I wrote this post about family and thankfulness for the National Catholic Register.
Here’s part of what I said:
I wrote this post about family and thankfulness for the National Catholic Register.
Here’s part of what I said:
God’s blessings are circled with thorns, dressed with responsibility and laden with tenderness.
God’s blessings are always blessings of love. St. Paul told us that “faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Everything else — our achievements, our missions for the Church, and our many toys — will drop away from us and be left behind. Nothing abides except those things done with love, in hope and by faith.
My Thanksgiving usually passes in a blur of cooking. From early morning until I collapse on the sofa after the meal is finished, I work. Then, after everyone leaves, I go into the kitchen and put the first load in the dishwasher. It usually takes me all day the next day to get everything cleaned and put back in order.
Does that mean that Thanksgiving is more burden than celebration for me? Not at all. There is something wonderful about cooking a huge feast and gathering my dearest loves around a table to enjoy it. Food and drink, love and being together, are indeed among those blessings circled with the thorns of love, responsibility and tenderness that come from God. I would not trade this day of love for leisure. I am, rather, grateful for the opportunity to be Mom to such wonderful people. They are the warp and woof of my life.
I was grateful for many things this Thanksgiving, and, life being what it is, I am burdened by a couple of things; my beloved drug addict niece foremost among them. Monday, I go to Dallas to begin the process of determining what the mass in my breast might be. That hangs over me like a cloud, as well.
The thing I am most thankful for and my greatest burden are one and the same thing. God has trusted me with the care of my 90-year-old mother. This is far from easy. In fact, it’s a bit like Chinese water torture.
Pope Francis preached an extraordinary extemporaneous sermon in answer to a question in Cuba. It was on the consecrated life and holy orders and how these people are called by God to make a gift of themselves to others, to be the mercy of God to the least of these.
I think that what the Holy Father said speaks also of those whom God has given the gift of caregiving and child-rearing. Both of these are thankless and disrespected work in our society. And yet, they are the very essence of the Beatitudes.
No one can be closer to God than a young mother, sitting up all night next to the shower holding a croupy baby. There is no work more Godly than changing the diapers of an elderly parent. The opportunity to care for others is God’s personal invitation to do His work in this life.
Pope Francis really hits the ball out of the park with this sermon. Fortunately, Aleteia has provided us with a copy.
Here’s is a brief sample:
How many women and men religious consume — and I repeat the verb, consume — their lives caressing ‘rubbish,’ caressing those that the world throws away, that the world despises, that the world wishes didn’t exist, those who the world today — with methods and new analyses that we have, when it’s foreseen that one can come with a degenerative illness, it’s proposed to “send them back” before they’re born. The smallest.
And a young woman full of dreams begins her consecrated life giving life to the tenderness of God, to his mercy. Sometimes they don’t understand, they don’t realize, but, how wonderful it is for God, and how much good it does to a person, for example the smile of someone with muscle spasms who doesn’t know how to do it. Or when they want to kiss you and they slobber on your face. This is the tenderness of God. This is the mercy of God. Or when they are mad and they strike you. Consume my life like this? With this “rubbish” in the eyes of the world. This speaks to us only of one person. It speaks to us of Jesus, who because of the pure mercy of the Father made himself nothing. He emptied himself, says Philippians, chapter 2. He made himself nothing. And these people to whom you dedicate your life imitate Jesus, not because they wanted to, but because the world brought them here like this. They are nothing. And they hide them and they don’t show them or they don’t visit them. And if they can and there’s still time, they “send them back.”
Thank you for what you do and in you, thank you to all the women and all the women consecrated to the service of the useless, because with them you can’t start a business, you can’t make money, absolutely nothing constructive is brought forward, so to speak, with these brothers and sisters of ours, with these least ones, with the smallest. There Jesus shines forth and there my decision for Jesus shines forth. Thank you and thank you to all men and women consecrated who do this.
