I was born on the same day that my grandfather, Harry LaHood, was buried. My grandfather died on May 17, 1957. My mom and dad attended his funeral Mass on May 20, and then went to the cemetery for the burial service. Mom’s contractions had started earlier in the day and became more intense while she and Dad were at the cemetery. After the burial service was finished, Mom told Dad that she needed to go to the hospital. I was born later that day, and Mom gave me the same name as her father.
My grandfather was only 49 years old when he died. Prior to his death, he had been treated for what was then called “hardening of the arteries.” Today, his condition would be diagnosed as blocked arteries, and he would be a candidate for either bypass surgery or the insertion of one or more stents in his arteries. Unfortunately, at the time of his death, no such procedures were available.
Prior to experiencing problems with his heart, my grandfather owned and operated a retail store that was located on MacArthur Highway in Peoria, Illinois. When his health began to deteriorate, he closed the store. After his death, my grandmother, Cecelia LaHood (Grandma Ceil), was left with the empty commercial building that her husband had built for his store.
Shortly after my grandfather’s death, a local businessman from the Lebanese community approached my grandmother to inquire about the vacant building. (For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Nick.”) Grandma Ceil knew and trusted Nick, because she had grown up in the same neighborhood as his relatives and was very familiar with his family.
When Nick met with my grandmother, he asked if she would be willing to rent the building to him. He told her that he wanted to use the building as a new location for a coin-operated Laundromat. He already had one Laundromat that was fully operational and was generating income for him and his family. Up until that time, Grandma Ceil didn’t know anything about the Laundromat business.
Nick told Grandma that Laundromats were popping up all over the country and were the best small business opportunity that he had ever seen. He said that a Laundromat could remain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and there was no need to have an employee at the business at all times. He explained that because most households did not have an automatic washer and dryer, women were flocking to Laundromats to wash and dry their clothes. The cost to wash a load of clothes was 10 cents, and the cost to dry a load was an additional 10 cents.
Nick painted a picture for my grandmother that made it appear as though the Laundromat business was a gold mine that attracted people to come in at any time during the day and night to drop dimes into the machines. He said that all the owner of the Laundromat business had to do was maintain the machines, keep the business premises clean, pay the bills, and collect the money.
Grandma thanked Nick for offering to rent the building and told him that she would think about his proposal and get back to him. After Nick left her house, Grandma picked up the telephone and called her son Ed and asked him if he knew anything about the Laundromat business. Ed responded that he had read some articles about Laundromats, and he confirmed what Nick had said about the profitability of the business.
After talking to Ed, Grandma set up a meeting with all three of her sons — Harry, Ed, and Dick — and her son-in-law, Carl Williams (my dad). At the meeting, she told my dad and my uncles that she had some money set aside that she had received from a life insurance policy that her husband had in place at the time of his death. She offered to loan the money to them so they could set up a Laundromat business in the building that my grandfather had owned. She felt that if the Laundromat business was such a great opportunity, she would prefer that her own family members benefit from the business rather than an outsider.
My dad and my uncles seized the opportunity that Grandma presented to them and divided up the duties of setting up the business. They quickly remodeled the building, purchased the equipment, and set up the Laundromat. The business was so profitable that my dad quickly opened up three of his own Laundromats.
After three years in the Laundromat business, Dad sold his interest in the family-owned Laundromat to my three uncles. He then sold his own three Laundromats and went back to work for the same construction company he had worked for prior to getting into the Laundromat business. In his new job, he was promoted to a position that put him in charge of supervising the construction of large multistory commercial buildings.
The reason my dad sold his Laundromats was because during the three years he was in business, automatic washers and dryers had started to become a common household item. Although the Laundromat business was still a good business to be in, it was no longer as profitable as it had previously been.
I’m telling you this story to highlight what my grandmother did as soon as she heard about the Laundromat business. Instead of working out a profitable lease agreement with Nick, she put her own money at risk to help her children and their families. She did not charge interest on the money that she loaned, and she did not directly benefit from the business, other than to collect monthly rent and see her family members prosper from the business.
Grandma Ceil did what any good, loving mother would do. She could have insisted on owning a share of the business, but she wasn’t interested in taking a personal stake in the business. To her, such a move would have been selfish. She was only focused on doing what was best for her children.
My grandmother behaved in the exact same way that the mother of God behaves when we turn to her for assistance. In addition to being the mother of God, she was assigned the role of being the mother of all humanity. She is a perfect spiritual mother to all of us, and her primary goal is to do what’s best for each of us, which is to bring us closer to her Son.
There is a belief among most non-Catholics, as well as a large share of Catholics, that devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary takes attention away from her Son, Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are hundreds of saints, such as Saint Louis de Montfort, Saint Bernard, and Saint Alphonsus de Liguori, who have written that every prayer that is said to the mother of God passes directly through her to her Son.
According to the saints, something special happens when a prayer passes through the Blessed Virgin Mary before it reaches our Lord: The prayer is purified and stripped of selfishness before it is presented to Jesus. Oftentimes, before presenting a prayer to her Son, the Blessed Mother first modifies the prayer to serve the best interests of the person who said the prayer.
When a prayer is presented to Jesus by His mother, He responds in the same way He responded when she told Him that the wine had run out at the wedding at Cana. Most of the time, we don’t see the immediate effect of His response, but we have been assured by the saints that our Lady sees to it that her Son responds to each of our prayers.
I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get — including the help of the mother of God. That’s why I write so much about her and turn to her every day for her assistance, guidance, and support.