Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Love Is..."

For understandable reasons, many folks in a rough patch of health prefer to recharge in relative peace, with not too many visitors around to drain their energy.

My grandmother is not one of these people.

The better part of the past two days have been spent at the hospital, the rotating cast of characters that is Mom's clan flowing in and out in a steady stream. Far from draining the Boss, she's been feeding off the energy, each one taking turns at her bedside, each coming away with a set of marching orders, even now.

I can't thank you all enough for the prayers and the many notes that've come in over the last day. It's a humbling, priceless gift, and I've shared the thoughts and words with the family, and with Gram. Know how much it means, and that, already, it's worked wonders.

Admittedly, what had me most worried was what I saw on Sunday, arriving home from a long-planned commitment out of town. It wasn't the clot in her leg that concerned me, nor the fluid in her lung, nor the possibility that the great heart, once alone, that literally gave life to the many who surrounded her was thought to be failing.

Even amidst all that, what had me most pained was the impression that the strongest person I'll ever know -- all of 4-foot-9, made a force by her golden faith and iron will -- seemed to be throwing in the towel.

"We had a great time," she told me, several times, in the broken English even she pokes fun at. She didn't talk of going home in the sense of the house where, for the last two years, her six daughters have kept a constant presence, alternating on 24-hour shifts. The line was more pointed -- it was "Where I'm going...."

As one of the few who can get away with being playful with her -- but with a point -- I shot back my usual reply that "the only place you're going is the casino."

Thankfully, that still got the big smile. Even then, all wasn't lost.

Today, however, was better still, and I'm chalking that up in large part to your prayers, so please keep 'em comin'. The Sunday crowd was slimmed given the workweek, but not by much, and there was no talk of past tenses as at least five of us hung around at any given point.

And through it all, she didn't ask for, nor take, a moment's sleep. What's more, on telling her that prayers and Masses were coming in from, literally, across the world, the faithful fighting spirit that's gotten her through poverty, loss, loneliness, decades of adversity and the longest of odds began to kick up again.

She began asking who was praying, and when she'd be getting home, and promising that, on her return "I make them a nice dinner."

She hasn't cooked in two years, but it's the thought that counts.

Boss had some fleeting moments of pain today, and despite being only physical, those are never easy to witness. But they come with the territory -- and, if anything, they were far outweighed by her basking in the company and her return to her love of teaching.

Reiterating one of her favorite lines, at a point when it was just the two of us, she reminded me again that "Love is many splendid things....

"But what is it? Is understanding, is giving, is forgiving -- is sacrifice." (Her emphases.)

She's lived each to the full, with a strength that's larger than life. Whatever is good in me I owe firstly to that life and that strength. And I'm relying on God to keep her around, because I might've heard it all a million times and seen her practice it in even more ways, but I'm not done learning it as only she can teach it.

A while back, I made a promise to myself, one I didn't know how I'd keep, but trusted in the mystery of Providence to take care of the details: so long as the Boss was here, it went, I'd be based here, close by to give her whatever I could of the things she loves and values most -- presence, time, company; in a word, the love that is just being there, just as she's always been for me, for all of us.

Keeping to this hasn't always been easy; among other things, I've turned down not a few very kind offers elsewhere to remain faithful to it. But I couldn't imagine doing things any other way, and that's even truer now than it was on the day the thought first came up. Being with her almost every day is what's kept me grounded, honest, hopefully true to everything she's taught... and to walk into my first home or that hospital room and, despite her fading eyesight, hear her say "It's my baby" at the sight has made and will always make my little pact worth it and then some, to the last drop.

Sure, this is a departure from the news, and hopefully the more buzz-seeking among us don't mind it too much. Thing is, though, for all the daily feed and all the glory of the world that whizzes by and burns out, gang, this is where the rubber hits the road. This is who we are, what we do and what we're all about at its very best. And while we all have our unique situations and circumstances, no matter how different they might seem, where it counts the story, and the song, always remain the same.

The gift of being able to remain here, to keep learning from the Boss and keep present to lend a hand, is the greatest of this readership's many gifts over the course of this ride. Just as I do what I can to pass on and live out what Gram's given me, your support and encouragement in keeping these pages afloat has allowed me to rejoice in the continued gift of her presence and love. No words can ever thank you all enough for this; truly, it's a lifetime's gift and more, and hopefully the product reflects it justly.

Forgive the unload; another day awaits.... Thanks again for everything and keep the prayers up, please.