Father, I’m not a nun. I don’t take care of sick people. I’m a priest. And I have a parish, or I help the pastor of a parish. Which one is my Jesus of predilection? Which one is the least one? Which one most shows me the mercy of the Father? Where do I have to find him?
Obviously I continue following the protocol of Matthew 25, there you have all of them: the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, there you will find them. But there is a privileged place for the priest where this last one, this least one, this smallest one is found — and it is the confessional. And there, when this man or this woman shows you his misery — careful because it’s the same misery that you have and from which God saved you, eh? from getting to that point. When he or she shows you his misery, please, don’t scold him. Don’t scold him, don’t punish him. If you don’t have sin, throw the first stone. But only under that condition. If not, think of your sins and think that you could be that person and think that you could potentially fall even lower, and think that you in this moment have in your hands a treasure, which is the mercy of the Father. Please, priests, don’t get tired of forgiving. Be forgivers. Don’t get tired of forgiving, like Jesus did. Don’t hide in fears or in rigidities. Just like this nun and all of those who are in the same ministry as she is, they don’t get furious when they find a sick person who is dirty, but instead serve him, clean him, take care of him. Just like this, you, when a penitent comes, don’t react badly, don’t get neurotic, don’t cast him out of the confessional, don’t scold him. Jesus embraced them. Jesus loved them.
Read the rest here.
My near death experience with Mama pushed me to considering a nursing home.
I wrote about it, and about the ghastly business of passing laws legalizing medical murder, for the National Catholic Register.
Here’s part of what I said:
I decided then that we had to put her in a nursing home. I despaired of our ability to keep her safe at home. I called the local Catholic nursing home, which I know is a really good place. But they are full-up. The waiting list stretches months ahead.
So, I found myself driving around this not-so-good nursing home and crying. I looked at other, nicer places, but the cost is out of sight. Three and four thousand dollars a month. And it goes up from there.
I made a list of ways we could make the not-so-good place work. I would, of course, be there every day. So would my kids and my husband. Hospice would be there on a regular basis, giving her baths, praying with her, checking her health. My parish would send people to visit. We could have folks checking on her several times a day.
Finally, yesterday afternoon, I asked the hospice social worker to make arrangements for me. I couldn’t face doing it myself.
Then, I got sick. I mean, I got physically ill. I thought I was going to throw up. I couldn’t think. Couldn’t cry. Couldn’t even pray. I played scales on the piano for hours, then played Tetris on my phone.
About 9 last night, I thought, “I can’t do this.”
My family and I had a rough weekend with Mama. Here’s a summary of part of it that I wrote for the National Catholic Register.
If you could spare a prayer for me and mine, it would be much appreciated.
From the National Catholic Register:
I woke with a jolt — one of those soldier-coming-awake-in-a-foxhole snaps from dream sleep to full awake without a step between.
The house was quiet and dark.
I hauled my tired self out of bed and walked down one hall and then the next hall and yet another hall until I came to Mama’s bedroom, flipped on the light and looked at her bed. Which was neatly made up and empty.
Panic is the word, but it’s inadequate. Think baby-missing-from-the-crib-in-a-silent-house, think every nightmare of bungled love and responsibility pounding straight down with one slam.
I ran through the house, yelling for her.
Then, I noticed that the pillows on the sofa were laid out flat in a row that went from one armrest straight across to the other. I walked to the sofa. Lifted a pillow.
She was lying there, fully dressed and sleeping. Her white hair was streaked red with blood, her pants and shirt had huge spots of blood. It was bright red; fresh, newly-bled.
Something has happened to my brain.
Twice now, yesterday and today, I’ve sat down to write … and could not formulate a thought. It’s stress, I think. And lack of sleep, I think. And being overwhelmed, I think.
It’s understandable, I tell myself. It will pass. I believe that and don’t worry about it. I know it’s just part of this process.
But … sheesh … I have the blankest of blank minds. It’s almost as if I’m not fully in touch with myself, or as if part of me is asleep, even when I’m awake.
