Praying with My Mother
|One Experience of Prayer
My mother has suffered from Alzheimer’s for a number of years. We live thousands of miles from each other but I visit on a regular basis. With each trip, I witness her continuing decline in eating, talking and mobility. As her disease progressed, I first saw that she had a harder time walking and I held onto her as we walked together. On another visit, she was using a walker, but not well. A few visits later she was in a wheelchair for transportation when not in her own living room chair. Now she is either in a wheelchair or in her bed and has no ability to move herself from either.
On a recent trip I was struck by the incredible amount of fear and anxiety in her eyes. As each new shift of nursing staff came into her room to change her clothes, move her to her wheelchair or to the dining room where she would be fed, her eyes were large with fear and anxiety. She did not recognize these people, many who have cared for her for many months, and she is unable to anticipate anything that will come into her life in the hours ahead.
One night, after she had been bathed, dressed and tucked into bed and the staff was all gone, she laid there wide-eyed, anxious and silent. I scooted my chair up close to her bed so I could touch her arm. “Mom, next week is Holy Week,” I said. She turned to me from her bed, her eyes suddenly clear and said, “Is it really?” I nodded then asked if she would like to pray the Rosary. “Oh, yes!” was her reply.
I decided to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries because of the upcoming Holy Week and also because they seemed to fit my own heart at that moment as I watched my mother. I began to pray and realized with a pang that she was no longer able to respond aloud to the Rosary as she always had. As I prayed, I watched her blue eyes stare anxiously at the ceiling. I squeezed her arm and told myself it didn’t matter that she could no longer respond to the prayers and that maybe just the sound of my familiar voice would comfort her.
Suddenly in the dim light she turned to me and asked, “What chapter are we on?” and I realized she knew what we were doing and wanted to know which Sorrowful Mystery we were praying. “Mom, this is the carrying of the cross,” I said. “This is where Jesus carries with him all the things you are afraid of, all of the anxieties you carry with you and everything you are suffering. Jesus is carrying all of that so that you don’t have to.”
She looked at me intently and said, “Ohhhh.” Then she relaxed.
Her eyes were, for a brief moment, without fear and in the deepest part of her soul, she understood. She closed her eyes and dozed off while I still prayed next to her. It was hard for me to comprehend, but I knew that somewhere deep inside, my mother had felt the presence of Jesus carrying her burdens.
-- Maureen McCann Waldron
Hail Mary, full of grace.