The Mir­a­cle of Mary

The Covington News - - OPINION - PUB­LISHER

For those of us of the baby boomer age, the truth is that we’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to be a part of a lot of pos­i­tive changes in this world. I am sure that most of us can look back and say that we have re­ally en­joyed our lives.

One of the sad re­al­i­ties of be­ing a baby boomer, though, is that it’s not un­com­mon to read about or ex­pe­ri­ence the death of long­time friends or as­so­ciates.

- ning the obit­u­ary pages of the news­pa­per in Annapolis where I grew up.

This past week I saw the name of one of my old high school friends on the list. It brought back mem­o­ries of some of the pa­tients I worked with when I spent a few years with a hospice in Ari­zona.

This is the story of one of my pa­tients that touched me in a very spe­cial way. Maybe you have had some­one who has done the same for you.

Many times I had the spe­cial op­por­tu­nity to have been a par­tic­i­pant and a wit­ness to a mir­a­cle or at the least an ex­am­ple of the strong de­ter­mi­na­tion and will of the hu­man spirit while I worked with hospice.

At least twice ev­ery day I made rounds in the Hospice House to visit and talk with our pa­tients who were there for just very short vis­its of respite care. There was not a sin­gle time that I had done this that I had not - tional re­ac­tion. Some­times it was a smile, some­times I wiped away a tear as I smiled, but nev­er­the­less I smiled know­ing that I had just vis­ited some­one who has cho­sen to go into their sun­set with a sense of dig­nity and peace.

On one of those vis­its I stopped in to see one of our pa­tients, whom I shall call Mary, who was in her - tered her room, she was read­ing a large print edi­tion of “Read­ers Digest” and clutch­ing a faded green, stuffed teddy bear, the kind you might pur­chase at the Dol­lar Store.

As we be­gan to talk, her eyes were dart­ing about and she ap­peared fright­ened. She shared that she didn’t feel any­one loved her nor did any­one care. This sur­prised me. I in­quired about her fam­ily and she re­lated that she did have one al­though I knew that this was not true.

We talked for awhile and I as­sured her that her fam­ily did love her and that her new ex­tended fam­ily at Hospice cer­tainly loved her too. I reached out and touched her hand. She grabbed hold and held on tight, ob­vi­ously ea­ger for a hu­man touch. When I her I would see her again

Some­times it was a smile, some­times I wiped away a tear as I smiled, but nev­er­the­less I smiled know­ing that I had just vis­ited some­one who has cho­sen to go into their sun­set with a sense of dig­nity and peace.

the next morn­ing.

That next morn­ing her spir­its were much im­proved. I stopped in again that evening and again we talked. She held up the stuffed bear, which seemed to be her best friend and told me that she loved her lit­tle bear. It was a kind of an ugly look­ing bear with a half-smile, whose fur was worn and faded, but she clung to it.

She ex­pressed fear about be­ing alone which we dis­cussed, and she ad­mit­ted she did in­deed have a fam­ily and shared pho­tos of them with me. As we sat to­gether, I be­gan to un­der­stand her fear. I re­as­sured her again that her fam­ily loved her and just be­cause they were not present ev­ery minute didn’t mean they didn’t love her. I tried to ex­plain that they had re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and their own fam­i­lies who also needed their at­ten­tion. I pointed out the many beau­ti­ful cards ex­press­ing her fam­ily’s love and en­cour­age­ment that adorned her room. I ex­plained how their hearts were al­ways there with her when they couldn’t be there in per­son and that when her bi­o­log­i­cal fam­ily had to be away, her Hospice fam­ily was present.

The weekend came and went, and I didn’t have an op­por­tu­nity to visit again un­til late in the day on - ticed was that her fear and ag­i­ta­tion had in­creased. Her much-loved teddy bear - it. The bear was re­cov­ered and re­turned to Mary’s ten­der care. While she calmed some­what, she grabbed my hand and would not let go; she was hold­ing on to me with one hand and grip­ping that bear with the other. In my at­tempts to calm her, I again promised her that Hospice would make sure that she was not alone nor would I.

As we talked more, I learned that she was a very in­de­pen­dent woman and was not used to be­ing waited on. I stayed as long as I could and then called in a Hospice vol­un­teer to sit with Mary – eas­ing her fear and anx­i­ety – un­til her daugh­ter ar­rived.

