An Enduring Gift

Oct 16, 2019 1215

Mom’s statue has been part of our family for over 40 years. The story about how this came to be is both interesting and fateful. 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 complete two weeks of summer “field” training, usually at an Army facility. That year, we were scheduled to commence training at Camp Drum, New York, in June.

On June 16th, 1972, something happened to change our plans … the arrival of Hurricane Agnes. Causing widespread havoc, Agnes took particular aim on the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, area. Our unit was redeployed to help clean up in her aftermath.

I was to act as the chaplain’s driver. It was my job to transport our chaplain, a Catholic priest, around the area to lend spiritual comfort to those who had 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 gravesites were eroded by the water flow. Shopping center parking lots were now lakes. The streets were covered with mud, the sediment of the receding water. Drying mud became dust. We needed surgical masks to breathe properly. These scenes were surreal.

One morning, I drove Father to an officers’ meeting. Since I had about an hour of free time while he attended the meeting, I decided to do some sightseeing. On a residential street, I saw nothing but rubble, the remains of some beautiful homes. The residents had apparently 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 by eight feet long. From a distance, I could see a small object on top that looked somewhat out of place. As I drove closer, I realized it was a 3 ½-inch statue of Mary, the Blessed Mother. I felt a sense of wonder and love as I realized the message God was sending me. He was telling me that He and his Mother would always be with me, even in the most horrendous situations. I stopped the Jeep, walked over, picked up the statue and, after a kiss of respect, I put it in the pocket of my fatigue pants.

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 telling Mom the whole story, she placed the statue on the windowsill of her kitchen. As an avid cook, she spent much of the next 30 years with her statue. Indeed, when Mom had her stroke on April 26th, 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 11th, 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. As we visited, my sister, Kathy, and I noticed that the statue wasn't in Mom's hand. We had seen it earlier that day, so the disappearance was very mysterious. 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, there she was all right, back in Mom's hand, a true mystery. None of the hospital personnel had an explanation. 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 so powerful, I couldn’t remove it. 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 would fabricate a stand so that the statue could be displayed in a nice setting. He recommended that it include a little pocket in which 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 is the author of two books, It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change and his new book, Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch.   Both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online outlets. Contact him at

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