When I awoke that July Tuesday morning I was resolved to leave Düsseldorf on a positive note - confident of your hoped for successful chemotherapy treatment starting in a few days.
Within hours of my imminent departure John would be arriving for a visit.
I thought someone from “home” would be a good transition, even through your lifetime Düsseldorf friends were constant and faithful visitors during your monthlong hospital stay.
Today, five years later, the memory of that time is as fresh as the day that it occurred.
I did not know that morning how I would say “good-bye” - but I did and within hours of my arriving back home in NY that same day John called and asked me to return - not a desperate request but one based upon your doctor’s recommendation that my time spent with you was a positive influence in your recovery.
My return home was uneventful - the hospital goodbye was our last to each other. I would say it again a month later in a more formal memorial service attended by your family of affection and friends who also gathered to remember you.
How was it that within five days of my departure you quietly passed away - a telephone call ever vivid to this day - as I expected a call of hopeful news of a positive result of the chemotherapy treatment you were finally convinced to begin?
Your daughter did not arrive in time before your death.
Early Monday morning news of your death was a day as quiet as the day of my saying good-bye to you. Strangely, during our last hours together no interruptions occurred in a hospital where daily routines broke up the monotony of hospitalization - nurses in and out, visitors coming by, the daily cleaning of your room by hospital staff.
But it was John who spoke to me - no one at the hospital would give me the news - no one ever called afterwards.
So many months afterwards my dreams of you were nightmares of desperately trying to reach you on the telephone, without success.
I wanted to see you again, speak with you again, have that time together before our last goodbye. A final acceptance of your death was months, years later. Even today, not entirely realized.
There was finally, however, a dream that occurred, over three years after you died, when, at the end of another telephone call the phone stopped ringing and you answered with your voice saying, “Hello, it’s me.”
I cherish that dream event as an answer to my understanding that we will never really say good-bye to each other. That realization is a comfort, today, as I remember.
I recently had the occasion to make a “non-emergency” visit to the local emergency room clinic with my 88 year old bed-ridden mother.
The visit was preventive, in that nursing care was anticipated based upon physical symptoms that appeared to require care also needed a medical diagnosis.
My mother’s primary care doctor of over thirty years wanted a “face to face” visit to approve home nursing care, based upon the visiting nurse requirements and Medicare.
Since my mother is in a hospital bed this could not be and the ER visit was arranged.
The ER staff were wonderful, caring and in every sense gave her quality care and signed the documents needed to advance our mother’s medical care needs at home.
They also gave us a DNR for ambulance transfer back home.
These events give pause for thought in many ways.
We were fortunate to have an ER physician who was caring and considerate - my mother will probably never see her own longtime physician ever again.
Other thoughts are still too raw still to articulate - the emotions around them are still churning.
The ER on the day of our visit was filled with “seniors” needing various medical attention, many with family members who brought them in.
One wonders, what experience brought them and what feelings they had afterwards?
Remembering the life of Audrey Hepburn, Humanitarian
Lesson Not Learned
At the heart of the Easter story is sunrise the first Easter morning.
Women who attended the death of Jesus at Golgotha, ritually prepared him for burial, then left his tomb closed behind a rock guarded by Roman soldiers, bravely return.
"Who will roll back the stone for us?" they ask undaunted by their act of defiance returning to the tomb of a buried, crucified Christ.
What they find is an abandoned tomb, guarded by an Angel, we are told, announcing to them the news of the risen Christ, sitting next to an empty shroud that once was wrapped around the lifeless body of Jesus.
The shroud becomes legend because of the imprint of Christ’s body, especially the marks of the wounds of crucifixion.
The women leave, except one, who is distraught and moves outside the tomb, to be met by a “stranger” who asks why she is distressed.
The conversation varies by biblical text but we know who it is between, Mary, known as the Magdelene and the risen Christ.
Mary is commanded to go and tell the others that ‘He is Risen.’
Mary is the first messenger of the good news of the risen Christ and women have been in the backseat as messengers in the Church ever since.
Whether women were present at the last supper, we can only surmise, with absolute certainty, when the twelve disciples were charged as priests, that now is the traditional day on Holy Thursday when men are ordained as priests in our modern day Church.
Whether those same women were also present on Pentecost, when the men who received the good news from Mary, and having received the Holy Spirit, then go out to publicly preach the ‘good news’ after weeks of being in hiding, is also left for us to ponder.
Women were not considered news worthy except that Mary at the tomb on Easter Sunday morning was and remains so to this present day.
What lesson should we take from this? Certainly one that the Church has not fully learned, or has yet accepted, about the role of women in the Church.
The day will come when the Church will “get it,” the message that is, and women will be ordained and take their rightful place as priests.
"Go and tell the others" Mary was commanded on the first Easter Sunday - entrusted as Christ’s first messenger.
Some day in the not so distant future, many other women will follow in her footsteps and take their rightful place preaching the good news as ordained priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
For now, it is about the lesson of Easter Sunday Church leaders have failed to pass on for over two thousand years. For now, the stone has not been rolled back for eligible, wanting to be ordained women waiting to go out to tell the good news of Christ to our modern day believers.
April 11, 1966
Remembering the fourteen during Holy Week at the Sisters of Mercy novitiate in Madison, CT.