Barbara Billey on right, mother JoAnne holding chalice, seated:Kathy Worotny of our HOC International Faith Community.
It’s the day before Halloween. A paramedic is wheeling a man to his bed in the emergency room of our local hospital. The man is wearing orange prison garb, and his legs are bound together by handcuffs. What I see is no aberration, no trick or treat. Neither is the reality that my 80-year old Mom, JoAnn Wells is here, too, having suffered a heart attack a few hours earlier.
In April of this year, Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer that has spread to her lungs. For months, Mom has tapered her usual 3-mile a day walks down to a few minutes, with a stop to catch her breath. She, however, has been unrelenting in sustaining an active social life, her love for people large. Even while Mom’s physical health has been declining, her spirit remains vibrant and her faith in God unwavering.
Now it’s Halloween. My Dad, Bob Wells and I stand at Mom’s bedside, where she gladly receives from us the Sacrament of the Sick. She looks remarkably well for having little sleep in the noisy, blinking emergency room, her rosy cheeks and sparkling blue eyes defying her condition, but that’s Mom – indefatigable even after a heart attack. I read prayers that I created this morning and Dad anoints her. We hold hands while praying the Jesus Prayer and Dad doesn’t let go.
God of love,
protect and give strength to Your beloved daughter, JoAnn.
During this time of trial and suffering,
fortify her with steadfast faith in You and in Your son, Jesus.
Hear my cry, O Merciful One,
listen to my prayer;
from the depths of my being
I call to You,
for my heart is faint.
Lead me to the Rock that is
for You alone are my refuge,
your steadfast Love conquers
Let me dwell in your Heart forever!
O, to be safe under the shelter
of your wings!
For with tender Love, You have
heard my prayers,
You have shown me the heritage
of those who know your Love and Friendship.
Committed to my birthright, I will
serve You in this world and
in the Unseen Realm of Love.
As I walk on your path forever,
You fill me with abiding love,
gentle joy, deep peace,
I shall sing praises and blessings
to your Name, as
I abandon myself into your Heart
moment by moment.
For You are the Love and Mind
of all creation!
Through this holy anointing (anoint forehead), may God of infinite love and mercy hold you in the grace of the Holy Spirit.
(Anoint left hand) May our God of forgiveness, free you from any harm that you may have done; save you and raise you up.
(Anoint right hand) May the peace of God, bring wisdom to believe that you have been and will continue to be a compassionate companion of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Jesus Prayer: Our Father/Mother who is in heaven …
Holy One, You gave Your son, Jesus the gift of the Holy Spirit,
which strengthened Him for his journey of justice and peace.
You were close to Him always, especially near his time
of suffering and death.
We believe with our whole heart that you are with us now.
Creator God, Spirit Holy and Jesus, healer and friend with us,
through this holy anointing, give JoAnn comfort in her suffering.
When she is afraid, pour forth Your courage and peace of mind.
When hope feels lost, return her to hope in Your present and eternal embrace.
And when feeling alone, assure her of the support of family, friends and her faith communities.
We ask this through the Risen Christ whose Spirit lives in and with us.
May the blessing of our God be with you, JoAnn, now and always. Amen.
On the cusp of All Saints’ Day, the experience of anointing Mom leaves us with a peace that passes understanding. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is anointed with fragrant, expensive oil by a woman who is deemed by many as a sinner. Jesus forgives her, says she is “A woman who showed great love” and is “The woman of great faith” (Luke 7:47-50). This woman is my Mom. She is all of us.