Tag Archives: leukemia

Mother’s Day—Making Peace with my most UN-favorite Holiday

 Hug them and kiss them–Sometimes you don’t get a second chance. Trust me, I know.

Our Mom, Lillian      age 39;  1959        Passed in 1960

By Larry Peterson

Mother’s Day is here, and I will tell you immediately that it has never been my favorite holiday. Truth be known, it has been my most dreaded holiday. I know that is pathetic. So please bear with me as I share my journey to finally finding some inner peace with this beautiful holiday.

My mother died 59 years ago. She had just turned 40. (She had Leukemia, and if you had Leukemia 59 years ago, you were “toast.”)  For some reason, I have only a few faded memories of her. And, for me, that is an emptiness that has always exploded inside me during the Mother’s Day celebration.

We were kids when she died. There were five of us, and at fifteen, I was the oldest. My sister and brothers (the two youngest have now passed away) remembered details about her, such as the softness of her hair, her laugh, how she loved cherry vanilla ice-cream or pulling the shopping cart to the A&P. As for me, memories were almost all gone. Fortunately, I had the second-hand information my younger siblings shared.

Death visited us often when we were young. Grandma (she lived with us) died two years after Mom. Dad died two years after her. We were officially orphans (that became a novel, The Priest and The Peaches), and we hung together and survived and did okay. But ‘death” kept lurking, and over the years, my sister was widowed, my brother was widowed, and I was widowed—twice. The two youngest, Bobby and Johnny, also have passed. but it all began with Mom.

I always managed, fortified by my Catholic faith, to move through the grief process and learn to accept what happened. It was sort of like making peace with someone you wish you never met. But with my Mom, that process never completed itself until recently. (I never realized until years later how she was always teaching us a lesson as she lay there either holding her blue Rosary or having it next to her. It was like it was a part of her).

I finally came to understand why I have been “stuck in the mud” with my Mom’s sudden passing, albeit so long ago. I was selfish. I never thought about what must have been going through her mind as she lay dying at the age of 39. It was always about me and how MY Mom died. That was the reason for my decades’ old problem. Therein was the cause of my emptiness. It was never about her. I felt sorry for myself when she died and kept feeling sorry for myself, year after year after year.

I needed help, and finally, it came.  Out of the clear blue, my daughter, Mary, called me and, during the conversation, said, “Hey dad, do you realize I’m going to be 40 on my next birthday?”

Talk about being hit by lightning. My own daughter was going to be the same age as my own mother was when she was slowly being killed by an insidious, no holds barred, and merciless disease. I had never thought of my Mom as a 40-year-old woman with five kids. I thought of her as my Mom, who died on ME. How pathetic was that?

Mary, who also happens to look a lot like the grandma she never knew, had only asked me a simple question. She could not have known the power that was in it. She had no idea that at that moment, it removed the veil from my clouded “Mom world” and set me on my journey to discover the woman and person who was also my mother.

It had taken decades but I finally began to reflect and ponder about this woman I had called “mommy.”  Her name was Lillian, and she carried me in her womb. She fed me, bathed me, held me and hugged me, nursed my siblings and me through illnesses such as mumps, measles, and chickenpox (all of which I have no memory). This woman cleaned our house, washed and ironed our clothes, cooked, shopped, and even worked part-time. I cannot imagine how she must have felt as she prepared to leave her family knowing  death was getting  closer and closer.  How awful and terrifying that must have been for her?

How did she hold her not yet two-year-old son on her lap and look at him without going hysterical,? How did she handle thinking about her six-year old son, missing his front teeth, who she would never give a sweet hug to again?  She had a ten-year-old who was in fourth grade and always needed his Mom to help him with his homework. Would his dad help him? I never considered such a thing.

And of course, there was my sister, Mommie’s “little” girl. But she was 13 already, and she was growing up. She would need her Mom, to talk to about woman things.  How did she bare holding onto the knowledge that her children would soon be motherless? What did she say to our Dad, her husband, and lover, as they lay together in bed, in the dark of night waiting for the inevitable as their five kids slept?

The following part in italics pertains to my Dad. It fits into this short narrative

I have harbored one regret over the years, and it pertained to my Dad.  Four years after Mom passed, Dad had an acute attack of pancreatitis. He was in the hospital, and it was 11 P.M. I was standing by the door to his room looking in. He had IV lines and tubes coming out of him from who knows where. A big bottle of ‘gunk” was on the floor that these tubes were draining into. I thought I would be sick. He was looking at me, and I could see the fear in his face. Guess what I did? Nothing, yes, I did nothing.  I did not go over to him and hold his hand.  I never hugged him. I just said, “See ya tomorrow.”

I gave him a cursory wave, and then I left. He died three hours later. Yeah, I know, I was young and blah-[blah-blah. No matter—that is a REGRET. I left my own  Dad alone to die by himself. It has been 55 years, and the pain of my actions still has not subsided.

