Sunday, February 5, 2012

Goodbye, Godmother

Aunt Katherine's church. 

The day before yesterday, I received word that my Aunt Katherine, who also was my godmother and my dad's baby sister, had suffered a major stroke. In her mid-eighties, the fact that a major medical event happened to her should not have been a shock, but in fact it was. Aunt Kay was a fiercely independent and active woman.

I sat quietly and listened with some disbelief as my mother explained the circumstances: She had just finished playing the organ for daily Mass, went from church to the grocery store, and then got into her car to head home. When she put her car into gear, the stroke must have occurred, and her vehicle rolled slowly into another car in the parking lot.

A bystander called the ambulance, and Aunt Kay was whisked away to a nearby hospital, where imaging studies were done and she was placed on a respirator. The family quickly learned that fully half of her brain was impacted by this major stroke, and that the likelihood of her survival was miniscule.

"She's still hooked up to life support," said Mom. "They're waiting for all your cousins to be notified before they take her off the respirator. I'll let you know when that happens."

So that evening I participated in the usual Friday night events: dinner out with friends and a hilarious game of darts, (hence Emily and John and Greg's post yesterday) and I was glad to be surrounded by family and friends as I tried to mentally digest what was happening in an ICU across the country to this truly remarkable woman.

That night, I found it hard to sleep, so I got out my rosary and began to feel some peace as I slipped into meditation and prayer. I finally fell asleep around 2:30AM.

As her sons and daughters gathered around her hospital bed, one of my cousins made the observation, "This isn't fair..." and her siblings assumed she meant that her mother was taken away from them too soon.

"No." she said. "Mom has had Jesus walking beside her for all of her life. Now he wants to take her to heaven and they have to wait until we can get her disconnected from all this stupid stuff."

This said through tears of grief. But everyone smiled at the thought of Katherine and Jesus, hand in hand, ready to depart for heaven, Jesus impatiently tapping his foot on the shining hospital floor. Or drumming his fingers on the top of the bedside table.

I later found out that she was taken off the ventilator that afternoon, but did not take her last breath until yesterday at two AM. She and Jesus had to wait for almost twelve hours. I was glad that I had kept vigil in my own way about a thousand miles away.

I can't begin to do justice to the complex, intelligent, stubborn, frustrating, loving and lovable personality that she was, so I won't even try. Except to say that the things that I will always remember about her were her tremendous faith, her love for her family, her amazingly green thumb, her incredible intelligence, and her keen wit.

And although we all will miss her desperately, I'm glad that her walk with Jesus continues in heaven.


Unknown said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your aunt would have wanted you and your cousins to view her passing just as you are--as her walk with Jesus continuing.

Anita Rowe Stafford said...

Julia, I am so sorry for your loss. How wonderful that your Aunt Kay was active and living her life well right up until she was called home.

Orb Weaver said...

May Aunt Kay rest the arms of Jesus. Mom, do you have any photos of her wonderful flower garden? I'd like to see one.

Amy Junod said...

So sorry Julia.

annie said...

Your Aunt sounds like she lived a good, fulfilling life, and the family will have precious memories of her to help in their grief. So sorry for your loss, Julia.

Jenny P said...

Shawn's grandfather died two years ago this week, and someone shared a message with me I loved, and share with you now - "she's in the arms of the One who invented hugs". But then again it sounds like she always knew that.