Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Quickening

Today was a difficult day. A junior at the high school tragically died. A colleague and friend announced her father died. A colleague and friend shared some difficult news. My brother texted me to let me know we would be flying into Boston to visit my mother in her last days and weeks. And my schedule was full and needed to be readjusted.

We had a conference call update on my mother's situation with hospice. He is finally off all unnecessary and legacy medication. They are increasing the dosage of pain medication carefully as she had reactions to some common pain medicine a few years ago. 

Hospice makes a visit each day and provides music therapy, socialization, and consolation. Today, a religious sister was playing the guitar and singing with her. They will also do some Reiki energy programs with her. They joke around with her and she is mostly pleasant.

To us, she often jokes around or talks in Italian, even though she never learned Italian. She gets the cadence right and sings some phrases. It is very cute. 

Her body is in great pain. As she weighs 66 pounds, even the slightest touch to her legs or any part of her body causes great pain. We are instructed simply to hold her hands or massage her forehead. We are waiting for an increase of pain medication, but hospice and the doctors are on top of it. 

In many ways, my mother looks like a newborn infant. We watch her sleep and when she twitches, we ask what she needs. She mostly sleeps but at times opens her eyes. We make a big deal of it just as parents of newborn do so with their children. She is cute. It is amazing to think of one's mother, the one who conceived and carried us children to birth, is now in her own birthing process. The events of her life feels like a quickening -- the quickening that happens to a woman right before birth. My mother's birth, however, will be into eternal life. I realize the Lord is there to receive her on the other end and he is there to make the passing very gentle. Soon, she will slip from this earth's womb into another sphere of life.

I mentioned to her that tomorrow is her sister, Betty's birthday. She was agasp as she did not get her a present or a card. I also said it was Valentine's Day, a day of love. She relaxed and smiled.

Then we sang some songs to her. She liked "You are my sunshine," and several other tracks from the Jersey Boys, Barry Manilow, and some Christmas selections. My brother spent time with her and my sister and her husband arrived.

The family has been arriving and paying respects. My sister has done much work in keeping my mother's care at the best levels, and my older brother holds down the fort for the night watch. My mother has received the loving attention any parent would want to receive.

We decided that we would pray the Prayer of the Church for the Sick. After we concluded that, we also prayed the Prayer for the Commendation of the Dying. Through it all, my mother was restful and relaxed. We used the Oil of the Sick, but I also picked up some fragrant nard from Jerusalem, the type of nard that was used by the woman in Luke 7 who washed the feet of Jesus before his death. My sister recognized the fragrance. Everyone liked how a tiny drop of the fragrance filled the whole room. 

We are getting to the point when I may be able to post updates, but I will be unable to acknowledge them or respond to them. I will not be able to return texts, make comments, or answer phone calls. I appreciate the good sentiments, but we are entering a new phase. My grief work will soon begin too, and I'll need time and space, and the best way for that to happen is for me to manage the information I let into my world. It coincides with lent. 

With death all around us, choose to live well and fully. There's no time to waste. 


  1. Life and death are not easy, John. Death gives life its value and life gives death its value. Your mother is loved and comforted and we humans can ask for no more in our parting. You have been a dutiful son and have greatly eased your mother's anguish with your gentleness.

    1. Thanks, Barry. Our family is doing the best to make her comfortable. They've shown up well for her.