Wednesday, July 30, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Franckly speaking: On death bed, a woman of faith shows her heart

By
March 8, 2011 |

The most devout person I’ve ever known died two weeks ago in a home for the aged in Queens. Vera, who had a firecracker brain, a loving heart and a great New York accent, had been my mother’s friend and became mine about six years ago when I re-met her as an adult.

Ninety-two years old, she believed without question that she would be reunited in heaven with the husband she lost very early, the parents she cared for tenderly until their deaths, and my mom. She believed that someday her only child, a Catholic priest, would join her, too.

According to her son’s remarks at the funeral (I couldn’t attend but have a copy), she prayed three times a day. As he put it, “She began the day with St. Anthony, met the afternoon with Mary and spent the evening with a list of people for whom she asked favors from God.”

I’ve been on her list, particularly when I traveled to New York every other month, first for my stepmother’s final illness and death, and then for my father’s. They were on Vera’s list, too.

Although Vera ended our phone calls by saying she would pray for me, our conversations were decidedly worldly, and I will be forever grateful for the permission she gave me to express all my feelings—“Dad and Frances drove me crazy today!”–during my New York visits.

Vera was in full possession of every brain cell she’d ever had and dispensed good advice. She also shared her own perspective. “Marion,” she would say, “Your dad will be reunited with your mom in heaven. They will be so happy.”

I wanted to ask, “What about Frances? How does that work, if you’ve had more than one spouse?”

The question seemed disrespectful, so I never asked. Now I know I should have. She might have had an answer, but I think she would also have laughed.

I learned this recently on a day when an 85-year-old hypochondriac provoked a glance between Vera and her son that showed me that faith and humor can be best friends.

***

The incident happened at a Catholic facility called Ozanam Hall of Queens Nursing where Vera moved a year ago. Despite her age, she was among the healthier residents, living on the 10th floor with a mobile and social crowd of older women.

Vera’s own family was small and, because her son is a priest, she had no grandchildren. The warmth of her love shone on her son, like a star on the wise men, and he responded by spending as much time with her as he could.

He told me he felt smothered, occasionally, by a mom who worried every time he went into a rough neighborhood, but that was the work he preferred. I watched him shake off her expressions of concern, but I know this man always felt loved.

***

My visit to Ozanam came at a very low time.

Vera had suffered a severe stroke. Unable to move anything but her eyes and one hand, she had been transferred to the sixth floor for intense care.

Because I pictured Vera as she had always been, perfectly dressed and coiffed, I didn’t recognize her when I walked in, and I wasn’t sure I was in the right room until I saw the photo of her son.

Vera lay still and silent. Seeing a woman of her verve in that condition was like watching a river go dry. I spoke, but I couldn’t tell if she understood me.

When her son Bill arrived, he showed me that she could squeeze her hand to indicate “yes” or “no.” Her mind was working, but how well?

Suddenly, one of her 10th floor “friends” blew into the room like a cyclone. Robust and bustling, perhaps 85 years old, she took one look at Vera and pronounced, “That’s not her.”

“Yes, it is,” I whispered. “Maybe you shouldn’t say that so loudly.”

My advice seemed to flip this woman’s attention from Vera to herself, obviously its most comfortable location. She proceeded to tell us which parts of her body were aching that day. Then she described her arthritis and her asthma, their origins and current status, and complained about the room temperature which adversely affected both.

Vera lay still and silent. Bill and I were silent by choice. I may have muttered a word of sympathy.

Like a runaway train, impervious to any misfortune that might be right in front of her, our “guest” went on to list more symptoms and associated complications, until the cavalcade of illness finally ended when she declared the room too cold for her asthma and left.

A giggle escaped me. “Whew,” I said. “She was something else.”

Before I finished my short sentence, I realized that Vera and Bill were way ahead of me. Their eyes had locked on each other. I heard a rumble of laughter from Bill’s chest. Vera was still, but the corners of her eyes crinkled.

A falsely devout person would probably watch our “guest” leave with solemnity. But even in her suffering Vera was herself, a seer of truth, and even more important, a mom in sync with her son.

What passed between them in an eye blink was love as unshakeable as their faith, love through a shared sense of humor.

Is there any better kind?

Comments

comments

.

News

 
District 2 candidate statements tell of goals

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A1

Sand Fire nears containment: 66 structures destroyed

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Schedule for Highway 50 blasting closures

By News Release | From Page: A3

Tails wagging over dog park approval

By Julie Samrick | From Page: A3

 
Quarter-acre fire in Kelsey

By Rebecca Murphy | From Page: A3

.

Opinion

My Turn: Privatization of public services

By Mark Belden | From Page: A4

 
Policy book

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

Piano replaced

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Comments sign-in policy

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

Save the Guinea Worm

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

 
Large bangs

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

Private property gets no respect

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
GDPUD management report

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

District 2 supervisorial special election

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5, 4 Comments

 
.

Sports

Ex-Bruin lends a helping hand

By Steven Shaff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

 
Sierra Sharks finish middle of the pack

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A8

Roundup: July 29, 2014

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A8

 
Taz pull through for SSL trophy

By Patty Pope | From Page: A8

.

Prospecting

Nuns discover a pleasant place

By Lexi Boeger | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Bargains can be found everywhere

By Democrat Staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

At a glance: Game time

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

 
Barbecue dinner to benefit Blue Star Moms

By Mount Aukum Winery | From Page: B2

Stagecoach story takes riders on a trip

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: B3

 
Help needed to make cool ties

By Sew 4 | From Page: B3

Stroke and osteoporosis screenings planned

By Life Line Screening | From Page: B3

 
Gold Rush Days activities cancelled this year

By Sacramento Convention And Visitors Center | From Page: B4

Master Food Preservers: Tomato time

By Monique Wilber | From Page: B4

 
Sacramento area museums offer summer fun

By Sacramento Association Of Museums | From Page: B5

 
Build an author platform at the Library

By El Dorado | From Page: B5

.

Essentials

Weather stats 7-29-14

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

 
Building permits 6/2-6/2014

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2Comments are off for this post

Crime Log: July 17

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
.

Obituaries

Merlyn Wilbur Adams

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Lisa Oliver Rose

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Wallace Murrel Thomas

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
.

Real Estate

.

Comics

.

Women’s Health

Love the skin you’re in

By Noel Stack | From Page: WH4

Dump stress and improve your health, productivity

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: WH7Comments are off for this post

Women’s Health Expo

By Marshall Medical | From Page: WH8

Find the confidence you need to fight back

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: WH12

Our choices directly affect our health

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: WH14

They’re NOT your mother’s hearing devices!

By Marshall Medical | From Page: WH17