Still True

Early morning at the beach

Early morning at the beach

There’s a middle grade book that I just love.  I read it to my class every year and they loved it too.  It’s called Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt and it’s about four kids whose mother abandons them in a mall parking lot.  The mom has serious issues and just wanders off.  The thirteen year old takes charge and decides what they’re going to do and where they’ll go.

What made me think of it this week was eleven year old, James. Every morning he’d wake up and  mumble, “It’s still true.”

And I guess that’s what I’m doing these days…waking up every morning and mumbling, “It’s still true.”  Jerry is still struggling with speech and processing.  And I’m still trying to figure out how to help without driving him (or me) nuts.  We loved having Erin around for a few days and know how hard it was of her to leave her kids (thanks Brent) and come running at the end of the first week of school when kids are crashing from exhaustion.  It was so good to have her around even though I think it left Jerry especially tired(probably from trying so hard to be “up” for his daughter)

So we figured we would be back to the “new normal” today.  But it’s not happening.  Last week, when  Jerry came home from his first trip to the Y to work out, he had some chest pains.  They weren’t serious, they didn’t last long and (silly me) when he said they were nothing, I believed him.  But I did mention it to the doctor when I saw him on Friday and today we met with the cardiologist who decided it was time to take a look at how things were going with his heart.

So we’re back to the hospital..this time for a heart cath…tomorrow morning.  Hopefully we’ll find out all is well and be back home by mid afternoon.  There is a possibility that Jerry might need a stent or something …that will require a few days in the hospital (Jerry’s very favorite thing)  Anyway, one day at a time, one minute at a time…insane, isn’t it?

On another subject, Kate’s sister, Frani, wrote the most amazing eulogy for her sister.  She was good enough to call and read it to me early in the morning the day of the funeral.  I laughed and I cried…Frani is a gifted artist AND a gifted writer…The girl has it all!

Kate’s eulogy
MY SISTER KATE IS A HARD ACT TO FOLLOW ……She ALWAYS WAS

TRY GROWING UP IN HER LONG CAST SHADOW. IT WAS INFURiating.SHE NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG. THE NUNS WOULD Ask ,incredulously , of ME or KAREN “you’re KATE’s SISTERS.? ”   And if you think we had to live up to that image there was POOR ROB. WELL HE DIDNT HAVE A CHANCE. When called in for a conference the  NUNS WOULD SAY TO MAMS “you’re SURE he’s KATES brother?”
And what a bossy big sister she brings new meaning to that word. Every Sat AM she’d
‘drag us out of bed to do OUR chores. And we couldn’t go out to play til we did it good enough. You realize this is Kate NOT our mother! PETE  & BREN being much younger dodged this scenario.
Yup, Tough Act to Follow

THen she trumps us all all by entering the convent! YEAH RIGHT…..  Irish Catholic Family gets a  get- into-heaven-free card !   A child with a religious VOCATION, R U KIDDING ME? What more could Catholic parents ask?

But we Thought we caught a break years later ,when after much mental anguish, Kate decides to leave community life with the Sisters of St Joseph. Boy was my dad mad. There goes his  free-get- into-heaven free card!
For, us the sibs , the  the bar has finally  been lowered…just a bit

Then what does she do? She moves to Chicago and becomes a chaplain at Children’s Hospital. She spends her days dealing with terminally ill, dying children. She consoles the families of these children. And often, in the end , she was asked to give their eulogies.  Beautiful. Eloquent Soothing words to ease their pain. I remember being in her office at Children’s and noticed a huge bulletin board filled with smiling but sick children’s faces. I asked Kate who all these kiids? She said these are the ones I played with and prayed for. They are all wonderful memories. Again that incredible act to follow!

We are constantly reminded of her uniqueness as her friends have texted, emailed and sent cards daily for over a year sharing with us her special gift of friendship. And Hallmark cards,     a dying form of communication ,        was Kate’s forte.
NEVER  was their an occasion that Kate did not send a very special hand picked card for that recipient. And if it went to the nieces and nephews THERE WAS  ALWAYS A bonus: MONEY!

