Reminders from Thomas Merton and St. Francis and a Mute Button about Small Favors

popeILY“My mom’s home care nurse called. She was having distressed breathing. Her pulse ox level was 83 which is poor. She was struggling to breath. Having pain. Ambulance was called…I am beside myself….

Gracie’s pain is being managed to the best they think we can do without surgical intervention….

Today we will be discharged…we will be making (her 90th brain) surgery date in the next few days. Grace has had a wonderful spirit through all of this. She just wants to not have pain anymore. Team Amazing Grace needs prayers for wisdom and peace…

Please pray for. Grace we are turning back to go to the. ER … I am over an hour out and she is. 10 pain. She is not well…”

Those are just a few of the frantic Facebook status updates that a friend of mine has been putting up in the past two weeks as she asks for prayer from her huge circle of online friends. She is one of a small handful of women that I’ve tried to keep in touch with for almost fifteen years on the internet. I met them while looking for information about adoption before our youngest was born. Lately contact with them has dwindled to a lot of clicking of Facebook “likes” or these cute cartoons that have a bit more flare in a response and “save time” for a “real” response. Two of us have been going in a new directions – one as a writer and me with my American Sign Language studies. One of us has been doing a lot of elder care and is busting out all over with pride as her daughter is stepping into her own skin and singing like no other all over her town.

In this small group of friends two of us, the mom whose status updates I quoted and another mom – have during that 15 years buried three children. One child took his own life and two other boys died from genetic illness. Another mom’s child has been diagnosed with a lot of maybes – but a “probably” that he is struggling with neuro sensory issues that are along the lines of autism. He is a complicated puzzle of emotions. He is a delight and she sometimes shares quotes of what he is saying out loud that are at times hysterical. Other times his quotes are heart wrenching observations about the world that should be coming from an old man, not a Ninja Turtle who is barely old enough to read chapter books.

What I appreciate about this group of friends that I have never met is that because we’ve grieved together with prayer for those three sons that died – we don’t, well I don’t anyway, always necessarily explain what prayer is being asked for when one of us requests an all out bended knee effort. And we And I feel comfortable with not always having the time to explain the details of what is going on with me or my kids when I share with any one of this small bunch – I have sort of a code phrase that is about the song “row, row, row your boat.” If I make a swing by comment about that song it means either that I know that their mom heart is in a state of worry, or it’s a general announcement that I’m in a bind and don’t have time or space to explain why I am a ball of nerves and doubt.

merton worthy

I have to share something really cool that just happened…but I promised my husband I would do an important chore in a few minutes, so forgive me if I don’t make sense.

Early this morning I read what could be a day old status update that my friend’s daughter is needing her 90th brain surgery to help with hydrocephalus – I started looking for some music to send her way. Her oldest child is a wonderful musician. And I went with a liturgical dance video that I found yesterday while looking for videos of church sign language interpreting.

But…as I mentioned in my last post, music sometimes hurts my ears of late – especially violin or high pitched vocals. I read a recommendation to listen to cello music because the frequency is lower.

So, I’m watching the liturgical dance video and wondering if I should share it, got cranky that the music was ruining the video for me, and clicked off the sound button on the video itself.

I had forgotten that I had Pandora running at the same time and an instrumental song called “Expression” was being played by Helen Jane Long. (The link I attached to her name is not the same song – but just as pretty).

Here is the amazing thing: the instrumental song, when I replayed it in the background, but watched to video in front of it (remember now, the actual music that was being used in the video was turned off) – when I paired the instrumental words with the St. Francis prayer dance – they were PERFECTLY in step – seriously. Don’t quote me but I think it was in 3/4 time – and in any case, there are a few moments of silence after the song finishes and she finishes her dance prayer.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that 15 minutes of my day much more interesting than the day of chores I have ahead. And I may not be able to to check in on my friend and her little girl until tomorrow – but I firmly believe that the music, and the dance video, and my friend’s pain, and my sadness about singing out of key- all of it – got a really, very, super nice fifteen minute reprieve.

We can’t do it all, can we now?

But every once in a while, we get a deep breath from out of what seems like no where at all.

Thank God for small favors, eh?