Tues­day dawned and Mary was in good spirit, com­plain­ing loud and clear that she wasn’t happy with her break­fast. Nor­mally I wouldn’t be amused about some­one com­plain­ing that break­fast was aw­ful, but in this in­stance it made me smile, as it seemed that Mary was be­ing her usual in­de­pen­dent and opin­ion­ated self again.

Mary had been ad­mit­ted to the Hospice House to man­age her pain. With her pain un­der con­trol, it was time for her to leave the Hospice House. Place­ment op­tions were be­ing con­sid­ered. She didn’t want to leave the Hospice House, but as we talked she wel­comed the idea that she would not be alone and would have people around all the time in her new care home.

When I checked on her late that evening, she was clutch­ing her teddy bear again. I walked into her room and I reached down to give her a hug and a kiss. She looked at me with the kind­est blue eyes and said, “Thank you Pat.” I melted.

The next day was a busy one. I walked past her room and saw that she was in bed look­ing peace­ful. I didn’t take the time to stop as I thought I had more im­por­tant things to do. The next morn­ing, as I made my “rounds”, I saved Mary’s room for last. As I en­tered her room, I saw the in-pa­tient unit nurses hov­ered over her, and our so­cial worker hold­ing her hand. She looked drawn and pale.

Mary had slipped into a coma and her breath­ing thought was how very self­ish I had been with my time. I said all the right things to Mary, but when the time came for me to be there for her – as I promised – I was too busy. I sat down be­side her and as I held her hand and looked at her the tears be­gan to well up in my eyes and pour down my cheeks.

I qui­etly said to her, “See Mary, I promised you that you wouldn’t be alone, we all love you and are here for you.” But in my heart, I felt as though I had let her down and it was only by chance that I was there.

But as I dis­cov­ered with “the many Mir­a­cle of Mary,” she must have been able to see into my heart be­cause I felt her for­give­ness. It was as if she was telling me, “Don’t worry, I waited for you.” I felt such a sense of peace and as I looked at her, I re­al­ized that - nal peace with great dig­nity and grace.

In her, I saw my own grand­mother. I wasn’t able to be present when my grand­mother passed into her sun­set, but through Mary I very clearly saw my grand­mother’s im­age and felt in­cred­i­ble peace. As I pon­dered “the Mir­a­cle of Mary,” I felt a warmth surge through my body.

Mary’s breath­ing was slow­ing and I thought that each breath might be her last. In hospice we learned that pa­tients of­ten “hold on” un­til a fam­ily mem­ber ar­rives, or some­one tells them it is ok to go. I had been a skep­tic.

When Mary’s daugh­ter ar­rived and I thought that if what I heard was true, then now that her daugh­ter had ar­rived Mary would leave us. But she wasn’t quite ready.

When I re­turned to Mary’s room af­ter lunch, I learned that she had passed. In speak­ing with her daugh­ter, she shared that the mail had come while I was out and that it in­cluded a let­ter from Mary’s sis­ter, who lived in Ken­tucky. Mary’s daugh­ter read her the let­ter.

In the let­ter her sis­ter told her that she loved her and that she should go and be with her par­ents and her broth­ers and sis­ters. When took her last breath and peace­fully passed on.

As far as I’m con­cerned that was an­other of Mary’s Mir­a­cles. How did she know to wait un­til that let­ter ar­rived, or how did she even know it was com­ing? And for sure, how had she known what had been in my heart? How could it be that I saw my grand­mother in Mary’s im­age?

The hu­man body and mind are amaz­ing; I don’t see how any­one could doubt the ex­is­tence of a - cence.

A friend of mine re­cently told me he was an athe­ist. I just shook my head in won­der and I said, “I wish you could have spent two weeks with me at Hospice; it would have been im­pos­si­ble for you to make that state­ment.”

I re­mem­ber en­ter­ing Mary’s room af­ter she died. I noted that she looked so peace­ful. She still had that green teddy bear in her arms. It looked as if it was than usual — its fur was the deep­est green. I hadn’t did have the big­gest smile on its face that any teddy bear ever had.

T. Pat Cavanaugh is the pub­lisher of The News. He can be reached at pca­vanaugh@rock­dale­


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