Mortal Blessings: A Sacramental Farewell

Ave Maria Press
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Winner of a 2015 Catholic Press Award: Family Life Category (First Place)

In this lyrical adieu to her mother, renowned Catholic essayist, poet, and professor Angela O'Donnell explores how the mundane tasks of caregiving during her mother's final days--bathing, feeding, taking her for a walk in her wheelchair--became rituals or ordinary sacraments that revealed traces of the divine.

With Joan Didion's grasp of grief, the spiritual playfulness of Mary Karr, and the poetic agility of Kathleen Norris, Angela Alaimo O'Donnell narrates the events that followed her mother's fall and the broken hip that led to surgery. As O'Donnell and her sisters cared for their mother's failing body during the last days of her life, they unconsciously observed rituals that began to take on a deeper importance.

Bathing her each morning was a kind of baptism, the nightly feeding of pie took on a Eucharistic significance, trimming and polishing nails became a kind of anointing. Beyond the seven there are the myriad sacraments they made up: the sacrament of community via cell phone, the sacrament of wheelchair pilgrimage around the nursing home, and the sacrament of humor and laughter. This deeply human portrait of loss is balanced by the surprising grace found in letting go; it will resonate with any spiritual reader but especially caregivers and those currently in grief.
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About the author

Angela Alaimo O'Donnell teaches courses in American Catholic studies, English, and creative writing at Fordham University, where she also serves as associate director of Fordham’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. Her most recent book of poems, Waking My Mother, isa collection of elegies focused on the relationships between mothers and daughters. Her previous book, Saint Sinatra & Other Poems, was been nominated for the Arlin G. Meyer Prize in Imaginative Writing. Previous books include Moving House and two chapbooks: Mine and Waiting for Ecstasy. She is also the author of The Province of Joy, a book of hours based on the prayer practice and grounded in the theological imagination of Flannery O’Connor.

O’Donnell’s poems have appeared in many journals, including America, Christian Century, Christianity and Literature, First Things, Hawaii Pacific Review, Mezzo Cammin, Pedestal Magazine, Post Road, Potomac Review, Relief, RUNES, String Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Wisconsin, Vineyards, Windhover, and Xavier Review, and in a variety of anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature. She has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Web prizes, and was a finalist for the Foley Poetry Award, the Elixir First Book Award, and the Mulberry Poets & Writers Award.

O’Donnell also writes essays that engage literature and art in the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Her essays and reviews have appeared in such journals as America, Commonweal, and Christianity and Literature, and have been included in a variety of collections and anthologies. O’Donnell is a columnist for America and contributes columns and blog essays devoted to books and culture.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Ave Maria Press
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Published on
Sep 8, 2014
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Pages
160
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ISBN
9781594714092
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Christian Life / Death, Grief, Bereavement
Religion / Christian Life / Spiritual Growth
Religion / Christianity / Catholic
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Based on experiences derived from 25 years of prayer ministry, Bertram’s Hidden Treasures provides insight and guidance to equip patients, family members, and friends to walk through these challenging times with foresight, looking for and expecting to see God at work in many miraculous ways. It offers sound advice grounded in the truths found in Scripture and the wisdom revealed through real-life stories and case studies.

This book helps those who have ever wondered . . .

If God is good, why are we going through this? What will our family do during this crisis? How do we fight the fear that is trying to consume us? How can we encourage reconciliation in our family? Where can we find peace in the journey? What happens when we die? Is there life after death? What is heaven like?

Hidden Treasures will inspire, motivate, and encourage loved ones to begin to walk the road to heaven without the fear and anxiety associated with death and dying. They’ll discover that the Word of God has answers to the questions that seem to have no answer; and that comfort awaits as they begin to view their situation from a heavenly perspective. Ultimately, it reveals that hope is available, death with dignity is possible, and there are hidden treasures to embrace along the way.

Joyce Hutchison, a pioneer in the hospice movement who twice chronicled her work as an oncology nurse in the popular books May I Walk You Home? and Now That You've Gone Home, reveals her own journey with lung cancer as her death approaches. Hutchison shares not only the heartbreak and pain she experienced in these last years of her life, but also her continued sense of God walking with her during these challenging times.

When Joyce Hutchison received the diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer, she couldn’t believe it. “I have worked in oncology, hospice, and palliative care for thirty-five years. It makes no sense for me to have cancer—especially terminal cancer.” As she shared the painful news with her children, endured the hardships of chemotherapy, and coped with weakness and exhaustion, she came to the realization that she wanted to share this journey with others, “to assist those in . . . the most difficult stage of life.”

In sixteen brief chapters Hutchison gives an account of the physical, emotional, and mental challenges of each step: when chemo made her dreadfully sick, when her emotions fluctuated wildly in a matter of minutes, how she felt when people told her she looked so good. She shares how her sense of humor helped her cope with the weariness of yet another procedure and the isolation that accompanies cancer. Her account includes not only the story of her illness, but also how she responded when her second husband left their marriage and when her daughter was diagnosed with cancer, too.

Despite her suffering, Hutchison held fast to faith. Supported by her family and friends, she tells how she experienced God’s love in a new way. A foreword and afterword by Joyce Rupp, Hutchison’s writing partner on her two previous books, provide context for the book and relate the circumstances of Hutchison’s death on May 7, 2016, and the Mass of the Resurrection that followed.
Winner of a Catholic Press Association Award: Soft cover-spirituality books. (Third Place).

For thirty years, beginning with Fresh Bread in 1985, Joyce Rupp has comforted millions with books such as Praying Our Goodbyes and May I Walk You Home. For the first time, she shares the story of her own grief in the wake of her mother's death, offering readers both a profile of her mother's resilient spirit and a voice of compassion for their own experience of loss.

In this heartfelt memoir about her mother Hilda's final years, Joyce Rupp shares the lessons her mother taught her, especially to "fly while you still have wings." As a poor farmer's wife and the mother of eight living on rented land in Maryhill, Iowa, Hilda lived a life of hard labor and constant responsibility--from milking cows and raising chickens to keeping the farm's financial ledger. Rupp shows how the difficulties of her mother's early years and family life, including the loss of a twenty-three-year-old son, forged a resilience that guided her through the illnesses and losses she faced in later years. This affectionate profile of their relationship is, at the same time, an honest self-examination, as Rupp shares the ways she sometimes failed to listen to, accept, and understand her mother in her final years.

Rupp begins each chapter with a meditative poem that captures the essence of each stage in the journey. Her unfailing candor and profound faith illumine this story of a mother and daughter with a universal spirit of hope, reconciliation, and peace.
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