I wrote the post below a few days after her funeral and publish it yearly. Putting aside the insanity of Rome, may this lift your heart as it continues to life mine.
On October 16, 2006 in her 92nd year, my mother was called home to the LORD. She was a woman of great faith in God and taught many lessons to all those who came into contact with her. This was especially true in her last few years. She suffered the loss of her first grandson and then her first son from cancer and bore much physical suffering with faith, trust and humility.
October 16 is, according to the calendar for the Traditional Latin Mass, the Feast of St. Hedwig a medieval Polish duchess; she died on October 14, 1243. She was also maternal aunt of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, incidentally my maternal grandmother's name. So it was then for me a serendipitous moment when at the Mass that morning, the Epistle from the First Letter of Blessed Paul the Apostle to Timothy was read:
Dearly beloved: Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children, or grandchildren, let her learn first to govern her own house, and to make a return of duty to her parents: for this is acceptable before God. But she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, let her trust in God and continue in supplications and prayers night and day. For she that liveth in pleasures is dead while she is living. And this give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any man have not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. Let a widow be chosen of no less than threescore years of age, who hath been the wife of one husband having testimony for her good works, if she have brought up children, if she have received to harbour, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have ministered to them that suffer tribulation, if she have diligently followed every good work.
That day started as many others. I woke my son for school, I got ready for work and before dashing out the door and bidding her adieu the home care assistant was there to help her get ready for the day and stay with her whilst I was at work.
I had gone to Mass at the Oratory on my lunch hour. I had just gotten back to work around 1:00 PM as the second aid arrived for the shift-change back at home. Her name was Bridget and as she arrived she went into the family room. My mother had only moments earlier complained to Cora, the morning aid, of difficulty breathing and then closed her eyes. Bridget yelled out her name, “Martha, Martha!” and gently slapped her. She stirred and let out a long breath.
My mother Martha, died.
I got the call moments later and on the way home it was clear from speaking to the paramedics that she was gone. She suffered a merciful cardiac arrest, yet because I refused to post a Do Not Resuscitate as experience taught me that would include choking to death, the paramedics were working on her with Adrenalin and heart paddles but were not having any success. I spoke to Bridget and told her that a priest from the local parish was on his way (the Sacrament of the Sick, what we used to call Extreme Unction had already been administered by one of her faithful Oratorian Priests a few weeks earlier.) I asked Bridget to go to my mother’s bedroom and retrieve the sick visit Crucifix from the wall above her bed. (This is a Crucifix which slides off and is placed in a stand; on either side are then candle holders and some of the necessary items for the Sacrament).
So, what does this have to do with coincidence?
The next day I called Bridget and asked her to stay on for a few more days to be at the house to tidy and answer the phone and assist with guests. Bridget was quite upset to be sure. She had been with my mother daily for the last year and often spoke of how well she was always treated and “their little talks.” She came to me with apprehension that she really needed to talk to me about something.
The paramedics, with all of their intervention, “brought her back.” It took 14 minutes from the time they began to get a pulse. What was disturbing Bridget was that there was no reaction to their work; nothing, until my car screeched in the driveway.
But there is more. Bridget was shaking and in tears.
“David, I had a dream Sunday night," my mother having died on Monday.
She went on to say that she as typical she had forgotten the dream; until at least she went to my mother’s bedroom to get the Crucifix. Upon seeing Jesus on the Cross the dream came back to her for just a moment and then again, it was gone. The house after all was a mass of confusion, police, fire-fighters, the paramedics, and eventually me, and the Priest; Bridget was now a bystander.
After we left for the hospital, Bridget was alone and tidying up and it was what happened then that she was so desperate to tell me.
At that singular moment in time something happened to Bridget that she will never forget. Nor will I.
“I was standing on a street-corner in small town with other people. We were laughing at this man dressed in a robe and with long-hair. He said his name was Jesus and we were making fun of him. Just then a young beautiful woman stepped off of the curb and started to cross the street; she turned around and looked at us, she had tears in her eyes, tears of overwhelming joy, she was happy, really happy. It was then that Jesus took her hand and walked across the road with her.”That was Bridget’s dream, but I didn't understand.
She went on to say that when she woke up from it she was aware that she needed to be more like the woman who walked across the street. That she needed to have “more faith in Jesus.”
I told her that it seemed like a pretty plausible conclusion.
“Wait” Bridget said, “There is more, you don't understand."
I waited and listened as she started to cry.
“David, I remembered the dream only for a moment when carrying the Cross.”
“When I was tidying up I put the Cross on the end-table over there.”
“Yes, it looks nice there” I replied.
“No, David, you don’t understand, the picture, the picture beside the Cross.”
“Yes, Bridget, what is it?”
“That picture of your mother at graduation.” Bridget started to cry.
“It was her; she was the girl in my dream, it was Martha!"