Patty Knap calls herself a “born again” Catholic. She planned to be a wife and mother of four or five kids with several girls, but as life played out, she’s a single mom with two young adult boys. She counsels at a crisis pregnancy center, teaches CCD, takes online classes with the Avila Institute, and loves the beach, dalmatians, and America’s national parks. She also saves recipes in a pile until it gets big and then throws them out.
I adored my mother. She was the most selfless person I've ever met. After a lifetime of holiness, she endured three years of torture by Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) without a complaint. To me it was the biggest injustice the world has ever seen.
I was sure that my mother would be the first person ever to experience a miraculous healing of this most brutal disease. Who deserved it more than my holy mother, I pointed out to God more than once. She asked me to place the rosary beads in her hands while she prayed, even though she could no longer move the beads along, continuing to say the decades as she'd done all her life. She wanted the words of the Divine Mercy chaplet written out in big letters on a board before her so she could see them without having to turn any pages. I remember her saying, “God's been very good to me. He's not going to forget about me now!”
And so I was wholly unprepared when God had a different plan than mine and called her home. I drove myself crazy begging God for a sign that my mom was in heaven. How could I make any sense of God if my mother, of all people, was in purgatory? I prayed to know absolutely that she existed; not just that her body would be "raised on the last day" but that she — her soul — existed then, now, since her death. Well-meaning friends reminded me that no one gets this assurance; why did I think I deserved it? “All we can do is pray for them.” Offer the Mass, prayers, sacrifices, penances. Sure, I was doing all that... just in case.
Then one night I had a dream. Ordinarily I rarely dream, and even more rarely do I have a dream that seems connected to anything. This one blew me away and has stayed with me. I thank God for this gift whenever it comes to mind.
I dreamed my mother was talking to me with great excitement and a beaming face. “Do you remember when your father and I came back from a trip to the Grand Canyon, and I told you there was just no way to express how vast and amazing it is? That you just can't imagine it until you're there yourself? Well that's what it's like to try to describe heaven to you!”
That was it. And that was all I needed.