A Glimpse of my (Italian Widowed) Mom in Heaven

Dealing with a family member who has had a stroke is very difficult. There are so many things to attend to, not to mention wondering if your family member will even survive! My mom had a stroke in May of 2016. At first we thought she was going to die.

When she made it through the first few days and was in recovery, we got to see a glimpse of what she will be like in heaven. It was a wonderful gift…one that I especially treasure now.

Looking back on my life and seeing how my mom acts now, she is sometimes a real PITA (rhymes with her name). No, not an eastern style flat bread. This is a very different definition of PITA.

A lady I know used to occasionally call her grandkids PITA when they were acting up. She said it so sweetly that I thought it was a pet name for them. I asked her what it meant. She said it meant Pain In The ____. My mom can be a real PITA at times.

My sister and I have always lauded her as the master of the guilt trip. We were used to it growing up. We often had interactions like this…

Me: Mom, I’m sorry I talked back to you. Will you forgive me?
Mom: You’re not sorry.
Me: Mom, please forgive me. I’ll never talk back to you again.
Mom: You don’t appreciate anything I do for you.
Me: Mom, I DO appreciate you. I love you.
Mom: You don’t love me. People who love other people don’t talk back to them.

Let’s just say there were times when there was not a lot of grace. If anything, mom has gotten worse about this with age. She is 73 but constantly talks about how when she was 5, one of her sisters stole an orange from her. When you try to reason with her, it backfires and comes back to “Since you are arguing with me, you don’t really love me.”

It has become somewhat of a family joke that all these bad things happen to her because people are prejudiced against Italian widows.

“Jimmy, they got my order wrong at McDonalds on purpose.”
“No, mom, they’re just incompetent. They get everyone’s order wrong.”
“You don’t understand what I’ve been through. They are doing this because I’m a widow.”

Sheesh. They must get my order wrong because I’m the son of an Italian widow!

We all do things wrong in life, including mom, and we all need God’s forgiveness and grace. Mom has somehow lost that grace for others in her own life. However, for three wonderful weeks last June, we got to see what she will be like in heaven.

A stroke normally does change a person’s behavior, but it is often for the bad. In Mom’s case it was for the good. She became very gentle, charming even with the hospital staff (she normally berates hospital staff. When I apologize for her, they tell me they only have to live with it temporarily while they acknowledge I have had to live with it for life). She ate food prepared by others. As usual, she insisted it wasn’t as good as her own, but she was cute and charming about it (normally she won’t even eat ANY food prepared by others). She was very grateful for life, for the hospital staff, for everyone who came to see her, for the hospital food, for all the well-wishers who came by to visit, for my wife (who was there EVERY day…our Friday night date nights became dinner at the hospital cafeteria for awhile…I am so grateful to have a beautiful woman like that as my soul-mate).

Alas, as her brain healed, she went back to being normal, which for her is depressed, condemning, judgmental and unforgiving. I truly believe the untreated depression contributes to this, as well as undiagnosed mental illness. I have asked my wife to watch me for any mental illness as I know it can be hereditary, but so far nothing has shown up (shhh, the government is looking over my shoulder as I write this).

I hope that reading this article doesn’t give you the impression that I’m ungrateful. My mom was a single mom. She gave up a lot in life so she could purchase a saxophone and music lessons for me, and I’m extremely grateful. We never went hungry. Despite the guilt trips and being chased by a wooden spoon often, we knew we were loved. She taught me about God, probably the best gift she could ever have given me. Mom is racked by a lot of guilt and regret. I wish she would accept the lessons she taught me. God forgives her. He has wiped her past away. He still has plans for her, despite her poor health.

I write this to give you encouragement. Maybe you were raised by someone who was the master of the guilt trip. Maybe you are dealing with mental illness, or stroke, or cancer or a multitude of other things. These issues have to be faced with grace, forgiveness, humor and support from others. With God’s help, I’ve become the person I am today, and I am grateful that for three weeks I had a glimpse into heaven of what my mom will really be like when “God will wipe away every tear” from her past and heal all her wounds.

James Divine is a musician, author and music teacher. His latest book “A Stroke of Bad Luck: A survival guide for when someone you know has a stroke” is available on Amazon. James tries to share truth, grace and love wherever he goes. One of his main goals in life – besides running away from the ever-present wooden spoon – is to act his shoe size, not his age. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.

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