This dear woman and friend is now in the hospital, very near the end of her life. I just thought you’d like to know her story.
For 15 years she has raised a daughter with severe autism and mental retardation. Her daughter is not able to speak or communicate in any way. Her daughter is tall and strong and needs supervision and care 100% of the day and night. But Lavern has dedicated her life to this task alone (she has just one family member here in the U.S.) and has almost no funding. I have never known a woman more dedicated to motherhood, more dedicated to patience and charity, more dedicated to maintaining the faith and strength that she needed to carry on being a good mother, despite the greatest challenges you could imagine. Every single person who knows Lavern would say that they truly have never seen anything like it.
Due to a very unfortunate circumstance, Lavern is now dying of cancer. 2 years ago she had a lung scan that showed some early (treatable) cancer in her lungs, but this information was never communicated to her until a very forthright doctor discovered the mishap two years after the fact. By then, her cancer had become Stage 4 and had spread to her brain and many other organs.
For the last many months, she has been fighting for every breath, for every moment to continue caring for her daughter. When I Ieft for travels recently, I wept, not knowing if I would see her again. She held my hand and held my face from her hospital bed, unable to speak. She dried my tears, wanting to comfort me and serve me as she has done so many times for me and so many others in the 12 years that I have known her here in Brooklyn. I told her thank you for being so good to me. And thank you for loving me. I told her she was like a mother to me in Brooklyn. And that my greatest wish was that she could feel God’s love with her, even surrounding her bed there in the ICU. She wrote down on paper that she would take that as parting words. As I walked away, I wept inside. For this woman has taught us all how to love more. She has taught us how to mother. And how to truly live a life dedicated to the Divine. Even in moments of sickness and tremendous need, she still manages to serve us all right back and uplift, comfort, inspire, and look after us. I’m grateful for the exchange of love and sisterhood that we have felt- the kind that can only come from serving each other – the kind that binds us together- the kind that makes you realize there is something greater than us all at work within us.
These women in the top picture are just a sampling of some amazing women who have served Lavern and her daughter in the last many months and years, more than you can ever imagine. It has been one of the most beautiful and heartfelt experiences of our lives to now care for her in her last days. It is truly an honor to be a part of community of women who seek to offer this kind of love and make it a daily practice of their lives. I feel closer to them as well, because of this experience. My heart can hardly take the beauty of what I’ve seen.
Have you had an act of service (given or received) result in a binding friendship that maybe otherwise would not have existed – or perhaps transcended what it would have been otherwise? I really do think a friendship that has it’s roots in charity is capable of being one of the best kinds we could ever have.
Also, Lavern’s story made the cover of The Daily News in January. Her case may potentially help change a bill, which could provide some potential recourse for victims of medical malpractice in New York State. The Daily News just ran the 5th article on the story a few days ago.
(Top photo by Jeff Bachner, for The Daily News.)