Sunday, June 29, 2014

St. Anne, Patron Saint of Birthdays?

Today is my birthday.  My mom would be the first to tell you about the 30 hours of labor she went through and that my dad had to drive her 50 miles to Sacred Heart Hospital because she was afraid to go to the small local hospital.  She would tell you I am sensitive to the heat because it was over 100 degrees when she brought me home from the hospital and my face was as red as a tomato.  She would tell you that I didn't like wearing clothes but I did like drinking out of the hose.  This is the first birthday I have spent without seeing or talking with my mother.  I was thinking of what I miss most about her not being present on earth. It's been a few years since she was able to call me on my birthday and sing.  I had gotten my own card and wrapped my own present for several years now so she wouldn't feel anxious when she saw me but what I will always miss are these things....

My earliest birthday memory is the chocolate cake with fresh strawberries nestled in her butter-cream frosting because in June the strawberries in her garden were plentiful, sweet and juicy.  She let me eat the cake with my hands.  When I turned 12, she started making me her spectacular French Silk Pie.  Never have I been able to reproduce the taste sensation she magically created with so few ingredients.  It was a concoction of sugar, butter, eggs, unsweetened chocolate and vanilla in a flaky golden brown crust made with real lard and served with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.  The proportions were exactly right and the feeling of the filling as it warmed in your mouth and melted across your tongue contrasting with the light flaky crust was like no other.  It might have been the teaspoon of vinegar she added to the dough, or maybe it was because the eggs were fresh from the chickens next door and the cream was from Clasby's Dairy just down the road but really I know it was special because she cared.

I loved the way she smiled when I walked in the room.  It was her smile that truly substantiated, confirmed, approved, validated and gave force to my existence on the planet from the time I was born.  I wonder how many times she smiled at me over our lives together.  Every single time our eyes met, I got that smile, especially as she lost her ability to speak.  It said "we exist in this moment in each others' lives, solid and loving and real". We didn't need words. No one ever smiled at me like that but her.  That's what I miss.     

St. Anne with Mary statue from Chris Hart Studio
St. Anne was Mary's mom, Christ's Gramma, and the Patron Saint for homemakers, women, grandmothers, mothers, pregnancy and labor, lace makers and seamstresses.  She is traditionally shown beside a young Mary with a book teaching her to read because she valued education over stuff like my mom did. Mary was born to St. Anne late in life like I was.  I understand St. Anne.  She loved her daughter.  There wasn't anything she wouldn't do for her.  She felt that Mary was a gift not a chore.

With Jesus as a grandchild and Mary as her daughter, those who venerate St. Anne should have a pretty good chance at having their prayers answered, don't you think?  I can't imagine a petition that wouldn't be given serious consideration because of her connections. I don't usually pray to St. Anne for anything but instead, I find myself  giving thanks to St. Anne for bringing honor to motherhood and homemaking.  The thing about the saints is that they are just people doing  things they believe in, standing up for their values and principals regardless of the challenges they face.  St. Anne is a saint because she is somebody's mom and she loved and cared for her child.  She stayed true to her beliefs. She didn't conquer armies or fight the forces of evil like St. Michael.  She wasn't clubbed to death for her beliefs like St. Jude.  She wasn't an abused wife like St. Rita or have her eyes gouged out like St. Lucy.  Instead, she was just a mom, loving and comforting her child and grandchild, hoping good things for them and encouraging and caring for them just like my mom.

So on my birthday, I think about my mother's smile and the French Silk Pie and I thank St. Anne.  Without my mom I wouldn't have a birthday.                   



Friday, June 27, 2014

St. Michael,the Achangel, Protect Me from Myself!

My mother loved to sleep with her cat. but at 97 she ended up in the hospital with an extreme allergic reaction to poison oak and the resulting dehydration.  I felt that I needed to spend every second protecting her from the well meaning intentions of the medical system and staff.  I knew my mother was frail and old and probably not long for this world but I wanted her to die on her own schedule. I didn't want hospital staff inadvertently  killing her.  It was clear from the first moment she entered the emergency room that protection would be necessary.  She was a tiny woman and very irritated by the poison oak coursing through her body.  She itched on the inside and the outside.  There seemed to be no relief and when the nurse tried to catheter her with an adult size catheter it sent my mother into a frenzy.  Being old, tiny and dried up, with the staff holding her down, it was like trying repeatedly to force a football into a microscopic hornets nest.  When I arrived in the ER I could hear her screams in the hallway.  I was met by the nurse supervisor who told me my mother was combative.  That made two of us.  It wasn't until 24 hours later that I finally found a pediatric physician to quietly and softly put the catheter in so my mother could empty her bladder.

The Hospitalist charged with her care told me she was from a country that didn't have poison oak.  She apparently was from a country that didn't believe in family involvement when making decisions regarding patients' care either.  I was determined not to leave my mother alone for a second so I set up a schedule with caregivers and myself to protect her.  It seemed vigilance was of utmost importance and it seemed like a good time to pray to St. Michael, the archangel, the protector and warrior angel.

Detail of St. Michael with his foot on Satan's head in triumph over evil
Its a solid feeling to know someone is in your camp, looking out for you and there to protect you from the evils that sometimes pass your way.  St. Michael is the Patron Saint of policemen, soldiers, knights, EMTs, against temptation and of the dying.  He is known as the defender of heaven and he holds a double edged sword symbolizing truth and justice.  He is God's extraordinary friend, who is known as the "angel of death", descending at that moment to carry the soul to heaven, giving us a last chance at redemption.  St. Michael is the leader of heaven's Special Forces and their triumph over the powers of hell.  He is also known as a spiritual warrior, helping us with the battle against evil that wages within each of us.  St. Michael is definitely someone to have on your side.

St. Michael  statue from Chris Hart Studio
I love painting the St. Michael statue.  I always find the statue looks best when the finish is a metallic verdigris with a bronzed highlight.  For some reason, the statue seems to take on the strength of the metal.  He is depicted with his beautiful wings spread, holding his sword, his foot on Satan's head in a show of strength.

Later when my mother was feeling better, I told her St. Michael must also be the Patron Saint of Poison Oak, as he had helped in her battle against it.  She smiled and said "no, he just picked me up by my wings" .....And that he did.  .       .         .