A Catholic Monthly Magazine

The Shrine

Anne Kerrigan

Anne Kerrigan

My Mom’s name was Agnes Cecelia Taylor McKee; she was the youngest child in a family of ten children. She was born on November 29, 1911 and died of a sudden heart attack on April 11, 1977 at the age of 65. Her parents were Anne Herbert and Louis Taylor, and her siblings were Katherine (Kitty), Anne, John, George, Mabel, Eddie, and three others who died of pneumonia as young children (names, I believe, were Louis, Mary, and Mary). I know my Mom was born in New York City but I am not sure where. She went to Julia Richman High School, and was the only one in her family to graduate from high school; this was a great accomplishment for the times.

I wish I knew more details about her life. I don’t know where she worked as a young woman nor do I know how she met my father. I don’t know what books she read or what movies she liked. There are so many blanks, and I don’t know why. We just never talked about those issues. As I write this, there is nobody in the family still alive who would have this knowledge, so it is lost information, a piece of my story gone.

I do know about her goodness, her kindness, her deep faith, and her thoughtfulness. Everybody liked my Mom. She was very gracious, and always made everyone feel special. She “drew you in.” When Mom was living upstate in Lake Carmel, she always invited my husband’s family as well as all our friends and their families to come “to the lake.” She really enjoyed having people around her; her hospitality was extended to all.

My Mom was a woman of great personal faith. She truly believed in the goodness of God, and was convinced that God was involved in all aspects of her life. Her decisions were based on the guidance of her faith, and she did her best to raise her children with those same attitudes. I recall one particular incident that really exemplified my Mom’s beliefs.

My youngest sister, Ronni, was involved in an accident at the local park. I was married at the time and so I was not really present to the situation, and some of the details remain fuzzy. But, as I remember the incident, Ronni was hit in the head by a swing and was rushed to the local hospital; she was unconscious for a number of days. This was before the time of CAT scans and MRIs, and so it was basically a wait and see attitude that prevailed. I do remember that my Mom was praying night and day, enlisting everyone she knew in the prayer marathon. Mom bargained and pleaded with God, promising Him that if Ronni survived she would build a shrine to His Blessed Mother. A few days later, when Ronni regained consciousness, and eventually recovered totally, Mom wondered how she would build a shrine to the Blessed Mother. The years went by, but Mom never forgot her promise; she just never quite figured out how to do it.Bathtub small

Then, years later, when she had the bathroom renovated, her creative instincts kicked into high gear. The Sears delivery man seemed a bit bewildered when Mom asked him to cart the old bathtub out to a corner of the large backyard, and stand it straight up rather than just lay it down flat. He graciously obliged. Mom explained, “I have a plan for it.” It actually looked like a coffin which was standing straight up! Once the tub was securely in place, Mom went to work. The chipped white enamel was attacked with multiple coats of bright, white spray enamel. Soon, the old bathtub took on a supernatural “glow”; it glistened like a beacon, particularly when it was in the bright sunlight.

Phase II was a bit more complicated. A statue of the Blessed Mother was, of course, a necessary ingredient for the shrine, but the size needed presented a problem. Mom had multiple statues of Mary around the house but they were all much too small for the tub. Then, fate intervened and Mom’s creativity again resurfaced. Her local parish was in the midst of some much needed renovations and, a significant part of that project was the replacement of the large, old, chipped statues. Mom asked the pastor if she could have the large chipped and faded statue of Mary. He willingly gave it to her; another problem solved for him since he would have had to dispose of the statue.Mary in Bathtub

Mom enlisted the aid of an artist friend, and they set about restoring the statue. The chips were plastered, the faded paint was replaced with lovely shades of blue, and the facial damage was repaired with a flourish. Mary actually now had long, black, curly eyelashes, a peaches and cream complexion, and bright blue eyes. She didn’t really resemble a young Jewish maiden, but everyone knew who it was supposed to be. Mom said her artist friend didn’t quite know how to paint young Jewish maidens, but it was a labor of love nonetheless. Mary fit perfectly in the tub; she was glued to the base and rested securely in her place of honour for years. Decorative flowers and seashells were added over the seasons, and the old tub really did look like a shrine. I am sure the Lord was pleased with the honour accorded His Holy Mother; I know it did teach the family about the power of prayer and the importance of keeping a promise.

Mom is long gone, and the house has been sold years ago; I don’t know if the shrine is still there. Perhaps one day I will take a drive, and see if I can spot an old bathtub in the backyard.

Tagged as: , , ,

Comments are closed.