By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
While searching for a restroom at the hospital where my mom underwent knee replacement surgery, I passed a male healthcare worker escorting a woman in a wheelchair to the lobby. Preoccupied, I was startled to hear a woman’s voice say, “Barb!” The woman in the wheelchair was my mom!
We had not seen each other in nine months. The anticipation of that reunion did not include an image of the two of us reuniting in a hospital hallway as I searched for a restroom! A month before her surgery I offered to help Mom during the first week of her recovery, figuring that she and dad could use an extra set of hands and moral support. My husband Steve, an excellent cook and housekeeper, like my mom, agreed to accompany me — at her request.
Mom spent an extra, unexpected night in the hospital and we were not sure she would make it home before we had to leave at the end of the week. Her absence weighed heavily on my mind. Everything in my parents’ house reminded me of her presence — from the furnishings and their arrangements to the hand-written reminders in the kitchen. I felt a tinge of sadness and worry for the mom whose nurturing, encouragement and example of living the Catholic faith have sustained me throughout life.
My brother Tim, an avid bicyclist and the only one of my siblings living in the Twin Cities, encouraged me to bring my bicycle just in case we could squeeze a ride into the visit. He knows how much I love bicycling, but I felt God’s nudging to leave the bike behind. This visit focused on my being present to my mom and a companion on the journey for both of my parents in a time of need.
I think back to the time my parents sat with Steve and me in the hospital room where I received my first chemotherapy treatment two years ago. Their presence reassured me. I think of the countless phone calls to my mom when crises occurred and she provided moral support and helped me to lean into my faith.
It hurt to watch my mom lean into her pain after knee replacement surgery. Yet, I felt grateful to return the gift of my mom’s love in simple tasks such as fetching a glass of water, dividing tiny pills of pain medication, preparing a bowl of rice, organizing post-surgery instructions and assisting her with mobility exercises. All of us helped her to wrap her knee in bandages and one of us (Steve) enticed her with the aroma of delicious home-cooked meals. My dad did whatever anyone asked of him and was “on call” throughout the night. “You’re the exercise gal and I’m the strengthening coach,” my dad said to me, jokingly.
We prayed the rosary daily, no matter how mom was feeling, and watched Saturday evening Mass on YouTube from a parish in Australia. I am not sure why we watched Mass celebrated in Australia, but we represented a tiny gathering from a cozy den in Bloomington, Minnesota!
On the last evening of our stay, following a few phone calls and a bit of waiting, we connected Mom with her surgeon to ask about the widespread, dark-colored bruising on the leg that received a new knee. The surgeon’s response seemed like a gift from God at the end of a trying day.
While I failed to recognize my mom the day of her release from the hospital, my preoccupation transformed into presence that week, a gift of love to return to the woman who has loved me since birth.
(Contact Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)