The Candles of Advent

                                              

There is no way around it: this Advent is a dark time for me and many in my family, having just lost our beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

Yet, that's what the candles of Advent are for: they remind us that there is always Light. That Light is Christ, and He makes Himself known to us in many ways.

In my last post, I mentioned that we experienced many miracles as we spent time with my dying mother. Here is just one.

After being released from the hospital, we moved Mom to a nursing home, and she was placed in hospice care. For the first 6 or 7 days, my sisters and I were with her 24/7, in shifts. When they had to leave, my brother helped fill in.

The nursing home staff was remarkable. They excelled at Mom's care. They called her by name every time they came in the room. They gently bathed her. They apologized for causing her discomfort whenever they had to move her to prevent bedsores. They truly cared for her, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Beyond that, they took care of US. They brought in a small serving cart from the kitchen, and kept it stocked with hot water for tea, coffee, and snacks, which they replenished daily. They did everything they could to make us comfortable, with encouraging words, a hug, a smile.

About the third day or so before Mom died, two of the aides came into the room rolling a large recliner. They explained that it had belonged to a former resident. It didn't recline anymore, they apologized, but they had covered it with a clean sheet, and said they thought it would be more comfortable than the hard, straight back chairs we'd been using.

I very nearly wept.

That non-reclining recliner was soft and large enough to curl up in. It meant my strained neck and back could relax. I actually napped well for the first time in weeks.

The folks who work in nursing homes don't get paid much, in the scheme of things. Many of the residents can't thank them, due to dementia. Some of the residents are difficult to manage and care for. The staff has to move people, straining their own backs while being on their feet for 12-hour shifts. It's a hard and often thankless job.

I expected that they would take care of my mom, but they also took care of me and my siblings. They didn't have to. But they were lights in my Advent, bearing tea and a broken recliner.

Christ shows Himself in the most unexpected ways.

Christmas In Heaven, With A Few Miracles Along The Way

Yes, I've been awhile. But I have a really good excuse.

First, let's back up. I had decided in late summer/ early fall that it was time to leave my place of employment. I was thrilled when I was hired fairly quickly for a rather new company - pay was great, people all seemed nice, it was meaningful work. All was well.

Then I got fired after four days.

Honestly, I didn't take being fired all that badly, since I never really thought it was my fault. It's not like I poured sour milk in everyone's coffee for the weekly meeting, or took the boss' sports car for a spin around the block without permission. It was just a weird, "We don't think you're a good fit here." Eh, ok. They gave me a generous severance, so I figured I'd have a nice "cushion" while looking for another job.

Then my mom fell. My elderly mom. Three times. And broke a vertebrae.

While getting fired was not fun, I was the one of the four siblings with the most amount of free time. My two sisters were able to help out for a week, but then one had to get back to work and the other had family obligations. My brother is semi-retired, but that means he's also semi-working.

Mom spent about a week in the hospital, where we finally decided to have a "minor" procedure done to help alleviate her pretty excruciating pain in her back. That helped, but it was becoming clear to all of us that Mom was getting ready to die.

She was talking more and more about death, about caring for her grandmother when she died. She insisted that my brother call the priest for Last Rites (which she ended up receiving twice.)

Then, we moved her to the nursing home, and called in  hospice. By this time, she had stopped eating and drinking, so we knew our time with her was fairly limited.

And I suppose, in the scheme of things, it was. However, it isn't not unusual - we learned - that Depression-era kids tend to be quite tough, and they have strong hearts. And my mom's nearly-91 year old heart was not ready to stop beating too soon.

We prayed. We listen to music. I sang. We talked and reminisced. And when she finally decided she had fought long and hard enough, she slipped away - very peacefully.

Her funeral was December 7. I'm trying to get used to the idea of a world without my mom in it. We pray that she will be enjoying this Christmas in Heaven, and that we can all enjoy ours here, remembering what an incredible woman of faith she was.

I'll share more in the week ahead.

Into the Foggy Dew

If you've ever driven through a thick fog, you know what fear is. You can't see anything. You're not sure if you're stil...