Friday, November 16, 2018

Joyce Marie Kraus Has Something To Say Nov. 18th 2018

Sunday November 18, 2018
Gospel Reading: Mark 13:24-32

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” 

Verse 33 goes on to say; “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”  Mark’s entire Chapter 13 is about the end of time and narrates what Jesus said would happen. It sounds very much like Revelations. But, when I hear the words “no one knows the day or hour” and “you don’t know when the time will come” I cannot help but think how true these words are in reference to our own lives and eventual deaths. After just spending 10 years with the elderly, average age of 80-90, these phrases and thoughts ring home very personally. Chances are that we’ll probably see our own physical end before we see the world’s end. But then again, who knows?

“Only God knows” is what my Mother used to say when asked certain questions about the mysteries of faith or life. She was a very spiritual and devout Catholic  who did her best to live her faith. For her, God’s knowledge of all things was a certainty  and she repeated it often as I was growing up. I was her primary caregiver the last 10 years of her life during which she had a slowly progressive dementia. She could not tell you if she had eaten lunch but when it came to her prayers or subjects of  faith, she had little signs of memory loss. We had candid conversations about dying and about when she would be called home. Once again, her answer was “Only God knows for sure”.

Even though she knew that she had no control over the day or hour, she prepared my reciting a notable prayer called ‘Prayer for a Happy Death’. She said this prayer at least once a day with enthusiasm and remarkably with no fear. I also had to do my own preparing. I prayed that she would not die when she was sick, in pain or suffering. I was always a little envious of those who died in their sleep or while taking a nap and I wished that for my Mom. I thought that this request was maybe a bit presumptuous but I was later told by older friends in our parish that “not to worry, everyone over a certain age prays for this!”

Equally important was the question of whether I would be present or not at the time of her death. As her primary caretaker, I was with her almost all the time but every couple of months I would take a week off and travel out of state. This meant that there was a chance I would not be there when her time came. This too had to be left in God’s hands. Only He could know how it would all unfold. So I made sure every goodbye with my Mom, was like the last.

We are told to be watchful and alert. But, are we ready? Whether we’re talking about our own deaths or the end of the world, how ready are we today? What things could we do personally to prepare and be as ready as possible?
In the lesson of the fig tree Jesus tells us to pay attention to the signs of things to come. He uses nature as the example; summer is near when branches become tender and sprouts leaves. Right now the leaves have changed color and are falling so we know winter is fast approaching.

Similarly, in the last year of my Mom’s life I started to see signs that the end was getting closer. There were changes and definite signs in the things she said and did. As the end approached, it was something I felt as well. Even with this, she still had so many good days that my sister commented that Mom could still live another year or two. For Christmas that year it was decided that my husband would travel out west to be with his family and I would stay in the midwest with my Mom. My husband would return two days after Christmas and we would celebrate all together then. When that day finally arrived and my husband returned home my Mother was so happy to see him that she lit up like the Christmas tree. She extending kisses and hugs telling him that she loved him. Being tired from his overnight flight he went to rest while I spent the afternoon with my Mom.

It was a good day. We watched an old black and white movie together which was always one of our favorite things to do. She ate a good and healthy lunch, we did our prayers, went for a walk around the house and then it was time for her afternoon nap. At 93, this is what is called a ‘good day’. Around 6pm I got her up again to walk, which was our usual routine. I couldn’t believe how well she was maneuvering her walker and how fast she was moving.  I said “Wow, Mom you’re doing so well tonight, let’s do one more round” which we did. As we arrived in her bedroom to change into her night clothes I noticed how quickly she let go of her walker and sat down on the bed. As I grabbed the walker  to set it to the side, she slipped her feet up to lay down on the bed. I saw her head hit the pillow as I turned back around. At that very instant her eyes darted to the corner of the room. Something or Someone had grabbed her full attention and she was fixated. Her little brown eyes immediately got very big. In very slow motion her eyes  started to move from that corner of the room to the opposite corner. I stood stunned, watching as her eyes crossed the room. Then in the same slow motion her eyes returned to the center and stopped where I was, now kneeling right in front of her on the bed. I stared into her eyes and said “Mom?” but she did not see me anymore. She had gone blank. I took her hand and lifted it only to have it drop lifeless. I took a deep breath realizing what had just happened.

To my own surprise, I remained very calm. The day and hour had come. It was now. Never would I have thought starting that day, that it would end like this. It was too good, too ordinary. There had been signs but then again, not strong enough signs that would’ve put us on guard.

No, God surprised us when we least expected it. He answered our prayers in as perfect way as I think possible, and I will be forever grateful to Him. Now, more than ever do I believe that “of that hour or day, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father”.  This Sunday’s Psalm tells us that our faith will keep us watchful, alert and ready.

Psalm 16 You are my inheritance, O Lord!  O Lord, my allotted portion and my cup, you it is who hold fast my lot. I set the Lord before me: with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. 

Joyce Marie Kraus

Joyce Marie Kraus moved back to New York City two years ago after caring for her mother in Iowa, where she was born and raised on a working farm.  Upon her return, she found a spiritual home at Xavier and is a member of the Women Who Stayed.  She is a former fashion designer with a 30 year career working between Paris and New York.  She lives in Chelsea with her husband.  

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