By Teresa Mottet
I’m writing this three days before Christmas. You’ll be reading it later, but that’s all right. I want to tell you about a Christmas gift I received, but first we have to back up and give some background.
The past year was stressful for me. I had to take my husband, Francis, to a nursing home in Fairfield in December 2008 as I could no longer care for him at home. He had vascular dementia. Medication kept it controlled, but he had gotten progressively weaker. I went every day at 10:30 a.m. to visit him, to read the mail and the papers to him, and to feed him his lunch. It was a 30-mile round trip each day to do this.
In March 2009, I turned 80 years old and the kids planned a family party for me in the nursing home’s party room. It was the highlight of my year with Francis, all the kids, spouses, grandkids and great-grandkids there — a real celebration.
The end of May, my grandson Jeff was married in Minneapolis and again we celebrated for three days. After that, the year went steadily downhill. Two weeks after the wedding, on June 14, I was involved in a head-on crash with a truck and I came out the loser. My car was totaled and I was left with neck injuries, unable to turn or move my head. I also had seven cracked ribs and a cracked breastbone where the seatbelt held me, thank God. My airbags did not inflate. I couldn’t drive for a month because I was wearing a “boot” on my right foot while my dislocated big toe healed.
Six weeks later, on July 28, my last remaining brother, Ed, died. I had four brothers and now they are all gone, leaving only my sister and me. We had hardly finished grieving Ed’s passing when Francis died Aug. 14. The day before, we got a call that he was not responding. So I rushed back to the nursing home. All four children were notified, and they came with spouses from Des Moines, Chicago and Rochester, Minn. The six grandchildren, all grown, also came. We held vigil with Francis all through the night, and he seemed to be resting comfortably.
In the morning at 10 a.m. he passed away peacefully with everyone present — except me. I had gone across town for my therapy session thinking, “I’ll only be gone an hour. He’ll be OK that long.” When my daughter-in-law came to tell me he was gone, she said, “He just waited for you to go so he could slip away without bothering you.” So he had a good life and a peaceful death, and I have no regrets.
We planned and carried out the visitation and funeral, and then I plunged into the paperwork and legalisms that follow a death. Back in April Francis had said, “You need to find a place to live in Fairfield, to save all that driving back and forth.” So I had been looking with the help of a son and daughter-in-law who live in Fairfield. We found a nice condo in a good development. I moved in Dec. 4, just three days ahead of a blizzard. I thanked God for taking such good care of me.
I’m settling in nicely, but I miss my home of 61 years. I learned to lean hard on God and on all the people who helped me through the difficult times of the past year. I feel I have come through a stronger person and that with God’s help I can deal with whatever comes my way.
Now about that Christmas gift: Two nights ago I had a beautiful dream. In the dream someone was singing, “Have I told you lately that I love you?” — all of the verses and the refrain after each. I listened to it spellbound. In 1947 Francis gave me a 78 rpm recording of that song as a Christmas gift, just before we were married in January. That song became “our” song all through the 61 years of our marriage.
I woke from that dream feeling comforted and peaceful. I felt that it was a message from Francis that he was safe with Jesus and he was watching over me and loving me.
The Christmas dream was a perfect gift to restore my soul.
Merry Christmas, Francis!
(Teresa Mottet is a member of St. Mary Parish in Fairfield.)