Cindy Montanaro is a Secular Carmelite and former homeschooler. She is also the mother of Tim, a boy she and her husband adopted as an infant. Tim had Tourette Syndrome, phobias, and other mental health issues. In 2005 he died tragically. Their story was published recently by Roman Catholic Books. Dairy of a Country Mother–so named by Tim when no one dreamed he was soon to pass away–is a gem to share with any mother this May.
“Five years ago today I picked up my pen and started a year-long journey of prayer, meditation, and writing. I envisioned an extended period of time in which to record, before memory failed me, all the little humorous and profound incidents that made up my son Tim’s short life. ” So begins this beautiful memoir of a boy who loved people. It is a story of the joy he brought to everyone he met. It is a record of his mother’s faith and acceptance. It is an exploration of the meaning of Tim’s life, which Cindy generously shares with us. She would probably say her generosity is one lesson she learned from Tim.
A tale of joy, not grief
Diary of a Country Mother: a Year Remembering Tim is not A Grief Observed. It is not a book about how Cindy and her husband and remaining sons struggled to accept Tim’s death. Instead, it is the celebration of his life. Cindy writes, “As I woke this morning… my thoughts flew to Tim and my reason for writing this remembrance of him. It has a lot to do with celebrating the impact of one soul on those around him…” Tim’s short life (fifteen years) impacted many people, and through his mother’s words he is destined to impact many more.
Cindy focuses on the positives in Tim’s life. Although she does not sugar-coat the effects of his mental illness, she chooses to leave the negatives in the past and remember the good times. She tells of his exuberance, his friendliness towards strangers, his bear hugs. She inspires me to be more observant and appreciative of the virtues and gifts of my children.
Daily reflections and prayers
The book is written as a journal. Cindy thinks about Tim as she goes through her normal routines without him. She remembers his love for the trees that must be cut down due to a fire. She recalls his last Confession, about a week before he died.
Each entry ends with a Psalm, quote from a saint or Church document, or prayer. The entire book is prayerfully written. It is obvious that Cindy is a woman of prayer, and that is what instills her book with such peace. Peaceful is perhaps the best adjective I can use to describe her book.
God has the final word
I have known two people who have died by their own hands. The last, a co-worker with my husband for the diocese, was particularly difficult for me to accept. He had recently been diagnosed with a mental illness and was desperately trying to get help. I struggled with despair after his death–not because I knew him particularly well, but because I couldn’t understand why God doesn’t protect the weak. I felt like the Devil had triumphed over this man, despite his Catholic faith. That scared me. Who of us, I thought, is safe?
Diary of a Country Mother helped me realize that the Devil did not have the final word. Tim Montanaro is still helping people learn to appreciate the little things in life. He is still offering his great love to strangers. He is leading readers like me to a new level of trust in God–one that encompasses even my worst nightmares. God has the final word–and that word has not yet been written. In the end, as God once assured St. Therese, all will be made well. Cindy Montanaro’s book is one step in that direction.
Note: You may support both the Montanaro and the Rossini families by purchasing this book at my new Amazon Store (the link will take you directly to Amazon, but I will still get the credit–thanks!). For more recommended books and other products, visit my full store at Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network (a new venture that will officially launch next week).