I received a magic wand as a birthday gift with a note attached. At the end, my granddaughter wrote, "Joyfully, Breonna L."
Joyfully! It made me smile and realize what a wonderful word joyfully is and that it even captures the sound of how we should all live.
I sat looking at the note and asked myself how many people in my life are joyful. My mother came to mind immediately.
My mother passed on last month in a nursing home in her beloved New England. She exhibited joy until she fell into the last few days of sleep.
For three years Mum was a resident in St. Patrick's Manor, a wonderful nursing home run by Carmelite nuns, who dedicate themselves to loving care of the elderly. She hoped until the end to return to her own apartment, to drive her car again. When she thought about that she was joyful. But she was also joyful where she was, how she was.
I knew and admired her joyful attitude, but hadn't given it much thought before reading Breonna's note. I had decided to write about this word when it became time to see my mother before it was too late. Ironically, I was about to find out what joyfully really means during the last week of my mother's life.
With memory short, Mum reacted over and over to my appearances in her room with the delight of seeing me for the first time. So too with my sister, my husband and several of her grandchildren who were able to fly in to see her, as well as her brothers who had visited her faithfully almost everyday of the three plus years. She was joyful as well to see the nuns, nurses, the aides and the housekeeping staff. Right to her last alert moment, Mum kidded with them, called them pet names, laughed joyfully.
There is no faking joyfully.
There is no mistaking joyfully.
Among the nuns at St. Patrick's is an energetic sister who works with the dying and their families. Sister Bridget wears sneakers with her nun's habit, assuring families that she will be by their loved one's bedside at a moment's notice in the middle of the night. She combines knowledge of the gravity of the situation with a joyful presence in a way that suggests she has inside knowledge of what lies ahead.
We were called at 6 a.m. and had several hours more to say goodbye to Mum, hoping she could hear our words, feel our touch, know our love one last morning. Sister Bridget did not want silence. She wanted conversation, singing, prayers - ambience that suggested all would be well. Mixed in with tears, we spent those final few hours joyfully.
How precious life is. How wonderful the opportunity to spend it joyfully.
How fortunate I am to have the example of how to live joyfully from my granddaughter giving me so more than one kind of magic wand, my Mum showing me joy in all kinds of living and a Carmelite nun named Sister Bridget, doing difficult work she chooses joyfully!
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 38 years.
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