It has come to my attention over the last little while that when I write about something that’s really bothering me it tends to just go away. Like once it’s spoken it no longer has a hold on me. Well I have a demon (figuratively speaking) that has been tormenting me for the last four weeks and I’m hoping if I finally bring myself to confess it now and bring it to the light that there is a chance it might not haunt me as much. It’s not the type of torment that will just go away easily, but at least this might be a start.
When I think of Bernadette one of my first thoughts that goes with her memory is the thought that I deceived her and now I can’t tell her how sorry I am and ask for her forgiveness -and hear her say, “I forgive you, Mommy!” We’ve never lied to our children. We were honest that there was no real Santa Clause, Easter Bunny, or Tooth Fairy. When they asked us questions we did our best to be as honest as they needed us to be. But in the very end, I’m tormented with the reality that I deceived Bernadette when it came to the truth of her dying.
Back in November, someone told me that my ‘job’ now was to prepare her for her death. Well, for a little child maybe that would be a scary thought and I didn’t want to scare her. Bernadette was the type of child who thought deeply about things and I didn’t want her to live in fear every day that she would die soon.
When we were at the hospital and we were deciding whether to try chemo or not, I told Bernadette the options and what the doctors thought might happen. I said that Mommy and Daddy would decide what to do but that we wanted to know what she thought. I said that she was very sick and that we had two choices: we could try the doctor’s medicine but it might not work and it might make her very sick, or we could go home and wait for Jesus to come take her home to Heaven. Of course I couldn’t have that conversation with her without many tears. Bernadette said she’d rather go home. That was what we were leaning towards anyways, so I told her we would go home.
When we got home we had the conversation again. I told her that Jesus had two options, He could heal her, known as a miracle, or He would come and take her home with Him. She seemed quite okay with that idea. We never elaborated on it further and I never used the word ‘dying’.
I did ask her if she wanted to go to heaven and she asked me, “Will I be sick in heaven?” and when I said “no” and she then replied, “Then I want to go to heaven.” She understood too because she was standing in front of my desk one day looking at two holy cards and two medals of St. Jude and St. Peregrine my friend sent her and she matched them up. Then she quietly said, “I get to go live with them soon.” She knew.
But after that, I started trying things to make her better. I just had to, I couldn’t just sit there and resign myself to Bernadette’s fate IF there was any chance there was something out there that might work. The internet was full of stories of how people were cured from cancer after the doctors gave up all hope. And Bernadette trusted me. She would do almost anything I asked her to. After that we never again talked about her going to heaven, we always talked about hoping she’d get better.
It wasn’t until four weeks ago today, Thursday the 29th of January, that I finally realized with full force that Bernadette wasn’t going to get better. She was going to die any day. When we were alone and I had composed myself enough, I told her that I thought Jesus was coming to get her very soon. She wasn’t fully conscious I don’t think because she’d been very sleepy the last few days, but her one eye was open a crack. I wish I’d told her then and there how sorry I was that I couldn’t make her better. She trusted me, I was her mother and I failed her.
So that is my greatest torment and I hope and pray that it will subside some day because it causes such incredible pain it isn’t funny. It drives me to torrents of tears in seconds if I let myself think about it, or the thoughts force themselves on me. And I know part of my problem is the fact that I’m still a nursing mother. Many people may not know this but when a mother is nursing her heart is especially exposed and vulnerable. At least that’s been my experience nursing all six of my children. It’s like our hearts are made of chocolate with an outer coating so it doesn’t melt in your hand – M&M’s for example. When we’re nursing that outer coating is gone and we melt quickly. I think it’s a hormonal thing, one of God’s ways of helping a mother bond with her baby. When baby gets older and starts to need direction generally by then they’re not being nursed any more and mother’s heart regains that little bit of a crust which helps them cope with baby’s tears when they’re told ‘no’. So in my case, being a nursing mother, I agonized over everything Bernadette was going through just that much more keenly.
All those maternal instincts that are on high alert for Zoe also spilled over for Bernadette. I know that that is part of my problem and until I’m done nursing I may continue to be tormented. I just hoped that maybe, just maybe, if I spoke my torment it might ease the pain just a little. Confession is good for the soul. I pray it is good for this tormented soul too.
