by Catherine Alfieri


The holiday season is a time we all sit back and reflect on events of the past and contemplate the future.  It is a season of joy and celebration.  For me it is a time of miracles.

Christmas Eve a decade ago I sat in the family room with my mother.  She was home from St. Ann's nursing home where she lived, suffering from the final stages of Alzheimer's disease, unable to speak or recognize anything or anyone for months.  The television broadcast midnight mass.  I sat brooding over what had happened to the vibrant, loving mother I once knew.   As the choirs intoned the familiar songs of the ages, my mother began to smile and her eyes softened.  Suddenly she alerted, glanced my way, and through the tangle of plaque laden neurons, with a momentary gasp of recognition and faint triumph said my name, "Cathy".  It was the last time I would hear her speak.  She died the following February.  There have been anecdotal reports that Alzheimer's patients can have a moment of memory such as this.  But I think it was a miracle.

Seven years ago during our first year of marriage, my husband endured a bone marrow transplant to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  He entered the hospital on Veteran's Day and was released a month later.  During his recovery he suddenly came down with a case of pneumonia and had to be readmitted to the hospital.  As I sat watching him shivering under cold blankets to take his fever down, I despaired that all of this pain and suffering had been for naught.  But several days later, his fever abated and on December 23 we brought him home.  My husband received outstanding care from dedicated medical personnel committed to saving his life.  But I think it was a miracle.

Last New Year's Eve, like much of the world, I sat in front of my television, transfixed as the sun rose on a new millennium.  From Australia through Asia to Europe to our hemisphere, the sights and sounds of joy and celebrations without any acts of terrorism, Y2K problems or rioting underlined the commonalties we all share as a people rather than our differences and difficulties.  Nothing occult or magical transpired to make it all happen thus.  But I think it was a miracle.

While I first learned of miracles early in my Catholic education, the concept was cemented through my encounters with the miracles in my own life.  Albert Einstein once said, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as if everything is."  Perhaps that is the greatest gift we can give ourselves during this season of miracles - to make it last the whole year through.


"The Last Gift"

We keep a silent Yuletide vigil,
Alone in the dark paneled den,
Your soft blank eyes,
Vainly search my bitter repose.
The televised Mass proceeds,
As the choirs joyfully celebrate,
The birth of a new hope for mankind.
A slow tender smile of cognition lights your face,
Your memory entangled,
In a distant forest of felled pines,
Struggles to join these angelic voices.
With a look of secret triumph you glance my way,
As you offer one last gift of maternal love,
By uttering my name for the final time.

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