 It took a very long time but I have forgiven myself for being an insensitive kid. I am long past feeling sorry for “me.”  Those thoughts about my Mom have brought me to a better place. However, that refreshed mindset has unveiled a new regret. Now I have one for Dad and one for Mom. I guess I deserve them both. I earned them for sure.

Mom had been close to death several days before Christmas, 1960. But she made a miraculous recovery and came home. (See story here)  During the first part of February, she took ill again. I have this vivid memory of her lying in bed with Bobby, age six, and Johnny, who just had his second birthday, each nestled into the crook of her arms, one on the left and one on the right. Her best friend Adeline was standing there talking to her about something, and she was looking at me. I said, “Okay, I have to go to work.” (I worked for the local grocer delivering groceries) and I left. No hug, no kiss, I never even said good-bye.

When I got home, she was not there. She was back in the hospital. We were supposed to see her Saturday morning but she died before we got there. I will always regret that I never HUGGED or KISSED my Mom one last time that one damn day. Sometimes you don’t get a second chance. Trust me, I know.

On this Mother’s Day, I will also thank God for that phone call from Mary. I will then thank Him for my Mom. Then I will go home, and, fortified by a different mindset, will sit by myself and cry…just maybe not as much.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

This Filipina nun’s legacy continues through the order of nuns she established

ROSARIO ARROYO
Mother Rosario Arroyo                                                   facebook fair use

Mother Rosario Arroyo is much loved and often invoked. Some say her intercession has already brought miracles.

By Larry Peterson

Maria Beatrice Rosario Arroyo was born on February 17, 1884, in Molo, which is located in the Philippines. She was the only daughter born to  Ignacio Arroyo and Dona Maria Podal; the Arroyos also had two sons. Three days after Maria’s birth she was baptized in St. Anna’s Church in Molo and officially named Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo.

Maria’s family was well to do, and her parents were well known for the generous almsgiving. The Arroyo sons and daughter were taught the importance and virtue of giving of themselves at an early age. This virtuous sense of self-giving became part of who they were, especially Maria.

The young woman could have lived a life of luxury, but her upbringing had left her keenly aware of the misery and plight of the poor and downtrodden. Her compassion for others was genuine and intense. Maria was unspoiled by the quality and abundance of material things that were hers for the taking. She just wanted to share what she could with those less fortunate.

Maria attended school at the Colegio de St. Anna, which was a private school in Moto. She was transferred to Colegio de San Jose to prepare for her First Holy Communion.  This school was run by the Daughters of Charity, and she remained here until she finished her elementary education. From there, she began the initial steps toward religious life. She entered the Convent of St. Catalina in Manila and made her profession of vows on January 3, 1914.

Despite coming from affluence and having great wealth, Maria chose a life of poverty, devoting her life to the poor. She entered the Dominican Order and with the help of two other Dominican nuns, created the Dominican sisters of the Most Holy Rosary. The date was February 18, 1927. From that point forward, she was known as Mother Rosario Arroyo. (Most Filipinos refer to her as Madre Sayong).

The Congregation continued to grow and, after 32 years in existence, the First General Chapter was convened. Meeting from January 3-6, 1953, Mother Rosario was elected the First Superioress General of the Order.  She served for three and a half years before heart failure caused her passing on June 14, 1957.

Mother Rosario’s legacy has spread itself around the entire world. The order runs schools, colleges, retreat houses, and convents, not only in ten dioceses and archdioceses in the Philippines but also has a membership of over 250 serving people in the Mariana Islands, the Diocese of  Ngong in Kenya,  several cities in Italy, and in the United States in the Archdiocese of San Francisco  and the Diocese of Honolulu, Hawaii. All toll, the nuns run 31 schools, two colleges, two retreat houses, a charitable institution, and a clinic. Another 40 or more sisters work in foreign missions.

Reports of miracles attributed to Mother Rosario have been credible enough that the cause for her canonization is underway. On July 28, 2009, the process was initiated by Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, the Philippines.  Based on gathered evidence of miraculous cures that had occurred the official opening of Mother Rosario’s cause took place on October 7, 2009. The ceremonies were conducted at the parish church of St. Anne, in Molo, Mother Rosario’s birthplace.

Miracles that saved people from aneurysm, leukemia, and cancer were among the first documented. In 1983, a Manila woman, Angela Palma, who had been diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live, prayed to Mother Rosario to be cured. The cancer was found to be gone, and in 2003 she was still alive without medical explanation for her survival.

Another reported miracle involves a woman with leukemia. In 2004, she was “miraculously cured” after prayers to Mother Rosario were invoked. A year later, she was found to be disease free without ever having had any blood transfusion or chemotherapy as described by doctors.

These are just two examples of purported miracles that have taken place because of Mother Rosario’s intercession. Further investigation will continue until not a shred of doubt as to their veracity can be found.

