She was 81. She had been disabled since 2011, when a stroke robbed her of her speech and of the use of her right side.
I was blessed to have been her caregiver since October 2012--for four years and ten months. Trying to articulate her impact on my life is going to be difficult.
She taught me how to make a good strong pot of Irish tea. (Heat the teapot first by pouring boiling water in and letting it sit while you boil the water again. Pour out the water in the teapot; put the teabags in the pot--use two for three people unless you want your tea to taste as weak as water--pour fresh hot water over the teabags, stir very thoroughly, then cover the teapot with a tea cosy to keep it hot while it steeps. The longer it steeps, the stronger the tea!)
She taught me the importance of small things; she was very particular about her clothes...not in a vain way, but in a "this matters" way; the whole idea of faithfulness in the little things.
She was generous. Yes, she hid her dark chocolate to keep the grandkids (she had 24!) from eating it, but she would share it with me sometimes.
She was patient. Sure, she got frustrated sometimes with the limitations of her illness...not being able to speak was a cross to bear...but for the most part, she bore that cross with patience and dignity.
* * *We read a lot. I didn't keep a complete list, but we read Dickens' Christmas Carol, A.J. Cronin's Adventures in Two Worlds, Betty Smith's Maggie-Now, M. Raymond's The Man Who Got Even With God, Chaim Potok's The Chosen. We had just begun Henry Morton Robinson's The Cardinal a month before her death, and were only halfway finished with chapter one. (Cronin, Smith, and Raymond were her recommendations; Potok and Robinson were mine.)
* * *Grief stinks. It sneaks up on you while you're driving to work, or in quiet time before bed. It about knocked me over at the funeral; every.single.song brought tears, even songs that I can listen to at other times, such as "Lord of All Hopefulness," "The Servant Song," and "O God Beyond All Praising." There were some new songs, such as "Lady of Knock." The Communion song, "Holy is Your Name" made me smile through my tears, because it's to the tune of "Wild Mountain Thyme," a song that my friends and I know as "The Heather Song" because we have a good friend named Heather.
Death happens, and grief stinks, but nothing--NOTHING--can separate us from the Love of God.
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers,
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Rest in peace, Mrs. Brien.