I have to kneel at her bedside since it is just a mattress on the floor. When she nods a go-ahead to me, I peel her blankets carefully aside. I am moved to see that underneath these she holds a wall crucifix against her heart. I smile. “Jesus!” I exclaim, and she smiles hesitantly back at me. I gently set the crucifix beside her. Wordlessly I ask permission for my intended task by gesturing to the tub of soapy water I have brought. She nods. I take the rag, and wringing it out, I bathe the swollen, arthritic hands of this emaciated woman who has found no room, no help, no comfort in our hospitals, homes, or hearts in her time of need. In so doing I suddenly feel that the hands I bathe are those of the Mother of God here present in her suffering daughter. “No room, no room,” we have said to her in so many ways.
O Mary, my Mother, Mother of God, obtain for us the mercy of being merciful, open our hearts and our lives to you.
I unzip her sweat jacket to find a wrinkled tee shirt of Our Lady of Guadalupe underneath, her face peaking out at me as the zipper goes down. I have to sit back for a minute in my amazement at the serendipity in this. It is as if Mother Mary is confirming my thoughts.
Didn’t Mary appear to St. Juan Diego as one of the poor and disregarded herself, in a complete visual identification with them, in her dress, facial features and skin color, also saying, “I am the Perfect and Ever Virgin Mary, Most Holy Mother of God.” This is what Mary seems to say to me in this moment of simple revelation. “Am I not here who am your Mother?”
Yes, you are here. Full of grace, intercede for us. Intercede for this child of yours who needs help and welcome.
Medically neglected for years because of lack of resources, little help from others, and the constant fear of deportation she lives in, her disease is now unnecessarily advanced and irreversible, the pain unspeakable. She knows the extreme of poverty. She has experienced in her body the denial of any claims of the alien among us for anything at all.
Pierced Heart of Mary, pray for us.
It has been impossible for her to bathe herself and she has not allowed her teenaged sons to do so as yet. It appears, thankfully, that she may allow me, possibly as I am in scrubs, a woman, and someone she has come to trust a little.
Her arms, which she can barely move because of the pain, have to be scrubbed for long want of attention. The skin is rough and cracked. I remove bright yellow socks from pain twisted feet, being careful to wash between each crooked toe. She sighs with relief as I lay the hot washrag on her chest and stomach. She seems surprised when I add lotion and a few dabs of lavender essential oil.
I realize the graciousness of what I am being taught, even though I feel shy right along with her. This is living reparation, I realize, to the heart of the Holy Mother, broken by indifference, ingratitude and hostility toward her in the littlest of her children.
Mother of Our Lord, accept this small act of reparation and be consoled.
I respectfully bathe as much of her body as I dare, as much as she indicates I may, each time I “ask.” I enjoy the privilege of washing her long, black hair. This is a tricky job since she is bed bound, hurting, and can hardly move. Gingerly and with growing reverence I cleanse the high cheek bones and artistic lines of her face, making sure to wash around her mouth, eyes and eye lids as tenderly as I would those of the dearest child or of my own mother.
The Lord is with thee.
She looks at me intently, her honey colored eyes inscrutable as I apply moisturizer to her pretty face and graceful neck. How beautiful she is!
I sit back on my heels and wring out my washcloth one more time. We look at each other.
I tell her thank you. She considers this.
“Gracias, Chawn,” she says with gracious dignity.
“You are my Queen,” I say.
She smiles. “OK, Chawn.”
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
“Have compassion on the heart of your Most Holy Mother (Mary) covered with thorns,
with which the ungrateful pierce it at every moment,
and there is no one to make an act of reparation to remove them.”
~The Christ Child appearing to Sister Lucia of Fatima
Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Poor,
Mother of the immigrant, the sick, the forgotten,
of those denied human dignity and compassion among us,
allow us the grace of ministering to you and dicovering you and your Son,
in the despised and abandoned of your children.
Open our hearts to gratitude,
that we may make living reparation to yours.
May justice and mercy become our sacrifice of joy.
Mother of God, pray for us to you Divine Child.