Holiday Stress? Watch the Roches Perform Handel’s Hallelujah

Our family had a very, very challenged couple of weeks as we awaited Santa. It feels like Jesus came tumbling by way of a King’s Island roller coaster this year.

On my side of the family – no hitches: all three major trans USA move transitions went fine. All systems, go, go go! (Doing the thankful daughter/sister/mom dance in my mind because when I try to do even a mini office chair samba my brain sort of explodes and my hip dislocates a bit).

Why even try to samba? Because my people are happy and that’s the goal:

1. My brother is in proud dad heaven as my niece grabbed the golden ring of what she wants to do with her life, 2. My cousin who survived hurricane Irene on Long Isle and I still love each other more than anyone, 3. My aunt and uncle’s children seem to be doing especially well this year, and,

4. My father?! Holy smokes. When I talked to him on Christmas day he sounded happier than he has, honestly,

since well before my mother died of colon cancer eight years ago.

What favorite daughter of the best dad in the world isn’t trying to reach THAT brass ring? Eh?

John Fugiel troop Douglas McEwan photog.With a little bit of help from my brother and I, his perfectly laid out plan to organize, sell his home and move permanently to Florida is, as he would say: “Finito!” Done.

It worked! The rewards of his hard work to grieve and retire at the same time seem to be that his new neighbor Rose loves him (he killed and threw away the scary dead snake in the road), my cousins went from enjoying to adoring his company (he reminds them of our grandfather), and even dad’s doctors love him it seems. (Aka: He is being compliant to their plans and in return his kidney disease issues are at a standstill for now).

In addition, though his favorite new walking park let him down mightily by closing off a path so they could chase away alligators by draining a pond, his life seems to be moving at his perfecto pace at last. Hell. After two years of weekly poker losses, he says that he’s now even winning some card hands now.

If you’ve ever met my dad even once for ten minutes, you’d agree that his life is now wonderful indeed.

Boo, and YA world! High fives all around the globe.

I imagine that you, whoever you are: stranger or not, I imagine that you are staring at your PhoneComputerTouch screen and thinking, “and this made your 2012 Christmas a disaster because…?”

…there’s more of course.

On my adoring Sleigh Driver’s side of the family, elder care issues

have come home to roost in epic proportion.

If your Christmas celebrations have you feeling like this:

(click the word BESTBEST if you have 5 minutes to watch and hear a righteous cool Handel’s Messiah rendition.Thank you SO much @JamesMartinSJ and @suzzyroche – that tweet share last night has me confused about whether or not this is the best or worst Christmas season I’ve celebrated in my 45 years.)

Or, if you feel a bit guilty that you didn’t have a crappy or complicated holiday season, just google

sudden onset of dementia

and your heart will break just enough to empathize with my favorite husband.

He has a very, very large German family in a lovely rural Appalachian corner of Ohio. We have all helped take care of his grandmother for a couple of years now as she has had some health issues. Despite those efforts, she has suddenly become what I can only describe as a five foot GermanHandful of frustration and occasional cuteness.

She was and will always be the Matriarch of, I exaggerate not, dozens, which if you count the great-great-greats, is probably more like hundreds.

But. She apparently kept us all fooled that it was perfect apple pie that was keeping us in line and clicking our rosaries for the last 100 years. It was actually her mind.

Over the past 20 years she has become blind, deaf, and in the last year or so has developed mobility issues. We’re trying to figure out what she needs most, and my SO not an “expert at geriatric care” opinion is that “Little Grandma” has been suffering from some normal oxygen loss which results in tired thinking issues. In turn, this is creating a sudden onset of dementia that is moving faster than is easy to manage for her two daughters.

I didn’t expect that my mother in law and I would be at her kitchen table trying to figure out if all of a sudden Little Grandma has Alzheimer’s or not.

You’d think since my mother in law is a librarian and I’ve mostly been a teacher or student we could combine our tired noggins and figure that out at least a little bit.

Not so much over just one cup of lukewarm peppermint tea.

For now, my approach is going to be to watch and re-watch that music video of the Roches singing Alleluia that I found on Twitter while finally giving myself a Christmas sixty minutes alone.