My mother-in-law Josephine passed away yesterday morning. While we knew that she didn't have a long time to live, having been diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, it still came as a shock, a sudden loss, the realization that she is no longer with us physically.
The telephone woke us up. She had been staying with her daughter Gemma in Paris while undergoing chemotherapy. Zou's brother Tony called...he had been with her when she died. Despite the exchange in Arabic, I could tell what the call was. Zouheir sitting on the side of the bed, speaking in low tones, unusual for phone calls with his family. He lay back down and we talked for a while.
It's been a crazy summer. When we learned of his mother's diagnosis, we went to Paris to spend some time with her as soon as both boys were out of school. Just before we left, Zou found out that he had kidney stones and so an appointment for an ultrasound was booked when he got back, two weeks later. He had stones when he was a child, and has a large scar on his flank from the surgery back in Beirut. As it turns out, the stones are very large and must be removed by surgery, which is booked in September. Zou has been expending a lot of mental and emotional energy flipping between his mother's failing health and his own discomfort and upcoming intervention.
Yesterday morning was his first meeting with the surgeon, and so, still struggling with the news and all that he had to do to get to Paris, he headed off for his early morning appointment. He sent notes to various people at the office, reassigning work for the next week and cancelling the travel to the US that he had on his calendar. While he was gone, I was very emotional and spent most of my time thinking about her and praying.
We spent the day booking travel, making calls, sending emails, laundry, packing, just sitting. He got on a flight last night and arrived this morning to see his mom before her body was prepared for travel to Stockholm, where the funeral will be held. I had a brief email from him saying that he had spent some time with her, that she was surrounded by candles, a rosary, and a photo of Fr. Stephan Nehme, a Maronite Lebanese monk who was recently beatified.
This morning I took Wilson for his early walk, something that Zou usually does. As we rounded the second corner, the sun, just rising and still low in the sky, hit me full force, shining almost parallel to the ground. I couldn't really see anything in front of me, such was the intensity of the light in my eyes. I turned off my audiobook and Wilson pulled me to stop. It was a cool morning, unusual for recent weeks, and the sun warmed me. I had this strong sense of the presence of Josephine and of being told (her telling me?) that she is fine and that she loves me very much. I had a sense of peace, and of the power of the communion of saints, the mystical union of the Church Militant (on earth), the Church Penitent (undergoing purification), and the Church Triumphant (in heaven). No longer an advisor and helper here on earth, she takes on a new role in the Church Triumphant, where I know she will continue to intercede for her children and all those she loves.
The Communion of Saints (Tapestry), John Nava
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, California
Copyright 2009 Magnolia Editions