On Tuesday of last week, my wife and I decided to fly to New Orleans, rent a van, and drive her dying mother from Louisiana to Maine. The circumstances were that my sister-in-law, a nun serving in Lacombe, Louisiana, had been caring for their mother for 18 months. My wife had been encouraging her to get their mother home for the past six months before she became too ill to fly. Unfortunately, what was predicted happened (she became quite ill), and we found ourselves in the position to either let her pass thousands of miles away from the rest of her family, or do something really irrational out of compassionate love. You see, their mother wants nothing more than to be home and around her family at this point in her life. She had almost entirely stopped eating, had numerous issues with heart failure, and she could not ambulate at all. Clearly, flying home was not an option.
As the other siblings contemplated what to do, it became obvious to me that we were the only ones with the capacity to get her home safely and peacefully, and that it needed to happen immediately. During a moment of consternation, I looked at my wife and told her I would totally fly to New Orleans and bring her mother home. The next day we were on a plane, and less than 48 hours later, their mother was in her home in northern Maine surrounded by her family.
I tell you this story because we experienced something you write about in your paper. We went to a place of complete loving kindness and compassion. My sister-in-law was completely unprepared when we arrived, but we were able to calmly – and without judgment – help her pack, even though it caused us to not start driving until after midnight. During the drive, we saw my mother-in-law become more conscious, gain color in her face, and she even asked me at one point to get her a chicken sandwich and chips. She started taking some nourishment — something she had refused for several days. Lifting her out of the car upon our arrival, she put her arms around me told me that she loved me. I knew what she meant. You see, the road trip was an act of compassionate love, and a gift to those of us who got to do it. Reading your paper reminded me of that and helped me to put into perspective the profound impact that being in that space can have.