Karen, Covid and Praise

Crosses and Graces during Lockdown

In February 2020 my sister and I took the decision to move our mother from the original care home we had placed her in, to one in the village where she was born and lived all her life. For one month this was a wonderful blessing for us and for her. She had a view of her beloved Campsie hills from her room and quickly made friends with the other ladies in her very small unit. She received so many visitors from her friends who lived in the village that the nurses thought she was a local celebrity!

I visited her on 11th March to celebrate her birthday which had been the day before and on my way home I received a phone call from the nurse at the care home to say that their management board had decided to close the home to visitors due to COVID-19. At the time that seemed to me a prudent decision, never imagining how long this would last. Shortly after this, the decision was also made to close my mother’s unit, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to move her downstairs to a much larger unit. Despite having Alzheimer’s she had coped well with the move from the first care home but this second move, compounded by the fact that my sister and I were not allowed to visit her, was just too much for her. We both spoke to her on the phone every day and she could understand the situation, but the absence of human contact from family takes its toll. She stopped eating and did not want to leave her room.

I was next able to visit her on 29th July, albeit for only twenty minutes in a room with a Perspex room divider which was not ideal for either of us but better than nothing. On 10th August I had a call to say they thought she had taken a stroke and were sending her to hospital. I had planned to visit her that same day and I had my small suitcase at work with me so I received permission to leave work immediately to meet her in the hospital. I took a taxi from Largs to Glasgow (around thirty-two miles) and quickly went to Accident and Emergency. At first the receptionist would not let me in to see her due to COVID-19 restrictions but after an uncharacteristic assertion from me that I was her daughter and that she needed me to be there they relented and let me in.
“O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his great love is without end.” Ps 106:1
After a scan the doctor told me my mother had suffered a massive stroke. I took the decision that she would return to the care home in the village she was born in to receive palliative care. I was able to travel with her in the ambulance back to the home. Due to the seriousness of her condition the care home allowed my sister and I to visit her every day.
“O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his great love is without end.” Ps 106:1
My mother was amazingly lucid in the first few days and knew her daughters were with her. I contacted the Parish Priest who attended to administer the Sacrament of the Sick.
“O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his great love is without end.” Ps 106:1
On the fourth day after her stroke my mother was failing and unable to talk. I had the great grace of attending the live streamed Mass from the grotto at Lourdes with her on this day (she seemed to follow it with her eyes) and my sister who had gone home that day prayed this Mass with us from her home.
“O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his great love is without end.” Ps 106:1
My mother passed into eternal life the following day with her two daughters at her side. Between the tears I prayed the prayers for the dead for her and felt we had prayed her into heaven.
We had forty friends at her funeral Mass and my husband and I were allowed to read. The young priest, who has a beautiful singing voice, sang the final commendation as my mother’s body was leaving the church and people commented on how special it was given we had not had singing in church for four months, a sacred moment.
“O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his great love is without end.” Ps 106:1
I returned to Isle of Cumbrae, where I live, to continue the Nazareth of my life. I had been working sixteen hours a week as parish secretary to the priest in Largs. On my return he gave me the news that due to falling income in the parish, due to the restricted numbers allowed to attend, he was reducing my hours to twelve hours a week. This had a significant impact on our day-to-day finances and it was a shock. My husband and I thought about it and decided that it was perhaps a call to deepen our prayer life. We pray the Liturgy of the hours every day and decided to say the Office of Readings which with a work schedule we could not manage; in addition, I joined my husband for Afternoon Prayer and a decade of the rosary which normally I did not say as I would be travelling home from work at that time.
“O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his great love is without end.” Ps 106:1
I am finding the closure of churches and cancellation of live Masses much harder in the second lockdown. I am currently reading ‘A Pathway Under the Gaze of Mary’, the biography of Sr Maria Lucia of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart (one of the seers of Fatima). When she received the news she could transfer to Carmel from the Dorothean Sisters, which she had longed to do all her life she was disappointed that it was not to a Carmel she was familiar with and had visited. Her consolation was that ‘there, too, she would have a Tabernacle, and that is enough.’ as she knew that as St Teresa of Avila says ‘one who has God lacks nothing, because God alone suffices.’ In my self-pity I thought ‘Well, it is okay for them but I do not have a tabernacle.’ This led me on to think on a term I had heard about: ‘the tabernacle of your own heart’. I remembered a quote I had read in ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Br Lawrence ‘It is not necessary for being with God to be always at church; we may make an oratory of our heart, wherein to retire from time to time to converse with him in meekness, humility and love.’
This then is the grace of this second lockdown with the uncertainty of the future, a desire to discover God in the tabernacle of my heart.
“O give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his great love is without end.” Ps 106:1