I have written earlier about the experiences of my family in dealing and coping with the current state of health for my Dad, affectionately known as Dyda. After his stroke in May, followed by more than 3 and one-half months in a nursing home, Dyda came home in an ambulance to be greeted by cheering family members carrying signs and displaying balloons.
It was a bit overwhelming for him, to be sure, but he managed a slight smile and greeted one of his grandchildren with his standard, "Hello, Sugar Baby." Yes, the old man was back. Not exactly as strong and stalwart, but the man was back.
He had spent what must have seemed to have been an eternity in St. Joseph's. Each time we visited, he would say in his Southern drawl, "Go get my shoes..get my slacks on and let's get the Hell outa here!" When we gave him the discharge date of September 13th, the mantra immediately stopped. Dyda knew he would be going home.
Hospice has been wonderful to us. They provide weekly nursing visits and other patient/family support. Through Medicare, they arranged to get him a hospital bed, what's called a "Gerry Chair" and a Heuyer Lift, to help us get him into the chair. They also supply some meds, diapers and bed pads. We could not do this without them.
Of course, I am always looking for a deeper meaning in my circumstances. Since I firmly believe that there are no accidents in the Kingdom of God, every event to me is a theophany. Now it is very hard to see God's Will in all of this, especially when I am changing Dyda's diapers. I recently told him, "Dyda, I could retire in style if I were being paid by the pound of cr#$!" He gave me his stock toothless grin.
As I tend to him, I call to mind the words of Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, as she spoke about ministering to Jesus in the guise of the poor and suffering. And that is the image that sustains me. I was reading an article recently about the Tears of God. Yes, God does weep. When a tear welled up in my Dad's eye last week, I knew I was seeing God weeping. It was a tender moment, actually, and I was overwhelmed with a sense of love for this suffering man who now represents the suffering Body of Christ.
The end game is tough. Unbelievably tough. Not physically, necessarily (though it is exhausting sometimes) but spiritually. We are challenged by trying to understand the reason for it all, to peresevere in our faith in the absolute preciousness of the mystery of the suffering Christ in His Mystical Body. It is the mystery of Love.
My friend Helen lives in a nursing home in Virginia Beach. She was my bookkeeper for more than 20 years at Norfolk Academy. We have managed to stay in touch over the years and I spoke with her just last week. She was telling me about one of the 100 year old residents named, Joan. Joan was married for 75 years until her husband recently passed away. He was a General in the Maine Corps and they had been devoted to each other all their married life. What is so remarkable about Joan is that she looks so young. She is always dressed to the "nines," has her hair properly styled and always has a smile and a cheerul word for others.
Recently, Joan was interviewed by the local newspaper. Of course, they asked the standard questions about the "secret" of her longevity, health and youthful demeanor. Joan did not give the standard responses of, no beer nor smoking or drinking 3 daily glasses of prune juice or the like. No. Joan looked squarely at the reporter and said just a few words, "It is because I was loved." That, my friends, says it all.