May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
When Katherine and I were first engaged, I was promptly embraced by the welcome of the warmest, the most accomplished and gracious family that I could have imagined. This welcome was led, at that time and for 28 years afterward, by Delphine, my most constant supporter of my family in law, whom I knew as Mother Gatch.
A high spirited, high tempered child, Delphine battled to overcome scarlet fever and was a survivor of the influenza pandemic of 1919, when she had to be taken to the country to spare her family the terrible contagion. Yet she outlived nearly all her contemporary friends, who were numerous. Still, she kept her friendship in repair as she advanced through life. Raised up and deeply rooted in St. Louis, in her church, and in the wonderful heritage of her family, Delphine was a student of St. Francis de Sales. She was a counselor to many women as a daughter of St. Francis, and she studied how to live the vocation of a holy life as a woman in the world, raising her family.
A student of design, professionally trained at Parsons, she was steeped in English literature and in history, and she had a rich imaginative life. Drawing on J.M. Barrie, she constructed a little world of fairy gardens that she shared with her young children and grandchildren and that goes on today.
Our lives are short and full of misery, it is written. We rise up like a flower and are cut down, and we have no continuing stay. Delphine rose up like a flower and bloomed for the 94 years of her stay with us.
The constant and consummate gardener and an early environmentalist with a small carbon footprint, she applied her imagination and design skills to create microenvironments. Wherever Delphine gardened, she prepared the soil with amendments, deeply worked into the land, good Florissant river-bottom earth and manure from the stables. She knew the provenance of every plant in her garden and how to cultivate each flower. As her health finally failed, she reduced her garden step by step from a flower garden to a shade garden. When she could no longer leave her bed, she could still look out the window to direct her gardeners how to plant and cultivate. Thus she created a microenvironment with goldfish and flowers for her young great grandchildren to come and play in.
Gardening is a simile for her life and her care for her family. In the same way that Delphine prepared the ground, knew her plants, dug and planted with bone meal, and carefully tended her blossoms, so she knew each of her descendants from the beginning and helped prepare the ground for their lives, helping them sprout up and grow leaves. She helped us put our best foot forward. She poured over mail-order catalogs to select presents thoughtfully bestowed on us from time to time, to help us on or way, at university or in our work.
She gave us the gift of informing herself, of reading widely about our diverse fields of activity. She listened to her descendants talk about their doings with attentiveness, activity of thought, and a prepared mind, whether the prattlings of a little child or a young adult speaking of his or her profession, in agriculture, botany, livestock, medicine, education, law, the armed forces, journalism, the adventures of foreign language learning, exchanges, and travel, becoming deeply engaged in the cultures and perspectives of foreign countries, and parenthood, the raising up of our own families.
As the outer woman decayed, the inner person grew ever stronger spiritually. Her warm smile, how she was dressed up and made up to greet us, her friendships with her caregivers, her trust in the Lord, her serenity and acceptance, all were never-failing to the end. Like the wildflowers of her woodland garden that bloom every spring at Moone Athy, her descendants rise up and call her blessed.
An old prayer asks that the Holy Spirit lead us in holiness and righteousness all our days, that, when we shall have served the Lord in our generation, we may be called unto our fathers having the testimony of a good conscience, in communion with the Catholic Church, in the confidence of a certain faith, in the comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope, in favor with our God, and in perfect charity with the world. It is given to few over so long a life so fully to fulfill these aims as did Delphine.
Mother Gatch, you always prayed for us. You always rooted for us. The power of your prayers, of your material and moral support, of your warmth and humor, of your attentive listening, your wisdom and counsel, and above all, of your quiet but passionate care and concern for each of us, for what we did and what became of us in life, always undergirded us.
Pray for us still! Root for us still! And may your rest be this day in Paradise, with the saints in light.