Sister M. Gervase LochotzkiOctober 23, 2023
Penny for her thoughts: Mary’s White MantleDecember 6, 2023
by Associate Judy Miske
My journal for Oct 6, 2023 included a series of lessons in humility.
On this day I had my first surgery in 82 years (aside from dental work). I went in because I’d been dealing with a lot of pain after a sprain, which combined with arthritis was making walking very difficult.
After a year of cortisone shots and pain meds and research, I finally opted to have ankle fusion surgery knowing full well that the recovery time would be 8-12 weeks. What I wasn’t prepared for is the many lessons I’d learn in these several weeks.
Lesson 1: I had to let go of my being able to control everything and accept that I could not do many things for myself. I was beginning to feel vulnerable, especially during the surgery prep, laying on the table with only a skimpy hospital gown for cover. I had to ask a nurse to assist me to the toilet. (Definitely feeling vulnerable.)
Lesson 2: I had to accept being put under anesthesia knowing the results of ankle fusion meant no walking on my left foot for 8-12 weeks. This meant asking for help for almost everything. This is something I was never good at. I didn’t realize how independent and self-reliant I had become. (I was soon to learn the meaning of the word commode – not a word in my daily vocabulary!) But, I was soon to experience…
Lesson 3: Another word not in my personal vocabulary was “Depends.” Following the surgery, I had some difficulty with responding quickly enough to “bathroom urgency issues.” I had never had this problem before. A humbling solution was to ask my niece to get me some Depends. I had practiced getting out of bed and wheeling myself in my wheelchair to the bathroom…but not fast enough, so the Depends gave me the help I needed.
Asking for that help was a reminder to me of what I could not do on my own, and I think my nieces began to see me in a different light. I’ve always been their “in charge” Auntie and now, recognizing my vulnerability, they offered to do my laundry, grocery shop and cleaning. My lesson included accepting their help graciously. In this, however, I found many gifts. The special hours I spent with them were graced encounters! We began to know each other as adults and enjoy each other’s company. I could not have done my rehab at home without their help and my brother’s help.
Bathing certainly put me in a vulnerable position. The plan was to have them nearby in case I wasn’t able to pivot from wheelchair to bath chair/shower. Here’s where a certain amount of self-reliance helped me. (I also prayed to my angel aides to help me have confidence in my sturdy supportive right leg.) I started two hours before my nieces came and managed to slowly and surely make it through my first shower.
Lesson 5: In the course of the first five weeks of my recovery and healing, I spent a lot of time alone. I realized how much I needed others. I valued phone conversations, getting supportive cards and emails from friends and Sisters of St. Francis. Neighbors on my floor at my senior apartment building stopped by with my mail and took my recycling to the basement.
Needing others included all the prayers I was receiving. I knew this kind of help was a big part of my healing and the lessons in humility I was learning and continue to learn. The prayers, my family and friends, and my angels were all a great comfort to me and I’m grateful to have had so many with me in body and spirit to help me through this new learning curve in my life.
Judy Miske has been a Sylvania Franciscan Associate for 21 years. She is a retired teacher who also spent eight years in the airline industry, and has been a pastoral care volunteer for over 15 years. Judy was a member of the Sylvania Franciscan community until she was 27. She lives in New Brighton, MN.