Mini-stroke after mini-stroke took its toll on Mom. Dementia stole her memory bit by bit. She remained mostly happy as she grew childlike. Mom continued to love life, play with children, and care for others.
During these years, she spent much of her time on the patio. She watched the clouds — for hours. With excitement, she’d say, “Look up. Look up.” For the first few moments, I’d look up and ooh and ah over the clouds. But soon I’d return to visiting with dad or finishing a task. And then Mom would repeat, “Look up!” I would appease her by nodding.
But one day, I kept raising my head. I began to see through her eyes. Each time, the clouds had moved, the sky had changed, the hues had deepened. Her spirit had noticed. Deep within, she knew all of life was changing. And though she was always faithful, I thought of how Mom’s spirit was becoming like a saint, a contemplative, or a child living in the moment.
As time wore on, Mom refused to wash her hair; once a meticulously groomed woman, she now had little concern for her appearance (she preferred her favorite stained sky blue sweatshirt — every day!) Eventually, she agreed to a weekly wash and trim at her favorite hairdresser. One day while sitting with Mom in the salon’s waiting room, a man struggled as he wheeled in his elderly wife. Bent in the wheelchair, the woman’s stringy gray hair fell into her face while drool slid down her chin. As I stared, Mom jumped up, headed straight to the woman, embraced her, and the two wept in each other’s arms. My mother, in her “compromised” state, recognized the stranger’s suffering and reached out with childlike compassion.
After work, I picked up hot fudge sundaes for Mom and Dad. I walked back to the patio on this glorious day in April. Dad appreciated my visit and reported Mom was out front. Soon she turned the corner with an enormous smile on her face. Though she couldn’t speak, her face radiated as she practically shook with joy. She held out her hands in childlike wonder, offering me a branch brimming with bright violet blooms. Before leaving their home, I invited Dad to meet us at a restaurant for dinner and he agreed. As the server poured our water, Mom collapsed in the booth. She later died from this massive stroke.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus welcomes the child as He chastises the disciples: "Let the children
come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:16).
Mom had become a child: depending on others for every detail of her life; living in the moment; seeing life with awe and wonder; showing deep compassion for others. I trust Jesus welcomed Mom with her childlike spirit, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as her!
First printed by CatholicMom.com: 9-27-2021
Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash
On this the Second Sunday of Lent, we read of the Transfiguration, as Jesus leads Peter, James, and John up the mountain. In scriptural terms, our ancestors climbed mountains to encounter God. As they ascended, the veil of mystery split and clarity occurred. Each encounter resulted in a changed—transfigured—way of seeing, thinking, being. Peter, James, and John desperately needed a clearer view of Jesus’ identity and mission before His imminent suffering and death.
As one trained in preaching, the words of St. Paul’s words sting: “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! Woe to me if I do not preach it!"
“On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” The Father baptized and blessed Jesus before one moment of ministry: before He turned water into wine; healed one sick person; broke one piece of bread; took one step toward Golgotha. It was the blessing, the imparting of being beloved, which strengthened Jesus for His ministry of healing and reconciliation.
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.