Mama is — almost miraculously — doing better. She was able to go to adult day care all day yesterday. And she drove them crazy with her repeat questions while she was there. Then, last night, she sat at the table and ate supper, and by that I mean, she actually ate. It’s wasn’t a feast, but she managed a chicken leg and a helping of mashed potatoes. Then, of course, she raided the fridge for ice cream.
Mama was back.
Nobody, including me, expected her to ever be this good again. Mama is oblivious to all the stress, but I’m worn slick from it. I feel like I’ve been to the brink and back and I no longer know where I am. The hospice nurse told me to enjoy the good days. I didn’t do that yesterday. In fact, I spent the day expecting her to crack like an egg at any moment. I also did a good bit of feeling sorry for myself.
I need to take the nurse’ advice and enjoy these good days. Who knows how many of them we have left? I prayed last night — a lot — and, as usual after I pray, I feel better.
But the blank mindedness continues. That’s why I’m writing a diary today instead of a post about world events. I find that world events don’t interest me much right now. I hear the latest shenanigans in Congress, and, given my long time in politics, I see through them immediately. But I don’t much care.
I’m more focused on simpler things, like the fact that the oil in my car needs changing and I have to unload the dishwasher and put the sheets in the dryer. Stupid as it sounds, that’s where my mind is.
I do battle every day with the sick smells in Mama’s room. I wash sheets, empty and wash the portable potty, throw away the used tissues, and get it all clean smelling. It’s a stalemate, this war between the sad scents of urine and decay and me, but I’m fighting the fight on a daily basis.
I went to the doctor myself yesterday. Nothing serious, but I had to be very firm get away long enough to do it. What surprised me is that going to the doc felt like an outing. My life has become narrow indeed when taking myself to the doctor feels like recreation.
One odd thing that has happened is that Mama has started calling me “Mama.” It happened the first time when she was so near the edge a few days back. I did something for her, I forget what, and she said, “Thank you Mommy.”
During the day, she knows who I am, but now, late at night, when get up to take care of her, she often calls me “Mama” or “Mommy.” It doesn’t bother me when she does that. In fact, I find it touching.
It is, after all the truth of our situation.
Mama seems better the past couple of days, but she is hallucinating, which means no sleep for me.
I’m sorry I’ve been so slow to come back to blogging. I’ve been going minute-by-minute on Mama care, and when I get a moment, I usually crash.
I did take a few minutes to write this post about Lord Carey’s advocacy for euthanasia, as well as one of the tougher moments I’ve had with Mama since I brought her home from the hospital.
I’m asking for prayers all around, my friends. Pray for me, as I find that the exhaustion is undermanning me seriously. Prayers for Mama. And prayers for our world that is so in love with the culture of death.
I’m going to do my best to blog more this week. But if I can’t, know that you are in my prayers.
From the National Catholic Register:
Mama slipped through my hands.
It was as if her bones were strands of boiled spaghetti, as if she was liquid rather than solid.
I fought the fall all the way down.
She landed in a sprawl against the oxygen machine, her head wedged between it and the portable potty. “Ohhhhh,” she moaned. I tried to lift her, but those spaghetti bones and her little bit of weight were too much for me.
The master bedroom, where my husband was, is all the way across the house from where Mama and me. I yelled for him to come help me. Yelled again and again. Yelled so loudly that my throat strained.
He didn’t hear me.
I left her there and ran to the master bedroom, yelling his name as I went.
He was able to lift her from the floor, and back onto the bed. Meanwhile, I collapsed on the small sofa at the foot of her bed. Throughout the last week, from her first collapse into unconsciousness on Tuesday night, all through that long night in the ER, and then through her rousal the next day and lapse back into deep sleep from which she could not be awakened … a sleep that lasted for four days … I never cried a tear. I couldn’t cry. My eyes were dry and I just kept going, one foot in front of the other foot.
