The past three days can only be described as Amazing!! Thursday was a fairly normal day at work. I was working late until it was time to go to Virginia Theological Seminary for the first night of a class entitled “Becoming Holy Whole”. I was really looking forward to it. Then I got a call from the owner of Mom’s group home saying that during an unusually busy time at the home providing tours for the families of prospective new residents, Mom had gotten out of the home! I stood up from my desk and started to gather my belongings while the owner talked. I was told that while the caregivers frantically searched for her around the home and outdoors, Mom had gotten almost half a mile up the road and had apparently fallen into a ditch. Her fall was observed by a passerby who thankfully called 911. A fire truck arrived, helped Mom and after the ambulance arrived she was loaded onto a stretcher. I was also told that she was talking and seemed to be ok. I remember thinking, how can she be ok if she fell into a ditch? She’s 90 years old. I ran to my car and raced to the hospital the owner had learned they were taking Mom to. When I arrived at the ER, Mom was in fact talking and she did indeed appear to be ok. I asked her if she’d gone for a walk. She replied “no, I haven’t been on a walk in a long time. I only came here because they wanted me to go for a ride”. The EMTs who were still standing by Mom’s stretcher smiled. The doctors and nurses who attended to Mom so lovingly were amazed, not only that she was 90 years old, but that she hadn’t broken anything in her fall. The cat scan of her brain and spine, xrays of her abdomen and her blood work were all normal. While I was with Mom waiting for the test results, I received multiple calls from the group home owner, and ALL of the home’s caregivers asking how Mom was. Many of them were as distraught as I was, and some were in tears. By the time Mom was released later that night and I returned her to the group home the caregivers were standing at the door awaiting our arrival. What a sweet homecoming! I got more of the story of how they believe Mom escaped and we discussed ways to prevent this from ever happening again. As I drove home totally exhausted I kept thinking how AMAZING it was that Mom was ok…
While waiting in the emergency room with Mom, I had written to the adminstrator at Virginia Theological Seminary advising them that I would miss the first class. On Friday morning, I received an email not only from the adminstrator who I’d met during the class I took last month, but also from the Professor of the class advising me that they’d prayed for Mom during the class and looked forward to seeing me in next week’s class. He shared what they had covered in the first night and reviewed what we’d be covering in the second week so I’d be ready. I thought the time, care and thoughtfulness of the Professor reaching out to me was AMAZING. This isn’t a class for credit, just a way for some of us to explore more closely our relationship with God. The emails from VTS made me feel as if me and Mom mattered to them.
Friday night I headed to dinner with the group of us who serve as Vergers at St. Mark’s. The dinner was hosted by David and Stephanie Deutsch in their lovely home on Capitol Hill. David has been head verger at St. Mark’s for I don’t know how long, and a few years ago, I affectionately gave him the name “Head Verger Dude”. After Thursday’s episode with Mom I was ready for some fun and relaxation. It was an evening full of fellowship, food and love! After dinner, David gave us a brief lesson on verging and its importance in the church before we moved to the living room where he gave us each a card and gift and thanked us for what we each brought to our roles as vergers. It was AMAZING! Before the evening ended, David announced that he was handing off the Head Verger role to Josie Jordan, a calm, loving and beautiful soul. Like David, Josie is also a verger at the Washington National Cathedral. We will be in great hands with Josie and I look forward to working even more closely with her. I got home to see my gift from David was a coffee mug that says “Vergers are at your service! Caretakers of the liturgy, Helpmates to the clergy and Shepherds to the congregation.” I’m having my coffee in the mug as I type this post! One of the things Josie shared with us Friday night that stuck with me and became the title of this blog is that she believes the verger’s role is “creating a space for the amazing!”. I instantly got out my phone and wrote that down! I so believe that’s true – whether we are creating space for the Holy Spirit, or comfort and support or engagement and enrichment – it should be AMAZING for everyone in that space!
Even after getting home much later than I had intended from the Deutsch’s Friday night, I was up bright and early yesterday and ready for my drive to North East, Maryland to participate in a Regroup, Relax and Release retreat with the Coffee, Tea and Me Caregiver Support Group from Baltimore. I had met the group’s founder Shirl Parnell at the Alzheimer’s Association event I spoke at last November and she “insisted” that I come and speak to the group. I had never even heard of North East, Maryland but after driving for two hours it was a welcoming and very quaint little town. Then I arrived at Sandy Cove Ministries – a huge retreat center, that makes you feel relaxed as soon as you drive onto the property. I love water and it’s one of the first things you notice about the resort. The conference facilities, campground, hotel and cabins are all surrounded by water. I took a deep breath and walked down to the water. I arrived an hour early so I had time to just sit and take it all in. I felt as if the water had washed over me and it was AMAZING… I felt the anguish of Mom’s incident just two days before begin to wash away..
