Posted March 21, 2012 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (March 2012)

by Paulette Curran.

January in Madonna House Combermere, at least after the Christmas season is over, is usually a quiet time. In fact, unless there is an added event, it is probably the quietest month of the year.

This year there was an added event. For just as the Christmas Season was ending, our brother Paul Holland, who would have turned 90 in a very short while, entered into his time of dying.

On the evening of the Epiphany, Paul was obviously failing. Those taking care of him wanted to send him to emergency at the hospital. No one knew what was happening to him.

But Paul said, "I know." He did not want to go to hospital. "This is my passion," he said to Linda Owen, one of his care-givers, and he repeated it. Those were the last words he would speak.

On Monday, January 9th, Paul’s doctor made a house call and prescribed the needed pain medication.

On Tuesday evening, Paul’s niece Phyllis arrived, and rarely left his side after that. Paul was, of course, anointed, and both Tuesday and Wednesday, thinking that Paul way going to die at any moment, people said the prayers for the dying. But Paul lived on.

Throughout this time, Paul was in our hearts and prayers as we went about our daily work. And we went in and out of his room, sitting with him, praying, saying good-bye. It was a blessed, holy time.

Paul had chosen as a quote for his memorial card, "A humble contrite heart, O Lord, you will not spurn," a line from Psalm 50, and Irene Sullivan began work on the scroll with those words.

Then on Thursday, just when St. Mary’s was beginning their after-lunch spiritual reading, Linda Owen came in to announce: "The battle has been won!" People sang Alleluias from an Easter song and headed to Paul’s room to be with his body. At the main house, we prayed the rosary for him.

Then suddenly, we had to move quickly. Since Paul’s family could only come for a Saturday funeral, we had little time.

The men staff had a cold day to dig the grave. And because the kitchen had little time to prepare the food for the reception, everyone who could, came to help with the many tasks, including squeezing out for sandwiches, many, many small packets of mayonnaise which had very recently come in donation.

The main thing of note during the funeral time was, I think, the homilies at the wake and funeral Mass. Partly due to the fact that Paul was a silent man, these homilies were an especially obvious example of what happens at all our funerals: a veil is lifted and we see into the heart of a person in a way not possible when that person was alive. (Barring the unexpected, we will be sharing what we saw, in the next issue.)

What else has been happening during this year of 2012?

At St. Mary’s, where our elderly who need assistance live in a wing called "Our Lady of the Visitation," a lift has been built. It will enable people who cannot walk stairs or walk at all, to get from the main floor to the chapel.

And in a community, nothing happens that doesn’t affect something else. A bathroom had to be taken out to make room for the lift, but we do need a toilet near that spot. So the men enclosed an unused woodshed off the chapel vestibule and will be putting a new bathroom there.

Building and maintenance are, of course, ongoing in a community, and it seems like in one place or another, there is always something that needs repair. And since we don’t have appliances we don’t really need, most of the time, what breaks down is something vital.

Recently, the fridge in the kitchen broke down. And then the walk-in cooler did so as well, leaving the kitchen with no refrigeration for a short while. (Good thing it’s winter!).

To say that this was a hardship for the kitchen crew is to say the obvious. But having a sense of humor and play help. In the defunct kitchen fridge, which has see-through glass doors, the librarian and cooks put up a book display.

There were cookbooks from hot and cold countries, a book about the Arctic, a technical book about refrigeration, and—best of all—a book on the Cold War!

I’m glad to say the valiant men of the HELP department (heating, electricity, lighting or landscaping, and plumbing) soon got the walk-in cooler running again. However, the kitchen fridge, though now fixed, was out of commission for 2 ½ weeks.

On December 20th, a very appropriate time of year, the farmers celebrated the gift of new life. As they looked out in the morning they saw along with the usual two horses, a colt coming down the hill. What did they name it? "Noel," of course.

(When they got the two horses in the summer, they knew there was a possibility that Dixie was carrying a foal, but no-one knew for sure.)

The son of a locally well-known man who died recently, told three of our staff who attended the wake this story. When he went to move his father’s car for the first time after the death, there was a copy of Restoration lying open on the car seat. It would have been the last thing his Dad read before his stroke. On the opened page was an article by Catherine Doherty. Daniel thought it very fitting since it was through Catherine that his father, Barney McCaffrey, had moved into this area.

And here’s a wonderful piece of news: Ka Yun, a working guest from Korea, was recently officially accepted as a catechumen. She is currently being catechized by Christine Herlihy and will be baptized on Easter.

Changes in the heads of work departments in Madonna House don’t get put in "Milestones," but they are certainly news—especially when the former ones have been department heads for a long time.

Maureen Ray is now department head of the nursing department, Kate O’Donnell of cleaning, and Mary McGoff of the office, They are replacing Peggy Cartmell, who was responsible for the nursing for 7 years, Marie-Therese McLaughlin for cleaning for 14 years, and Mary McNamara, for the office for 34 years.

Finally, here are some news in brief. Our priests are continuing to learn about the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the changes in the Liturgy. They had a study day on it recently. Maureen Ray and Maryana Erzinger took a First Aid course.

Fr. Blair Bernard and Chuck Sharp gave a weekend retreat to the men of our Pembroke diocese.

Some of the St. Mary’s staff, led by Ellie Pettersen, presented a dramatic reading of the play, The Tidings Brought to Mary by Paul Claudel.

And that’s the news for this month. May this Lent be a time of many graces for each of you.


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Milestones (March 2012)

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Moments of Paradise



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