Time is a very strange thing.
It is now 19 years since my mother died. Sometimes I have trouble remembering things that happened yesterday, or even this morning, yet I remember that morning in September 1995 with crystal clarity.
As I wrote before, my mam died of a brain tumor that was brutally, and, perhaps mercifully, quick. But something that has been in my memory a lot recently is something that happened about a month into the illness.
After mam’s diagnosis our house was bedlam, as you might expect. We were trying to deal with the physical needs of a person who was terminally ill. At the same time, speaking for myself, I was denying the terminal part of that statement. We sought cures everywhere.
We went to herbalists, we spend a wad of money on capsules containing shark cartilage, we called in every quack you could think of. In short, we prayed for a miracle.
And then mam had a chance to go to Lourdes.
It was something that she had thought about for a long time before she got sick. And such a pity that it was only in the midst of illness that she actually got to go.
Mam went to Lourdes with my dad and my sister. Up to that point our house was a place of heightened emotions. It was a place where we were trying to fight an illness. The word ‘fight’ brings with it certain overtones. Words like ‘anger’, ‘aggression’ and ‘violence’ come to mind. And yet it wasn’t that kind of fight.
Nevertheless, a certain atmosphere did pervade our house for that first month.
And them mam went to Lourdes.
Many of us associate Lourdes with healing. People go there praying for miracles. People go hoping for healing. People go there hoping for a great many things.
Mam did not heal physically in Lourdes. She travelled there in a wheelchair, she came home on a stretcher.
No physical cure then, but something did change. And I didn’t spot it until much later.
After mam, dad and Monica came home, the atmosphere in our house was very different. I have no memory of fighting the cancer at that point. The focus now became one of making mam as comfortable as possible; of making our home a place of welcome for the very many visitors that we had.
Whatever people say about Lourdes, I believe that something happened there. There was a cure, but not the one we hoped for. The cure was within each of us. We were given the strength, the grace, the courage to endure the next few months and years.
For that, I am grateful.