This post is a bit macabre. Please note I am a fallen away, pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, so I can quite literally go medieval on your ass. I stopped going to church in the late 1960s when the Catholic Church instituted reforms to modernize the mass. Because I stopped being a Catholic at that point in time my religiosity has never been altered or modernized. I take my spirituality straight up and I yearn for dead languages, strong incense, and Gregorian chants. It is a religion that no longer exists in reality, but it is still and always a part of who I am. I am culturally Catholic in the same way that non-religious Jews are culturally Jewish. There is nothing I can do about it. If you do not want to see this side of me then please do not read the following. Wait for my next post where I promise I will leave death and dying aside. I may even write about the beautiful weather we are having.
So much was stolen from my mother's room at the nursing home, at the assisted living place she lived in before she was moved to the nursing home, and at a rehabilitation center she was in for a short time a few years ago after surgery. I am not sure if the wretched thieves were aides, nurses, roommates, or other wandering residents - but multiple people stole things from her rooms in each place. It is a sad fact of life at nursing homes. We learned to move anything of value to my sister ERB's house. What innocents we were at first. I still have a hard time imagining how someone could feel they are entitled to steal an old woman's belongings when she is at her weakest and most vulnerable. The assisted living home where she lived for about 5 years before being moved to the nursing home last year was the worst. Drugs and candy were always disappearing. Before we figured it out someone stole her diamond engagement ring out of her dresser drawer. It was supposed to have gone to my baby sister, ERB, as a reward for spending all those years being her principal caregiver. You might ask, "Why did you let her take her jewelry to a place like that?" I might answer, "Try telling an older woman who is still in her right mind that she can no longer keep her engagement ring with her when she moves into a private, one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living home."
The coup de grâce came when she was dying. Someone stole both of her favorite rosaries from her home-room (let us call it the "living-room") while she lay dying in a different room (let us call that room the "dying-room") in another wing of the nursing home. She was moved from her "living-room" right after she had the stroke, and for the following week she was in the "dying-room," a large private room where the family could maintain a private vigil. Her two rosaries were always draped over a picture frame next to her bed in the "living-room" so she could reach them if needed. One was her special rosary; the one she specifically stated, in writing, was to be buried with her. It was given to her by one of her sisters, and it had been blessed by Pope John Paul II; a man who was also a victim of Parkinson's Disease. He died, has been proposed for sainthood, and will eventually be canonized. He was an absolute rockstar to my Mom.
We should have retrieved those two rosaries and put them by her death bed, I know, I know. If only I could turn back the hands of time. We were all a mess, though. I must confess no one thought of it. We were overwhelmed. We rarely went down to her "living-room." I could probably come up with a few more excuses. However, in retrospect I must say: "mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa," which roughly translates from the Latin as "It's my fault, it's my fault, it is REALLY my fault."
I know theft is a crime, but please humor me for a few minutes while I consider the act as a sin. This rosary theft is a sin not only against my sweet mother and her family, it is a transgression against the nursing home community. The wretched thief exists, but since we do not know who it is we begin to suspect everyone. I really hate that, because the vast majority of the staff and residents there are kind and good. Putting her/his co-workers under the cloud of suspicion is a whopper of a sin, way bigger than a mere venial sin, it is a mortal sin for sure. This sin impacts on many innocent people in many ways. The injustice almost takes my breath away considering the complex repercussions of one casual, selfish, voluntary act.
I like to assume the wretched thief was a twisted Catholic AND a moron who thought she/he was entitled to a memento of my mother. Why else would someone take two rosaries? Because I am a sinner myself, I choose not to forgive the wretched thief. Not now. Hopefully someday, but not quite yet. It is too soon. Instead, I hope this sin haunts the wretched thief in the dark, disturbing her/his sleep continuously until the wretched thief returns the rosaries to the social worker. Then I might forgive her/him. Okay, we all know that's not gonna happen. It is an idle fantasy of a grieving child. It is only in the irrationality of my grief that this fantasy makes me feel better. I hope for justice and, okay - make me say it: revenge. But even if the rosaries were returned, what would we do with them? We will not dig up the casket to put the rosary in her hands if it suddenly appears. She is holding a different rosary now, anyway. It is just not the one she wanted. The time has passed to make this right for my mother. Still, I wish I could let this go.
I have not been a practicing Catholic since the late 1960's; however, it is all coming back to me now. My better self would pray for a miracle, hoping the wretched thief would come to her/his senses, return the rosary, and do penance for her/his sin. Unfortunately, my better self seems to be missing in action along with the rosaries, diamond ring, other jewelry, knicknacks, pills, candy, and cookies that have disappeared over the years. For now, I look for justice. Still, what is justice in this instance?
Hopefully I will eventually realize that if I am still angry about this then I am foolishly allowing the wretched thief to continue to hurt me. My anger merely keeps the sin alive. True forgiveness involves freeing oneself from anger and allowing the sin to rest only with the sinner. Perhaps that is justice? I don't know.