Saturday, February 02, 2008
Keeping a Vigil of Prayer
My 82 year old mother was admitted to the hospital on Thursday. Again. I've lost count. I think this is the third or fourth time since October when, at that time, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
She now has pneumonia. Her kidneys are failing. She has received two units of blood. She has been difficult to arouse. I'm told she was awake this afternoon - ate some soup and some jello, and although weak, she was able to hold her own in conversation. Her two strengths: food and talk.
Ah, and the apple does not fall far from the tree, eh?
It's just a matter of time, really. If she goes into kidney failure, she'll have 72 hours to a week, at the outside. Having a medical background can make one very pragmatic about these things. No magical thinking. No thoughts - if there ever were - of "well, if I just pray hard enough - get enough people to join me in prayer - a miracle can happen."
Death, I have come to understand, can be as much a miracle as life.
My mother has had a long life. Not an easy life, to be sure. She suffered at the hands of parents who came to this country as peasants who lived with even less hope than the necessities of life. Poverty without hope can do strange things to a body. Her parents were often as cruel to her and her 15 sisters and brothers (of 21) who made it to adulthood as life had been to them.
She lived through The Great Depression and knew what it was like to go to bed hungry and awaken to a breakfast of a slice of bread and be thankful for it. She lived through a war and worried that her young husband would not return to her alive. She worked as a 'mill girl' in a factory that saw her as just another cog in the wheel of progress - a bottom line in the margin of profit. As long as she kept the assembly line moving, she was of value. Her humanity had worth in direct proportion to her productivity.
She lived for 56 years with a man who had turned to alcohol to ease the pain of his childhood losses, adult frustrations and the horrible memories of war which scared him for life. He could be as physically abusive as her father, but it was all sanctioned by the holy men and women from Rome, so it had to be alright, didn't it?
She struggled hard but found it next to impossible not to participate in the repetition of the cycle of abuse in her own family. Children will listen. Children will learn. Parents regret. She suffered the loss of two children and one grandchild - something no parent or grandparent should have to endure.
I find myself praying as memories intrude, a family album of images cascading through the deep thoughts of my heart. I have come to embrace these intrusions as part of my prayer. God's response to my petitions. As each image comes, I find a deeper way to forgive, bless and send them on as prayers to the heart of God on her behalf - and mine.
Forgive us, for we know not what to do with this awesome gift of life you have given us, so we often mess up. We make mistakes. We hurt the ones we love. We repent. We seek forgiveness. We try to move on, doing better the next time. We have some glorious moments until, once again, we fail - ourselves and each other.
And so it goes in the enterprise of being human and the great mystery of God's unconditional love.
Pray this night, dear friends, for Lydia, a sheep of God's flock, a lamb of God's own redemption. Although I have my doubts, she may yet pull through to live another day. Even so . . . even so . . .
She has fought the good fight. She has done the best she could with what she was given.
Would that each of us might have that said of us when our time comes.
Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
Thank you for joining me in this Vigil of Prayer.
Sunday afternoon update: Mother went into septic shock in the middle of the night and was transferred to ICU. She was started on a new antibiotic and when my sister went in to see her at noon, Mother was sitting up in bed, eating a light lunch. A born fighter with stubbornness deeply imbedded in her DNA, she has rallied once again. I'm awaiting a call from one of my daughters who is out of the country to determine when it is I drive up to see her.
Thank you all for keeping this vigil of prayer with me. It is good to watch and wait with 'ye watchers and ye holy ones'. Alleluia! (Whatever is it that people do, in times like these, who don't have communities of prayer to support and sustain them?)