Maxine’s daughter Martha wrote a beautiful testimony to her mom:
In January of last year, I attended a Day of Recollection for caregivers and was struck by the words of the homily during Mass. Our celebrant referenced the Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins‘ reflection on the scene of Jesus’ birth speaking of “God’s infinity dwindling…dwindling into an infant.” Our celebrant then paralleled this by saying we see the same dwindling in Christ’s crucifixion – God’s infinity dwindling into the reality of the world we live in. This theme of dwindling struck me as I too was witnessing my mother’s failing health. It was painful at times to watch this once vibrant and energetic woman “dwindle” into the form of an infant. And I know it was painful for her to reconcile herself to her state of health but eventually she “let go” of her need to do for herself and trusted in God’s mysterious designs. It was the greatest lesson my mother taught me – to “accept and trust in God’s plan”.
My mother was a woman of courage, determination and great faith. Leaving her home of Bay City, MI in 1957 at the age of 28, she came to Stamford in response to a job ad for Stamford Hospital in a nurse’s magazine. She met with her pastor before leaving and he told her to find a Polish parish so she would still feel a connection to home. So she came here to Holy Name. One fateful Sunday, a young man looked down over the railing of the choir loft, nudged one of his fellow choir members and said, “Hey look at that, finally a woman with a decent hat.” That man was my father and he was looking at my mother. When my mother called my Aunt Josie, the choir director, to ask about joining the choir, my aunt handed the phone to my father and said – “Hey, that lady you like from church is on the phone, talk to her.” They made plans for their first date to go to the movies and since you know both my parents were of great faith it should come as no surprise that they went to see “The Ten Commandments”. The rest they say is history.
My mother was also a great cook. I could look in the refrigerator and say, there’s nothing to eat – she’d look in, pull out about 5 or 6 things and whip up a gourmet meal. Every birthday was special too as my brother and I each got our special meal with our favorite kind of Angel Food Cake. Along with being a great cook came the distinguishing characteristic of being a great party planner. I can remember conversations between her and my dad. My mom would say – “Hey so and so’s birthday is next week, we should do something – invite the family. My father would say ok. Next thing, I would hear papers rustling, pages in books being turned, my mother calling the family to invite them over and in about 20 minutes they were out the door to go grocery shopping. Something like that would take me days to plan.
In addition to working as a nurse at Stamford Hospital for 37 years she volunteered by giving her time to her church, and my brother’s and my schools (from grammar school right through high school). I was amazed, because for most of her tenure at the hospital she worked the night shift – but still found time to be there for us, her family and friends.
This is how I want to remember my mom – vital, alive, full of energy and enjoying life whether it was volunteering for the church at the annual Dozynki festival or going on fantastic trips with my dad.
I know my father’s passing had a profound effect on her and I believe it contributed to her rapid decline in health. As much as it pained me to see her “leave me”, a little bit every day, I knew she was leaving for a much better place. There were times we would just get on each other’s last nerve usually with her saying “leave me alone, I can do it myself” and me saying, “I’m just trying to help.” The night before she died, however, I asked her if she was tired and she wanted to go. I told her I loved her, and not to worry about me, that I’d be ok. And although she couldn’t speak, she mouthed “O.K.” When I got the call the next morning, I remembered our conversation from the night before and thought to myself – “Now… she listens to me.”
I knew that God had a plan for her and for me. It was as if we were each experiencing our own individual Agonies in the Garden. Begging God to let this “cup” pass us by but if not then His will be done. My mother came to accept it and eventually so did I by watching her. It is one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned from her.
I believe the late Avery Cardinal Dulles said it best in his final McGinley Lecture at Fordham University. “Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be accepted as elements of a full human existence….If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity.” As it was in my mom.