My mom called on Friday, just checking in and catching up. In the course of our conversation she updated me on things going on in her life. She has cataracts and has surgery scheduled to remove them. She explained to me some of the potential complications. In addition to glaucoma, she’s had a benign tumor behind her eye that the doctors have been watching for years. Recently there’s been a slight change – a bit concerning. She relayed another potential twist in her situation. All could go well, but there’s a chance she could end up with cloudy vision for the rest of her life.
I heard the fear and uncertainty in her voice – not a common occurrence with my mom. A young 76-year-old woman, she leads with optimism. She has been a wonderful role model of a woman who faces life directly, with great pragmatism and faith. “Life is earnest,” she always says. So we grew up learning to deal with things even if they’re hard.
The past many years have been difficult for her. Her 65-year-old “little” brother was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, and as the doctors were intubating him prior to surgery, they discovered a small growth in his throat, esophageal cancer. She walked beside her brother through radiation on his throat and treatment for the disease. Any of you who have been through that treatment know how horrible it is. After treatment, the doctors would not remove the brain tumor, so his eyesight is affected.
Finally regaining some sense of normalcy to his life, my uncle returned to work in a retail store. One night at the close of the evening, he was taking the trash out of one of the doors leading to a loading dock which goes out to the dumpsters. Unfortunately, when he stepped out the door, there was no dock and he fell onto the ground from the open door. This fall caused irreparable harm to his lungs. Since that time, my mom has watched her little brother decline, going in and out of the hospital, fighting pneumonia and being on a permanent feeding tube so he won’t aspirate anything that could affect his lungs. With each passing hospitalization, like Simon of Syrene, she helps him carry his cross. With each bout of illness, she feels him slipping away. Her heart, too, is pierced with a sword.
Quite a few years ago, my dad was successfully treated for prostate cancer, but even with a clean bill of health, he has slowed down and can’t quite do what he used to. Osteoporosis has degenerated one of his vertebrae, and he is in constant pain. His discomfort affects his mobility and thus limits what my mom can do, and she’s always someone who loves spontaneity and would get up and go on short notice. She talks now of her and my dad moving to a condo, “I don’t think I want to live in this house alone one day, and I’d rather make those choices now than when I’m in a crisis.” Indeed, life is earnest.
We’ve talked a lot over the years as she suffered watching those she loves suffer. We’ve all been there – the helplessness and the search for God in the midst of it. I think it is even moreso for people as they age and lose people they love and face their own mortality. As we spoke on Friday about the situation with her eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was thinking, “Is it my turn now?”
I listened to all she said – spoken and unspoken, then I asked her the date of her surgery. “The right eye will be done on December 13th.”
“December 13th!!!” I shouted in reply, “Really???”
“Yes…” she replied quizzically.
“Mom!! That’s the feast of St. Lucy!!!” (Saint Lucy is the patron saint of eye diseases and disorders.)
There was no reply or noise on the other end of the phone. I knew she was crying. She’s not one to cry easily. She knew she was kissed from heaven!
“You’re crying, aren’t you?” I stated, not asking.
“Yes, I’ve been praying to St. Lucy for a long time,” she replied in a quivering voice.
“Mom! You’re going to be fine. Don’t worry about it at all! God is telling you. It’ll all be okay!” I exclaimed with great joy and confidence. She concurred.
I think God knows when we near a breaking point, when the cross is heavy. Just like you and me, every hair on her head is counted (Lk 12:7). She just realized it in a palpable way.
As I’ve been walking this journey of Living the Liturgical Year more fully in that past couple of years, I have developed a very childlike faith. Reading about the most amazing miracles happening in the lives of so many, many saint through the centuries, evokes awe in me. St. Philomena refused to marry Emperor Diocletian. He had her bound with a chain and anchor and thrown into the Tiber. The angel Gabriel freed her from the chains, and she rose to the top of the water completely dry. Onlookers were immediately converted. Extremely annoyed, the Emperor then put her in front of a firing squad using heated darts. Halfway toward their intended target, the arrows turned around and headed for the archers. Six of them died. Others were converted on the spot. St. John Vianney spent 14-16 hours a day in the confessional and had the ability to read souls. He lived for 40 years with little sleep and little to eat – all which he did for love of souls. He attributed, on average, 14 miracles a week in his little parish of Ars, France to the intercession of St. Philomena. St. Paul of the Cross brought a little boy back to life. He was seen in two places at the same time. The body of St. Catherine of Alexandria was rediscovered around the year 800 at Mount Sinai, (5oo years after her beheading by Emperor Maximus), with hair still growing and a constant stream of healing oil emitting from her body. How cool is this stuff??? Not to even mention Eucharistic miracles and incorrupt bodies of saints.
In fact, when my mom was 8 years old, she was cured of deafness in one ear through the intercession of St. Anne.
God and St. Lucy kissed my mom last week. They reached down from heaven to assuage her fear, and to let her know that they are with her. They kissed me too, encouraging the simplicity of my faith, and giving me the great privilege of comforting my mom. Imagine what a gift, that after all the comforting a mother gives to a child through her life, her child can return comfort to her mom because she walks the rhythm of the Liturgical Year. Thank you, Lord, for this gift.
So, I encourage you to walk with me daily this beautiful gift of the Church – the Liturgical Year. Bring it into your daily life in the simplest of ways and just wait for the kiss!
St. Lucy, pray for us! All Saint and angels of heaven, pray for us! Anne