Having time with our kids is like money, there is never enough. No matter how much time we invest, we will never feel as if we’ve given them enough. Why? Because we love them, and we want more for them than we could ever provide…
Patti, I so appreciate your transparentness and vulnerability that you show in your posts. God has placed in you the purity and beauty of a mother’s love. May you, in time, come to know His peace that surpasses all understanding and the assuredness that you did the right thing with your precious little Bernadette. It reminded me of someone dear to me who was dying of cancer and I was her primary care giver at the time. The Oncologist insisted I tell her that the chemo had failed and that there was nothing more we could do. He said I had to tell her that she was dying as it wasn’t “fair” to her not to know. We had all been praying for Jesus to heal her and when I told her the news and used the words “dying” she turned her head slowly and looked at me with these huge, round eyes that were so trusting of me and dependent on me and with innocence and wonder softly whispered, “I ammmmm?” Her eyes welled up with tears and my heart broke that day and I immediately regretted my words. I wished I had not said it then and now. You see, there is power in the spoken word. God came to give us life and life more abundantly – here on earth and in heaven. I loved the wisdom you used to handle the “dying” issue with Bernadette so beautifully. Do not feel regrets. Love to you, my friend.
PS…… Perhaps you might like to re-read Jeannie’s manna gathering reflection first Sunday of lent year B. on desert times. I just did and it struck a chord. …….and I know words are easy to say but your heart is still broken…. V
Patti, Patti, Patti. You might want to re-read your post and believe what you wrote. Bernadette has (still) an incredibly devoted mother. Western medicine and alternative medicine could not cure Bernadette because God wanted her to come home. You could not possibly have accomplished what your heart wanted so desperately to do because that was not God’s plan for Bernadette. What is to forgive? You loved her and nursed her and did all you could do. You must have faith that that was just what God wanted you to do. Believe it….don’t doubt yourself. Bernadette was on loan to you for almost 7 years to accomplish whatever God wanted her to accomplish and then she went back to her real home. Why are you asking forgiveness ? Bernadette absolutely knows your heart with a greater depth and love from where she is now than we could ever imagine. We know that if given the choice of staying in heaven or going back to earth it would be a no brainer no matter how much we were loved on earth. We would stay in heaven . You already know all this with certainty, Patti. My prayer for you is that you find peace of heart and mind in your anguish. You could not have done more. ” If only ” doesn’t work. It is futile and separates us from God’s peace and for sure Bernadette does not want that for her beloved mommy. With love. Virginia
Patti, there is nothing Bernadette needed you to tell her. Trusting in our Father God and all that He is, He would have prepared her himself and Spirit to Spirit, she knew and would expect nothing of you but to be loved and to love you back until it was her time to go. You trying new things in hope that she would get better is a natural and honest quest for all of us here on earth. Jesus has only these words for you, “Well done my good and faithful servant, I asked you to be my hands and you did so willingly, my heart and you gave in full, thank you , thank you, thank you.” I experienced great guilt when my father passed away and found this scripture very helpful, Romans 8 :31-39. I have realized since that no matter how I had thought I failed him, Jesus who knows me the very best made up for my short comings as he knows my heart and knew all along my intention was to only love the best way I knew how. We will always feel limited in this earthly life I have come to understand this well, but thanks be to God, He is so much bigger than we are. He understands…he got there first , before you could make any mistakes, so you would not have to live in guilt. He’s got you covered sweet sister, never fear! This I know! xo
Patti, you are the most amazing person I’ve ever had the privilege to know, and I agree with your Mother and your friends wholeheartedly. Bernadette had the best mother God could possibly find for her, and now that she is at peace, she would want peace of mind and heart for you too. You don’t need Bernadette to forgive you. You need to forgive yourself, and let go of the guilt which is not something that’s good to hold on to. Much love and many prayers coming your way, my beautiful niece.
” Forgive you for what mommy? You are the best mommy any little girl could have. I love you.”
I pray that your ‘writing about it’ HAS helped you to let go of these thoughts. The worry that you may have ‘failed’ is proof of how much love and care you have for your children. When Bernadette looked at the images of those saints and said she was going to be with them soon….that was the moment that proves You Did NOT fail. You taught her AND she understood where she was going, and who she would be seeing when she got there! You did what God asked you to do.
I have no idea if any of my words can help you. I will continue to pray that God wrap you in the cozy, soft blanket of His peace!
Praying this leaves your heart soon, I agree with the posts below. I can add nothing more except I believe two things – one – Bernadette is in heaven, and two you did everything right during this critical time – God definitely blessed her with the best Mom on earth…..xoxoxoxox
Patti, I had to read this several times to make sure I understood what you are saying. “She trusted me, I was her mother and I failed her.” I could not disagree with you more! You did not fail Bernadette. You gave her all the love, time and effort you humanly could. Who knows exactly what to say to a child in this situation? Who knows when to say it? What you describe sounds perfect. I pray for you to have Peace in your heart; you deserve it.
You did not deceive her. You told her the truth. God sent her to the very best mommy she could have for her short time on Earth. May you find comfort in the Heart of Jesus, Our Lady and St. Joseph.
God bless you and yours.