the stroke of midnight. a stroke of luck. a stroke of brilliance. the stroke of a tennis racket. stroke a golf club. backstroke. stroke a child’s head or the long back of a sturdy horse. ischemic brain stroke. traumatic brain injury.
what the hell is a stroke? a sweeping movement of beauty or a life-altering moment, impacting time, relationships, understanding, functionality?
in slow motion, everything happened at once. my mother, the woman who could walk off a migraine, was taken down. she can’t remember what she had for breakfast as she puts her arthritic, bent fingers together to describe “only a little bit.” she cannot find so many words; she has lost them somewhere in her mind. she knows what she is saying, but the words are unintelligible. her frustration turns to tears, to giggles, to anger. there is no telling what will come out. i see only the struggle that is battling in her brain. i feel the laughter in my own body, and i hold her tears as holy water.
we sat with a book that christine had given me. “who is christine?” slowly we follow the thread of memory backwards to the feelings of love and connection she has with the abbess. ah, yes. “she loves me. oh, i do love her.” simple. it is enough memory to move forward.
a book of angels. i ask if she has been aware of an angel. she puts the book down, ponders, searches for words and tells me there was an angel with her. maybe she meant at the hospital. maybe early, as a child. maybe she meant today or yesterday or years ago. but, yes, there was the presence of an angel. she examined each page, touching, stroking faces and feet and eyes, connecting her own face, her own feet, her own eyes. seeing herself in the pictures, seeing the angel within, recognizing something sacred.
she carefully and excitedly ripped pictures out of a huge book. “are you sure this is OK?” seven pictures were torn out, each individually kissed, held to her heart and tear-stained. she carefully moved three images around her paper to just the right spot. oh, what to do with a glue stick. like a child, she unscrewed the top and smeared the back of the photographs with glue. deep, deep breaths as she viscerally encountered the three pictures in a new form and she saw them as whole, as a story, as part of her angel experience.
few words were exchanged. no questions were asked. we just were. we were together in a place that did not require explanation or description. She allowed herself to be in the moment, in her spirit, to let her spirit remember.
she needs to do all the work, such hard work. speech therapy. occupational therapy. doctors appointments and hair appointments and nail appointments and four-mile walks by the river and constant visits from family and friends. thinking and practicing and repeating. over and over and over. her brain, the bruised and deadened part, is tired. she is trying so hard to “be” better and “do”what needs to be done to speed he recovery.
yet she needs tending time. time to rest and allow her body to heal. she needs time to soothe her soul. time to sing “How Great Thou Art” and “Beautiful Savior” even without the words. this is the time for her to learn to embody the deep, vast love of her God and her family and friends. this is the time for her soul to be nurtured. not with running around, but with breathing and visualizing, remembering and knowing her place in the world as Elder, as Crone, as Grandmother, as Sophia wisdom.
She found that with the angels yesterday.