A Conversation With St. Francis   5 comments

I was sitting on my mother’s couch yesterday. STOP. Reread that. I was sitting on my mother’s couch yesterday. Just how long do I have where I can say that sentence? She’s already not actually “living” at home. She is in a rehab and then to where we’re just not sure. If they move her at all, it will be into a hospice. I just talked to her on the phone and I know it won’t be long. Faith, hope, fear; nothing is strong enough in me to keep me from facing the obvious. My favorite little lady is on her way. I just don’t know to where and since I can’t control it, I can’t let it get to me. I just bury my head in the sands of what her religion promises and hope that if it’s not there, it’s to somewhere as beautiful as she deserves. She has always deserved it and it’s a shame she has to die to get there.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was sitting on my mother’s couch yesterday kind of zoning out. I was in mid-argument and as usual I spaced. I just bounced out of reality and found myself having an internal conversation with my mom’s St. Francis water fountain statue. He isn’t plugged in, so the water doesn’t bubble. As a matter of fact, it’s been empty since Gracie died. She was my mother’s most beloved dog/bestest friend ever and she used to love drinking the water out of the basin. Since she passed, my mom didn’t have the heart to fill it. My mom, who never seemed all that sentimental with pets, fell in love for the first time with that dog and her heart is still broken. And the statue stands in a dry, silent pause of time, as if St. Francis is also heartbroken.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, St Francis is the patron saint of animals and is often depicted with birds, wolves and other wildlife. I can only imagine that he grew quite fond of Gracie. She was the sweetest, most adaptable and kind creature I have ever had the sincere pleasure of knowing. And if she is anywhere, she is probably in St Francis’ living room. She was a dog, but she was a couch dog and I highly doubt she’s out in the gardens with the birds.

Regardless, I was talking to the statue. If that seems strange, you don’t really know me and should feel no obligation to finish reading this post unless, of course, you are actually enjoying it. And, again, I should mention that all of this was done telepathically because at the same time I was in the middle of an argument.

So I’m sitting there, talking to St Frank and I am commenting on the fact that he is so tenderly holding a small bird in his hands; both hands, cupped and lovingly keeping the little creature safe and warm. I say to Frank how I would love to be a little bird being loved so much and being kept so safe and how right now, and often lately, I just feel as though I am drowning and no one or nothing comes anywhere near enough to pluck me out of the waters of my own self absorbed doom.

I studied the bird in his grasp and swooned at the promise that maybe one day something would feel as wonderful to me as the loving grip of St Francis must feel to this particular little creature and for some time I question if he is talking back, if St Francis is offering to me a prayer to pray or a guarantee that one day this will be me there, in his hands and finally safe.

The argument breaks through and I leave that place. It disappears and St Francis stands there with his head slightly turned away as if he is disappointed that I would leave what we were sharing only to stumble back to this nonsense. He would wave his hand and dismiss me, if not for the bird, my feathered sister nestled in his loving embrace. I think, in the midst of the yammering and fussing, part of which is mine, that I hear her tweet as if to call me a fool. I look down for a moment in shame. I know that she is right.

A night of questions clouds my mind. I wander around in my thoughts and try to convince myself of anything, but nothing sticks. I am lost and I am chained and I am not amused by the combination.

Then today, I gather some things and head off to the rehab. I look forward to this visit more then the others because I am assured that we will have some time alone. Up until now, family has been all over that place giving flowers and treats as if it were Halloween and my mother were dressed in some perpetual costume. I scream inside of my head, keeping quiet. I wonder where these idiots were when she was home alone and scared to death. But I know the answer. They were hiding, afraid to see what I saw. They had that choice and they did what they thought best, for themselves.

I walk in and surprise her. Knowing that seeing me comforts her settles my heart and thrills my spirit. I am finally able to offer her a little of what she has poured all over me my entire life. I am finally in the position to prove to her that she is adored, respected, loved and needed even when she is not able to run around, cooking, cleaning, buying things, telling her hilarious tales. Even now, as she sits somewhat dazed by the enormous amounts of medication and frozen in her tracks by both pain and anxiety, there is no where I would rather be. Sitting next to her is still the best seat in the house of life. And helping her is a joy because I don’t just see her in pain, I feel her pain and want it to end one way or the other more than my own. Finally, someone is edging towards me in my drowning pool.

She gets breathing treatments four times a day. I fix the nebulizer and hand it to her and she starts to inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. The treatment lasts about 10 minutes, but about 2 minutes in she lays it down on her chest and tells me it makes her too tired even to hold it. I say that she’s not alone so there is no reason she needs to worry about that. I pick it up and without embarrassment or hesitation she purses her small, thin lips as I meet her more than half way. She breathes in and out several times then takes a break for a second. I tell her its fine, do it at your own pace. There is no reason to rush. I am not going anywhere.

She makes no comment, but she relaxes. Something about knowing I’m not in leaving soon gives her some comfort; she comes back and takes more medicine. I watch the most independent human being I have ever met gather her strength just enough to let me help her. She reminds me of a baby bird, forcing her young and frail neck up towards the mama bird as the mama offers whatever feast she has been able to provide her young. So trusting and faithful and yet so completely unable to handle the task alone; the thought of this reminds me of St Francis holding the small bird back at my mother’s apartment. I feel for a moment the longing to be that small creature, wanting, needing his love and compassion and thinking that nothing would ever be so sweet until I realize a prayer answered when I see one. I have been that baby bird long enough and it is now time for me to try my hand at being someone else’s St Francis. And who better to receive my first bounty then my little lady?

The way she looked, the way it felt; I will never forget and I will carry with me always. In my lifetime, that woman has both borne me and helped me regain my faith. I will forever be the disciple of her love and wisdom.

(I would just like to add that what I mentioned above about my family does NOT include my niece Candice who has truly been amazing to my mother. Without her love and constant friendship, I would have fallen many times.)


5 responses to “A Conversation With St. Francis

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  1. smooch!

    • What an amazing way with words you have always had. If i had half that mind Iam not sure id be here. what your wrote is incredibly beautiful and meaningfull. What an amazing revelation to wake up and realize you can give back what was so freely given to you. My heart breaks for her, but what ive realized is know matter what i think we have something really special, we have a piece of her in us always. I her in you as i see myself, and it trips me up that i neve saw it up intill the past couple of years, wheneveryone would tell me so. Sometimes you just have to see it or feel it for yourself. Last night i spoke with her it was late and she thought it was my mom lol. But she went on to tell me what she wants me to do when i come up, with so few breaths i could hardly understand what she was saying but my heart flet it

      • In you, I see the best reflection of her. So not only for all of the reasons that I love you for being you, I will carry you near me deeply for what you bring back to me of her.

  2. Jen.. I Love You.. keeping her in your heart and soul is all she ever wanted… you are the love of her life, her last baby.. and there is no other way she will want to leave this earth then with you by her side as you are….I’m sure this has been the hardest journey you have ever been on,..your mom losing her independence,..not to mention the most painful.. to watch her in pain….. hang in there babe..I know you would take care of her forever, but when she is out of pain, it’s actually a relief because watching your mom suffer in pain.. is heartbreaking…… I send my prayers and hugs to you.. what you wrote was beautiful…. keep her forever in your heart.. xoxo

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