I am at the hospital where my mother has just been brought by ambulance. There is no bed yet in the Emergency area so my sister and I sit on chairs in the hallway where she is lies on a stretcher.
“I’ll get us tea” I tell my sister J. who is there with me. And I head off to find the coffee shop.
I order our teas and when I walk over to the condiments area there is a priest carefully placing a lid atop his tea.
I smile at him, take a breath and ask, “Are you just finishing visiting someone at the hospital?”
“Yes,” he replies.
“Do you visit people in hospital a lot?”
“Not as much as I used to. There is a hospital priest who is assigned here,” he tells me.
“Oh…” I hesitate and then quickly add. “My mother was just brought in by ambulance. She’s not on her deathbed but it would make her really happy and give her peace of mind if you were able to come and say hello.”
He doesn’t hesitate at all. “Of course. What room is she in?”
“She’s not in a room,” I tell him. “She’s on a stretcher in the hallway in Emergency.”
His smile is warm and caring. “Then lead the way. I’ll follow you.”
As we walk I tell him how my mother will be so very happy and grateful to see him. “As long as she doesn’t think you’re coming to give her last rites,” I add, nervously.
He laughs and tells me he will keep it light, happy.
By the time we find the corridor in the emergency area where my mother was placed, it is empty. They’ve already found her a cubicle.
Father Wilbert enters the small curtained room with me, takes my mother’s hand and asks if she would like him to say a prayer of well-being.
Her entire being beams. One hand grips the gold crucifix she wears around her neck and she whispers, “Yes. Please.”
And he anoints her and blesses her and prays over her and my sister and I stand on the opposite side of the bed, heads bowed as he says aloud the words of a prayer we have known since young children when my mother would make us kneel in front of the crucifix above the mantel in our living room and pray the rosary. “Our Father who are in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name…”
It is a moment of grace in a frightening situation.
Earlier in the day, the nurse at the lodge where my mother lives had gone to check up on her. “I think you should take your mother for a chest x-ray,” she told my sister when she phoned. “I hear a rattle.”
The rattle was pneumonia. And an infection in her chest cavity. The doctor’s office called an ambulance. My sister called me and we both met at Emergency.
When the Emerg Dr. came to see her, she took one look at my mother’s tiny body and said, “You are just a wee mite, aren’t you?”
And she is. Her bones protrude. Her skin is sunken in the cavities between the edges.
“She doesn’t eat much,” I told the doctor.
“I can see,” she replied and as she left, she smiled and said, “I think there comes an age when we get to be grouchy if we want.”
“My mother is never grouchy,” I told the doctor. “Just sad. Very, very sad.”
She was admitted last night. Tiny. Frail. She is receiving the best of care.
My eldest daughter and my middle sister arrive next week. They were already booked to come and celebrate mom’s 92nd birthday on the 30th.
“Should I change my flight?” they both asked when I spoke with them.
“Let’s wait to see what happens at the hospital,” I tell them.
The admitting doctor was optimistic. The antibiotics should kick in within 48 hours and she should feel the improvement within a few short days.
She should be home for her birthday.
We will all be together to celebrate.
And she will not be grouchy. It is not who she is. It is not who she has ever been.
She will be sad, and I believe, within that sadness, will be the joy of having her three daughters, two of her four granddaughters, as well as their husbands and boyfriends around her to celebrate her special day.
And in that joy she will be embraced by what she cherishes the most, family.