This past October we had a family party celebrating the 100th anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s arrival to the United States from Ireland. Mary Ann or “Meemaw” as I named her as a young child came from a very poor family in Longford, Ireland and was the oldest of four children. There was nothing for her in Ireland and so she left for America. She had to walk hours to get to the train station and then take the train through Ireland that was being torn apart by Civil War and then get on a ship to New York and hope and pray that she wasn’t sent back because of any illness she may have had.

She was poor and stayed poor for most of her life working multiple jobs through the years while her husband, my grandfather Jim went from job to job. Her jobs were manual jobs cleaning offices, cleaning hotel rooms and working the steam table in the cafeteria at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx. My grandfather worked days and then he stayed home with my dad and my grandma would work nights just to make ends meet and help provide a good education for my dad.

When she was injured on her job and was granted disability, she went to daily mass and came home and cooked and cleaned and made her rhubarb jam and read her newspapers and listened to the news on the radio or the tv. She taught me how to slice green beans, how to make creamed onions and a delicious gravy.

She lived a very simple life. But while she was unable to do great things, she did small things with great love. For Meemaw, the most important “things” were her family, her faith, education, and her adopted country. But it was her faith that was paramount to everything else. Despite her husband dying young, losing all her siblings, watching her only child die of cancer at a young age, being alone most of the time as we grew up, moved out and started families of our own, and moving to a nursing home for the last months of her life, her faith was unwavering. God was the center of her being and she shared that faith with all of us. She instilled in us the importance of knowing, really knowing that whatever you go through, Jesus walks beside you.

I wish she was here so I could tell her that her life was a blessing to me and how much her faith inspired my own faith journey. So, this week, this month, if you are lucky to have someone in your life like my Meemaw, tell them what they really mean to you, reflect on those simple things that someone has done and how those things have positively impacted your life. If someone has shared their faith in God with you, let them know what that has meant to you. Don’t let the opportunity slip through your hands. Love them, care for them, pray with them and share that love, care, and prayer to everyone around you. The greatest praise we can give those who came before us is to use the lessons they taught us to live a better life of love, care, and faith.