Before the event started, the entire planning team of the support group held hands around the registration table and prayed. Witnessing that prayer set the tone for the entire day for me. By the time the event started I felt loved and embraced. The day is hard to describe for anyone that wasn’t there… but there was prayer and praise, laughter and dancing, self-esteem building and unconditional love and support. We all know how overwhelming caregiving can be, so there were also many tears of release too!! I received so many hugs during the event that I lost count. I had planned to come back home after lunch, but I felt AMAZING and knew that God was telling me to stay until the end. I did, and it was so worth it. We were told to “let things go that aren’t ours to carry”, and Lord knows I needed to hear that! After the event, I put on my sneakers and went for a long walk along the water.
There were these huge orange boulders all along the water and I knew that Tim was there too. For me, the entire retreat and it’s incredible location created for me as Josie put it a “space for the amazing” at a time when I really needed it. I’m hoping that this upcoming week will be a lot less emotional, but I’m definitely open to and ready for more of the “AMAZING”! I’m ready!
Thank you for invoking blessing on my Sunday morning with your post. I am learning that when I receive a post from you, I need to be aware of the two levels within it: 1) what happened in the world;
and 2) what Loretta experienced in her heart and soul as a result of what happened in the world. So many people, telling the story of their mother’s wandering from a group home (which I also experienced when my mother was still alive), would experience the event only as terrifying (which it is) and would be full of blame and anger that caretakers – even under difficult circumstances – would have allowed this to happen (which are understandable reactions). Not one iota of such comes through in your post, even though I know you were terrified and terribly concerned about how this could have happened. Your post is full of gratitude, warmth, surprise, and love – for your mom, for her caretakers, for the medical personnel. If we’re talking about amazing, my dear Loretta, count me among the amazed – at your great equanimity, your grace, your optimism, your deep faith, and your amazing love, even in the wake of such a traumatic event. Let me also say how glad I am that your mother is OK and that she didn’t even seem disturbed by what happened. I think, as the Minnesota Germans are fond of saying, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
Your recounting of your time at the caregiver conference, the vergers’ dinner, and the response of your VTS professor and administrator to Friday evening’s events offer a beautiful story of how you encountered and embraced the events of your world this weekend, whether positive or negative. Reading this post and others of yours makes me begin to speculate that the world, encountering a great and generous heart, must in some way be primed to respond with its own generosity and grace. If that is true, just think what could happen with more Lorettas in the world! I know your life is not always easy, and you have described hard times and difficult encounters in the past. But I do know this about you: that your impulse is ALWAYS to look for and find the good, the blessing, the grace, in nearly everything that happens to you, that you live with gratitude as your default response to almost everything. I so love that about you, Loretta!
Thank you again, Loretta, for this post and for being who you are. You are an inspiration to me, and I know, to many others.
Much love and gratitude, dear friend,
Thank you so much Karen!! You made my day!!! The incident with my Mom was absolutely terrifying… and at first I was really upset!! I had purchased a tracker that is placed in Mom’s shoe more two years ago when she first escaped from her previous group home. All they have to do is place the insert on a charger and night and insert it in her shoe in the morning when they dress her. Then if she exits the place, I get a text on my phone and can call to see what’s happening. So I’m a backup if she gets away while they are busy. BUT they hadn’t put the tracker in her shoe that day….But by the time I had talked to the group home owner and the caregivers and heard their anguish, I calmed down. It was an array of errors that I know they regret. I put myself in their place and knew it could have happened with me too. That’s the mindset I went to.
Those other events, especially the caregiver retreat, gave me great relief from the heaviness I think I felt about how close the incident with Mom was to a tragedy. I was beyond grateful that we had dodged a bullet and ensured that my treatment of the caregivers and owners reflected that. We sat down on Friday and wrote up new procedures and they have to send a report to the State of MD explaining what happened to cause my Mom a trip to the ER.
If my Mom could have a conversationwith you, she’d tell you that I was born with this positive spirit and it just intensified as I got older. I embrace that as being part of my calling!!
Thank you my friend for reading my blog and sharing your amazing feeling with me!!! I so appreciate having you in my life!!
Much love back to you!
I am so impressed by the simplicity and grace of your comment about “that’s the mindset I went to.” What a gift you offer when you say that so simply and forthrightly. I’m afraid most of us very rarely ready to go to that mindset, and the world would be such a better place if we were able to and cultivated that kind of understanding for our fellow human beings, many of whom are coping with very difficult situations, as I know most workers in care facilities do 24/7. We do all make terrible mistakes; yet we tend to be so unforgiving when it happens and threatens us or someone or something we care about. I am so grateful for your example, Loretta. I am going to strive to cultivate and “go to” your mindset in myself. It reflects the very heart of the Gospel, I think, which is terribly hard for our self-centered egos to adopt and model.
Again, bless you, my friend, and thanks.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, so my default now is to change my mindset right away before I do or say something I’d regret later. A consider it a gift I gave to myself. I think it’s extending my life too. You are the BEST!! One of the things I love about writing is that I can learn so much from others and what works for them and what doesn’t… I feel really Blessed by that! You’re the BEST!