Mom’s statue has been part our family for over 40 years.
In 1972, I was a member of the 103rd Engineer Battalion of the Pennsylvania National Guard. As part of our training, we were required to have two weeks summer “field” training, usually at an army facility. This year we were scheduled to commence training at Camp Drum, N.Y., in June. But on June 16 that year, something happened to change our plans: the arrival of Hurricane Agnes. Creating widespread havoc, Agnes took particular aim on the Wilkes Barre, Pa., area. Our unit was redeployed to help cleanup in her aftermath.
My job was to act as the “chaplains’s driver.” To transport our chaplain, a Catholic priest, around the area to lend spiritual comfort to those who lost everything. Homes were leveled by the force of the water. The Susquehanna River rose to rooftop heights, destroying everything in its path. Coffins littered the streets, deposited after the grave sites were eroded by the water flow. Shopping center parking lots were lakes. The streets were covered with mud, the sediment of the receding water. Drying mud became dust. We needed surgical masks to breathe properly.
One morning, I had to take Father to an officer’s meeting. Having about an hour of free time, I decided to take my own tour of the devastation. On a residential street I saw nothing but rubble, the remains of some beautiful homes. The residents had scavenged through the debris because some of the rubble was in piles, small and large. To my left I saw a large pile, five feet high and eight feet long. From the distance, I could see a small object on top that looked out of place.
As I drove closer, I could see it was a statue of the Blessed Mother, less than four inches in height. I felt a sense of wonder and love that God was sending me a message — that he and his mother would always be with me, even in the most horrendous situations. I stopped the Jeep, picked up the statue and, after a kiss of respect, put it in my fatigue pants pocket.
Upon my arrival home, I presented the statue to my mother, Catherine. She was devoted to Our Lady and prayed to her every day. After I told Mom the whole story, she placed the statue on the window sill of her kitchen.
Being a great cook, she spent a lot of the next 30 years with her statue. Indeed, when Mom had her stroke on April 26, 2002 (four days after her 94th birthday), she was in her kitchen.
Mom was rushed to the hospital that day and stayed there until she died on May 11, 2002. I brought the statue to the hospital and, although Mom never regained full consciousness, she held that statue tightly during her entire stay. Except for one night.
On a visit, my sister and I noticed that the statue wasn’t in Mom’s hand, although we had seen it earlier that day. We looked in the bed, throughout the room and questioned the personnel. There was no sign of the beloved statue. I joked that Our Lady had taken a quick trip to heaven to prepare Mom’s room. Upon leaving, I knew that somehow the blessed lady would be back in the morning.
The next day, she was back in Mom’s hand. A true mystery. Mom held her until the day she died. In Mom’s last moments of life, when she was very weak and barely breathing, her grip on the statue was still strong. At the viewing, Mom was lying in state and I placed the statue on her right shoulder. Both ladies looked very peaceful.
I told the story to a customer who suggested that one of his carpenters fabricate a stand so that the statue could be displayed in a nice setting. He suggested that it include a little pocket, so that I could store this letter for all to read.
For all of you who read this, rest assured that our family has been blessed by God above and Mom’s statue of the Blessed Mother was and is a remembrance of Mom and her devotion to the Mother of God.
Charles Sacchetti lives in Cinnaminson.