Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lord, have mercy...

Her eyes wide with want, I bent over the bed and into her hug.  
This mother woman child reaching for me with fingers wiry, mangled.
Reaching still, with both hands.... for touch, any touch.
I held my cheek next to hers and lingered. 
A stranger to me, yet I know her well.  
Taking both hands in mine, I am undone.
I block thoughts of my own mother’s last days. 
My heart strings fall like the strands of hair across her face, loose in resignation.
She is close.  Where are her children?   
So softly,  I stroke her forehead and sweep those strands out of her eyes.  
Cradling her cheek as though she were my  own. 
And there, in her hands, her last possession…  a string of colorful wooden beads. 
The kind she would have strung,  like strings of popcorn for a Christmas tree. 
Is she counting memories, or moments passed? 
Feeling  the roundedness of tactile time slipping through her hands.  
Uncurling her fingers, I find your cross embedded in the grip of her hand. 
This rosary, her final comfort. 
Oh Lord, have mercy. 
Your gift of life. 
Your gift of death.
Patricia Spreng

I found it no coincidence that the recent meditation below from Henri Nouwen helped me understand exactly what I could not say....
Solidarity in Weakness
Joy is hidden in compassion. The word compassion literally means "to suffer with." It seems quite unlikely that suffering with another person would bring joy. Yet being with a person in pain, offering simple presence to someone in despair, sharing with a friend times of confusion and uncertainty ... such experiences can bring us deep joy. Not happiness, not excitement, not great satisfaction, but the quiet joy of being there for someone else and living in deep solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this human family. Often this is a solidarity in weakness, in brokenness, in woundedness, but it leads us to the center of joy, which is sharing our humanity with others.
Henri Nouwen


  1. So beautiful, Patricia. Reminds me of why I was drawn to a nursing career those many years ago...and what I miss not being there today - and even the years I cared for my own mother in our home. It is a bittersweet joy to "suffer with" others. Thank you for this.

  2. Oh Pat. I am undone with the beauty of this. With the beauty of you and your tender heart. And how you comfort with His comfort.

  3. So many memories of my own mother's last days. This is beautiful ... just beautiful.

  4. So beautifully expressed, Pat. As others have said, this brings memories of my mother's last days. She wasn't Catholic, or even religious, so a rosary wasn't part of the scene, but our togetherness was comforting for both of us.

  5. Pat, I remember watching those who took care of Lane's mother, caressing her cheek, brushing back her hair, leaving a kiss on her forehead, chatting with her as though she were fully engaged though no one remembers when she last spoke. When we couldn't be there, they were there. Day in, day out.

    Thank you for how you cared for this soul, and the words you found for it. Love you.

  6. Yes. Yes. Yes. This is exactly it. That we might see every dying soul as someone's daughter/mother/ sister/friend and offer to them comfort at the last of life. Thank you, thank you for these beautiful words and for how they describe such a beautiful act of love. It is sacred ground, this gathering around the bed of one who is dying. And as tough as it sometimes can be, it is a rich gift to be able to be there. Thank YOU for being there, sweet Pat.

  7. This is so beautiful, Pat. And that quote by it says it all. This is what we give, is it not? To share the carry each other in these times. So quieted by these words.


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