monastery in West Springfield to attend Mass and our chapter meetings on the third Sunday of the month. Our chats would last the distance we traveled to the monastery. We chatted about current events and chapter activities and reminisced about the “good old days” in the Third Order chapter life. Gossip was never part of our conversations. When we returned to her house, she would get out of the car, turn around and sweetly say, thank you and whisper “I love you.” She would then put her hand to her mouth and glow a kiss to me. I would quickly respond, as I drove away, “I love you more.” We would laugh wholeheartedly, she knew I wanted to have the last word. Outwardly, she was a quiet, gentle woman but inwardly she was a very strong, Irish, Catholic woman. Mary celebrated her 91st birthday on Oct. 10, 2016.
Every year, on the first Sunday of the October, the Dominican Nuns have a Blessed Roses Prayer Service at their Monastery of the Mother God on Riverdale Street. This year, on October 2, Dominican Father Jacob Restrick, a visiting Dominican priest and former religious assistant for our chapter, presided at the service with Benediction, followed by a short talk, and blessing of the roses. A blessed rose is given to all who are there.
At the service, I went to the sacristy to tell Father Jacob that my sister and I were going to visit Mary Hickson at the Mont Marie Health Care Center in Holyoke. I wanted to bring a blessed rose to her and asked Father Jacob to write a short not to her on the Blessed rose prayer leaflet. He was happy to do so.
When we arrived, Mary was in her bed looking very uncomfortable and in distress. But upon seeing the blessed rose and note from Father Jacob, those beautiful blue, Irish eyes started smiling when reading the note. Father Jacob mentioned the “postcard collection” that both he and Mary had initiated. I am sure it brought back the memory of the day she brought a cardboard shoe box to him that was filled with her treasured postcards that had pictures and images of holy and sacred places from all over the world. She did not know what to do with them and did not want to throw them away. Father Jacob suggested that she start a collection of postcards and get the chapter involved, make it a chapter apostolate. It is now one of our chapter’s treasures. This was only one example of the many thought and generous activities that Mary was involved in.
On October 12, 2016, I received a phone call from Kevin McClain, a member of our chapter, who was devoted to Mary Hickson. He told me that Mary was not doing well and was receive meds and nutrition via IV. A short time later, she was taken to Holyoke Hospital.Later, I received a phone call from Pauline Bacon, another member of our chapter who lives a short distance from where Mary used to live in Holyoke. Pauline wanted to tell me that she visited Mary ad all signs indicated that she Mary was closer now to our Blessed Mother who would soon be taking her to Jesus. She sat beside her bed and prayed the rosary out loud. While praying, Pauline wondered if a priest had been called to anoint her. Pauline went to the nurses’ station and the nurse reassured her that Mary had received her final anointing from her parish priest.
On October, 18, 2016, Our Blessed Mother came to Mary and quietly took her by the hand to meet Jesus face-to-face. That was the same day I had eye surgery at the eye clinic in Holyoke. Not knowing that Mary had passed on to eternal life, the thought crossed my mind several times to stop at the hospital and visit her but the final decision was that it was best not to do so and I continued my journey home. I was at peace with that decision. Mary passed away at about the same time I was having the surgery.
On Tuesday, October 25, chapter members gathered at the funeral home to pay our last respects and convey our condolences to her her son, Michael. When it was time to leave, we stood before the casket and said our final goodbyes — till we meet again. She was clad in a lovely, pale blue and green floral, silk dress. She wore her lay Dominican scapula and a small black and white Dominican cross was pinned to it. Her light blue crystal rosary beads were thoughtfully arranged over her dainty, little hands. AS we stood silently gazing upon Mary’s lifeless body, knowing she was very much alive in the spirit, we all sang the Salve Regina — Marian antiphon. This was the first time we ever did anything like that — it was spontaneous. The hymn is sung at the conclusion of our chapter meeting ant at the end of the Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours.
Following the viewing at the funeral home, our delegation of Dominican laity went on ahead of the procession to be at Blessed Sacrament Church in Holyoke. It is our tradition to form a “Guard of Honor” as the casket enters and leaves the church. As the casket was carried into the church and place at the foot of the altar the choir sang Mary’s favorite psalm – the 23rd — “The Lord is my Shepherd, the is nothing I shall want.”
Blessed Sacrament Church is one of the first round churches built in the United States,circa, 1960. In the center of the church is the altar. Above the altar is a large crucifix that hangs from a strong rope that reaches the dome of the church.
When listening to the readings, certain words seemed to resonate her entire life: “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4)
The pastor began his homily by telling everybody the story that all seminarians hear. The story is that every parish has a very pious woman who always goes to Mass on Sunday and weekdays. She is always doing good things and always spends a good deal of time in church praying, particularly the rosary. HE paused and then said that the story describes Mary.
Wen it came time to relieve the Holy Eucharist, we processed by Mary’s casket and I couldn’t help but pat the casket with my hand and sadly whisper, “I love you, dear Mary.” When I returned to the pew and tried to reflect and meditate on the wonderful significance of the Eucharist, I could not help but think of Mary again and suddenly lifted my head. My eyes gravitated to the crucifix above the altar. My eyes were fixated on Jesus, nailed to the cross, and I “heard” these words emanating from the body of Jesus, “I love you more.”