The call came at work. “Mom isn’t bouncing back after the last chemo, she’s different.” I became alarmed and responded that I’d be right down. In my haste I called my daughter who was home on college spring break. “Do you think you could drive down to the Cape and check on Nona?” I asked. She happily agreed and jumped in the car within minutes. She called me upon arriving and responded “Nona is not herself…something is wrong.” After speaking with Mom’s oncology doctor I instructed my daughter Grace to get her to Brigham and Women’s Hospital as quickly as possible. “It won’t be easy Grace, but you can do it” I encouraged.
The car sped up Route 3 pushing speeds of 85 MPH. Dad sat in the back with Mom who rested her head upon his shoulder. Grace drove with determination and haste. I was waiting for them in the emergency drive of the hospital. When they pulled up I quickly opened the back door of the car to find Dad holding Mom lovingly in his arms. It made no sense to me – in just one day Mom was not able to walk or speak sensibly. A tall and strong African American orderly came over and lifted Mom into a wheel chair. I looked at him with love and gratitude, offering him our deepest thanks for his efforts of compassion and kindness. Once inside, things moved quickly and we finally had Mom relocated to a room upstairs.
I had contacted my siblings who were traveling from Connecticut and Maine to be with Mom. My sister, a Nurse Practitioner, arrived first. We stayed by Mom’s side, trying to talk with her and make her comfortable. We could not understand what she was mumbling to us, but we assumed it was something about being glad to see us. Mom was a peaceful soul – always – and we were concerned that she seemed agitated that night. We continued to stay with her as the nurses gave her medication and attention, trying to ease her symptoms.
At one point, Mom seemed angry with us for not understanding her and this concerned us. We finally turned to Dad and asked if he knew why she was upset. It wasn’t until we understood the word “chicken” from Mom that we were finally able to piece the puzzle together. Hearing this word, Dad said “Oh, your Mother is cooking for the Noah Shelter in Hyannis tomorrow and has taken the chicken out to make the meals. It is on the counter at home.” Upon hearing this my sister and I stopped in our tracks – we were dumbstruck. In the midst of a very serious medical emergency, our Mother was most concerned with the chicken dinner she had promised to deliver to the homeless shelter. Sacrificial love gives with no regard for oneself – that is the love my Mother lived her entire life!
We turned to Mom and asked her if she wanted us to get the chicken dinner to the Noah Shelter and she responded with a firm “yes.” After this, her blood pressure came down and she began to respond to the medications. My sister Liz called in a big order of chicken from the local Roche Brothers, to be delivered to the shelter the next day. We had fulfilled Mom’s wish and her commitment to serving those most in need.
Eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love him… When pain and sorrow weigh us down, be near to us, O Lord. – Marty Haugen
Looking back on this event – almost 3 years ago – I am still in awe of my Mother’s selfless attitude at a time of personal crisis. As I ponder my current attitude in the midst of chronic pain and new health challenges, I pray that I can follow in Mom’s colossal footsteps. I think the only way to achieve this lofty goal will be to live in the light…following her example of love. Mom put God first in this life and thus was able to receive the grace to combat the evil, pain and temptations of the world. Everything she thought and did came from a place of uninterrupted love. This is why she prioritized the well being of the homeless in the midst of her own suffering.
Bishop Robert Barron said “God so respects our freedom, that he will allow us to experience life or death, good or evil. He will give us what we choose and, more to it, we will become what we choose. Each day, every moment, choose the path of love, and you will become the kind of person fit to live in heaven.” Choosing the path of love can be tricky in a toxic world filled with temptations masked as stuff essential for a happy life. Experience tells me that we should “get the chicken” for someone in need, to find lasting happiness. Putting the needs of others before our own brings an inner peace and joy that is far greater than anything the world promises. My mom knew that, she lived that and it is the reason why she “fought for the chicken” in a moment of personal crisis. Her peace and happiness depended on it. Let’s all “get the chicken” in our own lives so we too can live in peace and joy like my beloved Mom – following the path of love.