On June 11, 2019, Mother Rosario Arroyo (Maria Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo) was declared by Pope Francis to be a woman of “heroic virtue” and now bears the title; Venerable Rosario Arroyo. She is one step away from being beatified.

Venerable Rosario Arroyo; we ask for your prayers.

Copyright© Larry Peterson 2019

 

 

 

 

 

Is Christmas a Time for Miracles? The Answer is YES, and we can prove it.

We thought Mom was dead, but she opened her eyes and said, “Come here and give me a hug.” 

Believe in Miracles                                                                  en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

During the Christmas season, I believe God’s loving hand sweeps down and touches many of us with a little extra something when we might need it most. Haven’t you ever, after having something unexpected and beautiful happens, blurted out, “I can’t believe it, it’s a miracle!”

Sometimes what happens to you or someone close to you is inexplicable, mystifying, and mysterious and you just know in your heart that God had His hand in the mix. The following is true, and it happened to my family during the Christmas season of 1960. I can remember it as if it happened today. There is no logical explanation save God intervened and gave us an unexpected Christmas gift.

Our Mom had just turned forty and suddenly was going back and forth to the hospital for two or three days at a time. I had just turned 16 and was more or less oblivious to most everything except Barbara McMahon, who lived around the corner. Every time Mom came home, she looked worse. My sister, Carolyn, 13, told me the black and blue marks on Mom’s arms were from IV needles. I figured she knew what was up especially since she wanted to be a nurse.

Dad just kept telling us it was the “grippe” (today we call it the flu). “Don’t worry,” he’d say, “It’s just a really bad grippe.” Grandma, who lived with us, embraced that concept without question. Today, the psyche experts call that Denial. Grandma proved to be really good at it.

Mom was home for Thanksgiving, but Grandma was doing most of the work using my poor sister as her trainee. I know that it was sometime after Thanksgiving that Mom went back into the hospital. Then came December 18. That was the day Dad, Grandma, Carolyn and myself, took the subway down to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan for a simple Sunday visit with the woman who was the wife, mother and daughter in our lives. Christmas was one week away and that visit turned out to be anything but simple.

Mom was on the third floor, and when we got to her room,  several doctors and nurses were standing around her bed. Mom was on the bed, her head on the pillow and turned to one side. Her eyes were closed. I remember how still she was. I was instantly frightened. Carolyn and I looked at each other and she too was filled with fear. It is incredible how fast fear can embrace you.

Grandma placed her hand over her mouth and started to cry. One of the doctors pulled our dad to the side and quietly talked to him. I watched him shake his head ever so slightly. Then he came over to me and (this is a direct quote from him on that day), “Please take your sister and Grandma to the chapel and say a rosary together. Your Mom needs all the prayers she can get right now.”

Trying to grow into a man in a matter of seconds, I put my arm around Grandma’s shoulder and said, “C’mon Grandma, let’s do what Dad asked.” She was so distraught she simply complied and followed my lead. As we headed to the inter-denominational chapel, a priest hurried towards Mom’s room.

I have no idea how long we were in that little chapel, but I do know we had prayed two rosaries when a nurse came in and asked us to go back to the room. We were a bit shocked because the nurse was smiling. Grandma, with her worn-out arthritic knees, jumped up and broke into the funkiest sprint I have ever seen. She had erased thirty years just like that.

When we walked into that room, we were confronted with a sight to behold. Mom was sitting up in bed, smiling. Dad was next to her with his arm around her shoulder. He was sporting a grin that spread across his entire face and tears were streaming down his cheeks. Standing on the other side of the bed was the priest we had seen in the hallway. He was standing there with his hands clasped together with a look on his face I cannot describe. For me, it was a moment etched indelibly in my mind and I can see it as clearly as I did back then.

Our Mom, who we thought was dead, extended her arms and said, “Well, don’t I get a hug from you two? C’mon, get over here.”

Mom was not only better, but she was also ALL better. Her arms were clear, her face had color and her eyes were bright and cheerful. Several doctors were outside huddled together in disbelief. They had no explanation for her sudden recovery. We finally learned that Mom had Leukemia, and in 1960, your chances with that disease were virtually non-existent. We also learned that Dad had asked us to go to the chapel because the doctor had told him she only had moments left. He did not want us to see her pass on.

My father and the priest believed they had witnessed a miracle. Grandma, Carolyn, and I saw the results of that miracle. Mom came home the next afternoon.

Christmas of 1960 was spiritual and fabulous. What had happened filled us all with an awe-inspiring sense of what Christmas means…New Life.  As for Mom, she was fine until the end of January. She enjoyed Johnny’s second birthday and Danny’s eleventh birthday. In early February, she was back in the hospital. She died on February 18, 1961. God gave her back to us for one last Christmas and it was the best Christmas ever.

So please, trust me when I tell you it is okay to believe, Christmas really is a time for miracles.

Wishing God’s blessings and a MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone.

Copyright©Larry Peterson2019 (first posted in 2015)