But when my husband lifted Mama from the floor and put her back on her bed, I sank onto the sofa at the foot of her bed and broke into great, gasping sobs. I cried until the muscles in my chest hurt from the exhaustion of the sobbing.
Meanwhile, Mama, half conscious, kept mumbling something. I got up and sat on the bed beside her, but I still couldn’t make out what she was saying. I leaned forward until my ear was almost touching her lips.
“It wasn’t your fault,” she said.
Caring for an old person is a little bit like driving a car with 300,000 miles on it. You never know when it’s going to break down, or in what weird way it will do it.
Last night was an example of this. Mama passed out on us in a 3-2-1-lights-out sort of way, and then she stayed passed out. My oldest son and I spent hours in the er beside her bed while she was off wherever it was that she’d gone and the medical staff tried to figure out what was happening.
Then this morning, she woke up like an old car that wouldn’t start yesterday but today kicks over as if nothing had happened. She’s still in the hospital, and I’m glad to have her there. She needs the care, and we need the help.
I wrote about it for the National Catholic Register. Here’s a bit of what I said:
Old people — and by that I mean very old people — are funny.
They’re not funny in the sense of laughs. They’re funny in the sense that you never know from one moment to the next what’s going to happen.
Caring for a two-year-old is a piece of the proverbial cake compared to caring for a 90-year-old with dementia. My family and I have been doing our best to care for my 90-year-old-two-year-old for years now.
Her dementia started when she was in her high 80s. It was a late-comer to the aging party, but once it arrived, it went through her brain like a laser, cutting away pieces with every pass. Dementia never stops taking. It is an aggressive and remorseless beast that slowly, but inevitably, lops off chunks of the person you love.
Mama is my baby now, complete with diapers and the sudden medical crises that go along with the physical declines of extreme age. A 90-year-old going on eternity can slide straight down from doin’fine and being a pest to the brink of forever in one, breath-taking step.
Consider last night.
What we had was Mama, prattling along with her nonsensical word-salad talk-talking while changing into her night gown. With no warning, she stopped talking and slumped forward.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Little Sisters of the Poor are not affiliated with a specific church and they are a non-profit, so the First Amendment doesn’t apply to them.
Ditto for the Christian Brothers Services and Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, the Catholic organization through which the Little Sisters buy their insurance.
While that may sound a bit off-the cuff, it’s the gist of the ruling.
This is how the on-going war against people of faith is played out. It rides in on the back of the legal sophistry that the First Amendment only applies to recognized churches and then only to what is done within the aegis of that recognized church. The verbiage is to limit “freedom of religion” to “freedom to worship.” This kind of limitation effectively destroys our most cherished freedoms, including freedom of speech as well as freedom of religion.
The 10th Circuit has bought into this fiction big time, because … well … because they are idiots. Or rather, because they are ideologues. But, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I repeat myself.
There is a growing — and I mean rapidly growing — opinion in this country that We the People should begin to ignore the courts. That is a dangerous notion that I will write about at length later. But the public attitude underlying it has its roots in this kind of absurd ruling. This is a re-writing and abrogation of the First Amendment that damages the freedoms and liberties of every American citizen today and into future generations.
The people who support this are throwing away their own freedoms for no other reason than a desire to get at someone whose opinion and beliefs they do not share. The courts are playing fool to this because — and this seems obvious — at least a number of members of the judiciary are ideologues with only a narrow understanding of their responsibilities to our country.
This particular move is a result of the HHS Mandate which is a result of the hubris of a president who seems addicted to an imperial view of himself and his office. How many times has President Obama made statements that he can enact policy without Congress? How many times has Congress answered him in the affirmative?
Congress has always had the power to rescind the HHS Mandate. They did not have to let it go into effect in the first place. They have not used this power in any way except as a campaign tool to win elections. If campaign promises were Congressional action, this would be an entirely different country. It would be a country in which We the People would have some hope of making a difference when we vote.