Kate loved the sea and the sun. When she was near it she was her happiest. While recovering from brain surgery or BS as I liked to call it. last fall BREN sent out the unforgettable picture forever burned in our minds, of her basking in the sun in the hospital’s prayer garden, head thrown back and bagging every bit of the Suns warmth

BEAUTY OF EARTH AND SEA AND AIR  meant so much to Kate. She was in HARMONY with it. She’d walk in SOLITUDE for miles on the beach, feeling the sun warm her face, her neck her shoulders SOOTHED by the constant rhythm of the waves. So in February
We  took her TO HER BE LOVED Venice Beach FL for one last season knowing how she dreaded the long, dark, cold, MILWAUKEE winters . This idea SHOULD BE CLASSIFIED under the category  WHAT NOT to do with a brain tumor patient!

She wasn’t THAT  Kate anymore. The one who did beach yoga at sunset, nor was she capable of solitary, OR ANY walks along the jetty. Years ago she took up knitting while in Florida. That door, too was closed to her. Her heart  was truly broken. So
We packed up and took her home. REALLY HOME this time to her family in Boston.
Before we left she gave me an old favorite of hers: GIFTS FROM THE SEA by Anne Morrow Lindbergh…..pulled right from the sixties. Before I wrote THIS EULOGY  I re-read Lindbergs book. It influenced Kate and it influenced my thoughts for today.

It has been a long hard 13 month journey for the Sullivan clan. I know I speak for my siblings and nieces and nephews and her friends . It was a pleasure and an honor
to give back just a little of what you, KATE,  have given to the world. We’d do it again.
No regrets.

This is not the end, dear sister, but a new beginning, time for you to find new beaches to walk, new shells to find and beautiful sunsets TO SOOTHE YOU.

KATE SULLivan: An impossible but beautiful act to follow….

Jerry and Erin. 1984

Jerry and Erin. 1984

Jerry and Erin 2016

Jerry and Erin 2016

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15 thoughts on “Still True

  1. The catherization is the best way to look at his heart. Good to do that proactively, and not wait for another incident. They are pretty darn easy. John had two. A friend just breezed through hers. They will see a lot. John’s triple bypass has been a new lease on life. He’s 80 now, and was once at 50% after the Lyme hit hard and arteries were blocked. He’s a good solid and happy 80% now. I’ll take it!

    Gave Sonia’s daughter a big hug for you today!!!!

  2. (This may be a repeat.)

    I love the picture of Jerry and your darling Erin. My goodness, Mary, so dear

  3. Wendie Highsmith

    Prayers and fingers crossed for good news from the heart cath.

    Wendie

  4. Stay positive, Mary! If it is Jerry’s heart that needs repair, it is wonderful to find out early. Good thing you mentioned it to the doctor! Kate’s eulogy was so moving…a loving tribute to a remarkable person!

  5. Love you, friend!

  6. Jerry hasn’t changed a bit! Keep us posted….& call if u need us.

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  7. Keep faith Mare. We’re pulling for the both of you. Love the pics of Jerry and Erin. You are so clever
    and organized with the illustrations. I need to hire you to get my photo library together.

  8. You and Jerry are in my thoughts tonight, Mary.

  9. I’m thinking the catherization would be a good thing as it may explain the cause of his stroke and proactively prevent another one. Maybe opening the arteries & getting the blood flowing freely could help in his recovery as well. I feel optimistic. We love you. both.

  10. May be a blessing! Get the problem fixed before serious symptoms, but it doesn’t feel that way. Keep us posted!

  11. Please know I think of you and Gerry often, with positive thoughts and love. Do try to take it one day (or when the crap gets really bad, one minute) at a time. And do let friends take care of you, my friend! ❤

  12. Dear Mary- so tough are these times for you. I agree with Nina Tepper that perhaps the cath will also help find a cause of the stroke and healthier days are ahead.
    Prayers and fingers crossed – xxoo

  13. Thanks, as always, for sharing your life, wisdom, and insights with us through times good and bad. I’ll be thinking of you and Gerry as you wait for the results of the catherization. Sending love your way.

  14. carolen73@gmail.com

    Mary, this reply is from Len’s phone. We truly are so sorry Jerry now has an issue With his heart. We will continue to pray That things turn around and each day He will have improved a little more. Mary, easier said than done, but try to take care of yourself. Please give Jerry a hug from us. Our Best Always, Carole and Len

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  15. Sending love and prayers . Sorry to hear about the heart surgery just can take one day at a time maybe yoga tomorrow xoxo

    Sent from my iPhone

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