For 25 years we have known, but it doesn't make it easier when things shift- when my mom was rushed to the hospital by ambulance for respiratory failure. COPD brought on by a genetic disorder that my kids and I carry, but don't, thank God, have. Our lungs are fine. Our lungs can repair themselves and then behave as they should. But hers have been on overdrive for years, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, like an OCD housewife wearing holes in the carpet with over enthusiastic vacuuming. Hers are puffed up like balloons that can't, won't, deflate properly.
She hasn't been able to talk very well. Not her usual rambuncious self. Not her normal bossy pants self. Not her 'get me a vodka tonic and don't be stingy with either' self. A breathy whisper. The vocal chords need air to work properly, it turns out. Without it, they just get tight and squeaky.
The drugs are good. We have grown to love morphine. It is the thing that helps keep her calm when the air decides to quit. That and lorazapam. Anti-anxiety. I am ridiculously grateful because without them she is drowning in fear. Her body betrays her spirit, fighting for air. Better living through chemistry. Living through chemistry. And maybe a gentler death, too.
I have been praying with her. I send her little texts at night as I head to bed. I quote scripture or just wish her a sweet and peaceful night.
I am jealous of her time, of solitude with her. I know you are her friends, have been there for her, love her. But get out of her room now. Let me have time alone. I need to hold her hand and speak of things you cannot overhear. I need to ask her questions that will haunt me forever if left unspoken. I need to strain to hear the truth inside her whispers. I need to let her love me. I need to love her.
My kids have met death before. They met it face to face when their friends' mom died. The one who made sauce and meatballs and let Noah stay over every weekend. The one who sat in the pew at church with us, week after week, Sunday after Sunday. The one who died one night. Who just didn't wake up. Who left us all grief stricken and in shock. They have met that death. The angry, forlorn, shocking death.
But this one is different. Not the same shock. Or the sense of outrage at it's unfairness. Instead, it is a quiet grief. My mom considering this a teachable moment. She wants them to walk on this journey with her. To not be afraid. To step to the edge with her and feel the love that surrounds us all.
I am crying a lot.
Sunday, November 08, 2015
I was supposed to go on retreat last weekend. It was canceled at the last minute for lack of participation. I was utterly crushed. For weeks I had been looking forward to time away from the hubub of life. A whole weekend of silence, listening, resting in Him, and walking. But on Thursday I got a call that it was not happening.
I went home and cried. Big, deep, ugly cry. I carry so much in my day to day life, especially at work. And I felt like the weight of the world came crashing in at that moment.
My staff assured me that God had something else planned for me. And while that might have been true, at that moment, it was little consolation. I was devastated.
So I went home and cried. And cried out to Jesus. Lord, help me. Help me.
And thus began a funny one way conversation with my friend Jesus. He got all cryptic on me. He gave me little orders and expected me to just follow.
I woke up on Friday morning with a sense of him telling me "Clean your room." Sort of like what I say to my teen aged sons. And yes, my room was a mess. Laundry piled up, books all over the place, every surface covered with stuff. It was as inhospitable a room as you can imagine, made worse by the fact that it needs a paint job and some organization.
"Make it a place of retreat."
I didn't argue. I didn't resent the fact that I lost my beautiful weekend of silence to a laundry folding marathon, vacuuming under the bed and decluttering my bookshelves. It took me the whole weekend to get it all sorted out and dusted. I helped Emmett clean his room while I was at it, complete with a new comforter and sheets, cleaned bunny cage, swept floors, fresh curtains.
"Go to Mass" was the next order I got. So I walked to the little church in my neighborhood on a weekday morning and attended Mass with about 6 other folks, all of whom are well north of 60 years old. As I sat in the church, I felt a sense of peace and joy. Oh yeah! I can do this every day if I want! I LOVE this!
"Come visit me." The same little church has a tiny adoration chapel. It is a dusty, funky, vintage 80s affair with a laminate altar, some dying plants, and a few milk crates filled with old candles stacked in the corner. Hardly a place that inspires fervent prayer. But between pulling the dead leaves and watering the thirsty plants, I felt a powerful sense of His presence. On the little bench where I was seated, people had left old devotionals, hand written prayers, and a worn set of commentaries on the gospel readings for every day of the year called 'In Conversation with God' which is not to be confused with the very new age series of books of a similar name.
I picked up the nearest copy of 'In Conversation' and randomly opened the page. It was from the readings for the season of Advent and was about doing a daily examination of conscience. It suggested that every day, we ask ourselves a simple question. 'Where was my heart yesterday?' Was it on God? Or was I focused on fear, anger, frustration, or something else? It goes on to suggest that we repent of those times when our heart was distracted and ask God's help in staying focused on him for the coming day.
I went home and bought a copy of the current volume of 'Conversations' for my kindle. And every day since it has been a wonderful part of my daily time with God.
I was sad and disappointed that I wasn't able to go on retreat last weekend. But in the days since, I have been spending much time with my Beloved, reading the daily cycle of prayer in the church, going to Mass, sitting in silent prayer, and enjoying my tidy room, a lovely place of retreat in my own home.
Such a gift.