Towards the end of what we call Ordinary time in our tradition, October 4th to be exact, my world was rocked off its axis. Life as I knew it will never be the same. My dynamically alive, powerfully charged, and brilliantly minded mother suffered a massive stroke on the right side of her brain. As a result her left side is paralyzed, she can only eat something called "mechanically softened food", and she will never be able to live independently. She was our rock, our matriarch, our advisor on all things proper in etiquette, our mother, our confidante, our "Moomoo," our Big Owene and together she and I were Double O VII.
The last four months have been spent first trying to restore her mind and body to their maximum ability and now trying to provide her with the most appropriate and highest quality care possible. Besides the left side paralysis, she is quite healthy, with blood pressure and cholesterol all in check and her eyes work and her ears work. Perhaps the hardest part of the whole event has been to watch her grieve over the loss of her identity, who she was as that "dynamically alive, powerfully charged, brilliantly minded" woman. She has struggled to wrap her mind around her new reality, often concluding that she was living in another state, another life, another reality.
Fast forward to the last couple of weeks when we have had to make the very difficult decision of letting go of her independent living apartment and moving her into a beautifully decorated room in the skilled nursing center where she lives. The thought of distributing all of her possessions, her treasures, her furniture, her life was daunting. Thankfully, she had carefully listed many of her treasures and assigned them to be gifted to different members of the family...always prepared as she was! Even so, going through the process was frightening and sad. When the time came, however, we decided to bring her to the apartment and let her give the treasures to each person who could be there, telling stories of the treasures and why they were to go to the certain people. We made a day of it, made her favorite squash casserole and "chicken bosom" as she called it. Each child or grandchild who was able to be there cuddled up next to her wheelchair and heard a special story about a silver tray, or a volume of Irish history, or a candle stick "stolen" from the family home. The gifting went on for hours until she was tired. As I strolled her back to her room, she remarked over and over "it was just beautiful, absolutely marvelous." And when I tucked her in for a nap, she said, "It couldn't have been any better. I hope you have people around you who love you that much when your time comes." I wept.
But the real miracle came the next morning. I arrived in her room about 7 am. Usually when I get there she is asleep and it takes awhile for her to wake up. But this day her eyes were wide open. I am also usually hesitant to talk to her until I get her coffee, because often first thing in the morning she is a bit agitated about where she is and why and what is wrong with this place. But not this morning. I said I was going to get coffee and she smiled and said "mmmm coffee." I brought it back, and she said, "I am in paradise!" I said really? and she said, "Yes, I died last night and the puppy (her paralyzed hand) and my prayer book and I went to paradise." then she said, "I want my prayer book, I want the words of Job, and she quoted
"I know that my Redeemer liveth,and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger. "
For the rest of the morning, she was blissful. Never mentioning the delusions she has had about where she was before, only talking about paradise and who was there and who should come to her funeral. She smiled, her furrowed brow was soft. We went to see her new room and she was happy about the light, the windows and the space. Talked about where she was going to put her furniture and hang her pictures. She picked out a new color for the walls and just had a general peace about her which I have not seen since October 4th.
I will always remember this day as my mother's Epiphany resurrection...she has been raised from the dead, come back to life. Thanks be to God! (The picture above was taken on February 12th as she sat at her keyboard coaxing her "puppy," to play the piano. She does this regularly...Never never never give up, she says!)