This past Friday, August 15th, is celebrated each year as the Feast of the Assumption in the Catholic Church. ‘The Assumption’ represents ‘the happy departure of Mary from this life’, and ‘the assumption of her body into Heaven’. The online New Advent encyclopedia further refers to it as “the principal feast of the Blessed Virgin.”

It is thus incredible to me, or maybe in retrospect not so much so, that this holy day coincides with the anniversary of my own mother’s passing. My mom, Marie Therese Gilmore Veasey, passed away on August 15th, 1998, alone in her home on what was also a Friday in that year.

I had the unpleasant, but perhaps fortunate, task of finding her. Unpleasant for obvious reasons. Fortunate in that I can’t think of anyone that I would have rather walked in and found her that day.

I was always close to my mom, and had lived with and helped take care of her throughout my twenties and into my thirties while she dealt with an often debilitating illness that had robbed her of much of her adult life.

Despite this illness, my mom was able to enjoy many of the best things in life, both big and small. She was a regular church-goer at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, which was located directly across the street from her home in South Philly.

She loved her mystery dramas on TV, such as ‘Murder, She Wrote’ and ‘Matlock‘, and the woman was a nicotine and caffeine fiend. I don’t know if I ever knew someone who both smoked and drank coffee as much as she did.

She also was able to overcome her illness much of the time, especially in her last years, as medications got more advanced and effective. She was able to not only attend, but dance at the wedding of Deb and I three years before her passing.

Though I was initially incredibly saddened by her passing, I realize now that she is with the Lord, and freed from the shackles of that earthly illness.

She would have absolutely loved her great-grandchildren, Elysia and Reznor, and would have loved hanging out with us in our backyard on Larkspur Street, but she never got to experience any of that.

Perhaps that is our loss more than hers, because she most assuredly is watching down on all of it from her place in Heaven. In that place, she has also most assuredly been in the presence of the Virgin Mother with whom she shares the anniversary of their earthly passing.

Mary loved her son, Jesus Christ, without reservation. As a child, she scolded him when she needed to, as a young man she supported him no matter her reservations, and until the day he died and beyond that she had faith in him unconditionally.

I never felt anything less from my own mom. When life left me at times beaten, bloodied, and scarred, my mom was always, always there with a warm smile and a genuine hug of encouragement.

Mary died in the presence of all of Christ’s apostles, and was laid in a tomb much like her son. But when that tomb was later opened, Mary’s body was gone, and the apostles rightly concluded that the body had been taken up to Heaven. Mary was not only the mother of Jesus Christ, the very human direct link to God, but a mother to all of us.

While it may seem to some as a sad day not worthy of celebration, I disagree, and feel that the anniversary of Mary, and my own mom Marie, leaving this earth is also the celebration of their arrival in Heaven. Now that is something to truly celebrate.