As it is, most of us have figured out that, no matter who we elect, they end up lying to us, ignoring us and doing things that hurt us. Why should we be surprised when the judges these folks appoint behave in the same way?
The 10th Circuit does not necessarily have the last say on this issue. The Supreme Court can chose to hear the case and overturn this ruling. The question is, will they?
As for the Little Sisters of the Poor, they intend to continue in their ministry and stay faithful to their faith. This is the challenge and the example for each and every one of us.
From CNA Daily News here at Patheos:
Disappointment follows ruling against Little Sisters in mandate caseJuly 14, 2015 by CNA Daily News
Denver, Colo., Jul 14, 2015 / 11:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Little Sisters of the Poor have reiterated their commitment to following their conscience as they care for the poor and dying, following a federal appeals court ruling that they must obey the federal contraception mandate.
“As Little Sisters of the Poor, we simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith,” said Mother Provincial Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire.
“And we should not have to make that choice, because it violates our nation’s commitment to ensuring that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives. For over 175 years, we have served the neediest in society with love and dignity. All we ask is to be able to continue our religious vocation free from government intrusion.”
Sr. Maguire responded to a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the Little Sisters of the Poor on July 14.
The sisters are among several hundred plaintiffs that have challenged the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and some drugs that can cause early abortions.
Employers who fail to comply with the mandate face crippling penalties. In the case of the Little Sisters, the fines could amount to around $2.5 million a year, or about 40 percent of the $6 million the Sisters beg for annually to run their ministry.
Met with a wave of protest, the contraception mandate has undergone a number of revisions. However, the sisters say that it still requires them to violate their beliefs.
Evidently, the greatest danger to an elderly person in Belgium is their doctor, a fact that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
If you give people the legal right to commit murder, they will commit murder. What’s more, people who enjoy committing murder will be drawn to the profession which is allowed to kill without legal consequence.
We have become a society which only grants a basic right to life to those who are able to go into court and defend their lives themselves. Now, we are becoming a society in which even this opportunity to fight for your life in court is being removed.
Belgian doctors are killing people without informing either them or their families. The docs just decide who to murder, and then they murder them. There’s no room in that equation for legal challenges and courtroom appeals for a stay of execution. Belgium has evidently given its doctors the legal right to kill at will, with no corresponding right to protest on the part of their victims or their victim’s families.
It’s the Final Solution in a white coat.
From The Daily Mail:
Thousands of elderly people have been killed by their own GPs without ever asking to die under Belgium’s euthanasia laws, an academic report said yesterday.
It said that around one in every 60 deaths of a patient under GP care involves someone who has not requested euthanasia.
Half of the patients killed without giving their consent were over the age of 80, the study found, and two thirds of them were in hospital and were not suffering from a terminal disease such as cancer.
In about four out of five of the cases, the death was not discussed with patients subjected to ‘involuntary euthanasia’ because they were either in a coma, they were diagnosed with dementia, or because doctors decided it would not be in their best interests to discuss the matter with them.
Very often doctors would not inform the families of plans to lethally inject a relation because they considered it a medical decision to be made by themselves alone, the report published by the Journal of Medical Ethics said.
The Church teaches us to love and care for the elderly, disabled, weak and helpless. It teaches us that every human life has immense value. It reminds us over and over again with a consistent voice that human life is sacred and we may not murder.
The world is doing its best to teach us to love euthanasia.
The difference, my friends, is Jesus.
I often get comments when I write about my own elderly mother, telling me that if euthanasia was legal, I would have a “solution” for my problems. Caring for an elderly parent is work. Caring for an elderly parent with dementia is hard work.
It can be painful, frightening and lonely. But it is also and always a gift. My son took Mama to her adult day care this morning. He told me later how much he enjoyed those times with Amah.
As the days dwindle down, each one of them becomes precious.
Pope Francis tells us that a society that does not take care of the elderly has no future. I would say the same thing, only differently. A society that consigns those who can not defend themselves to death because they are a “burden,” is dead already.