We are on the fifth day of the Watch RWISA Write tour. I am happy to introduce you to Gwen Plano and her touching story.
by Gwen M. Plano
Young or old, we are all children at heart. This truth became apparent to me last December when I had neurosurgery.
Prior to the operation, a clerk handed me a stack of documents to sign—billing forms for the hospital and the doctors and several medical release forms that included a list of potential risks. My apprehension grew as I fingered through the papers and provided my signature. It was then that I wished that my mom could be with me. Like any child, I thought she could make it all better. But sadly, she had passed away nine months prior.
My mom was a person of prayer, and when I was young, she’d gather her seven children, tell us to get on our knees, and then proceed to pray. We’d follow her lead—usually protesting—and pray for family members, friends, and the unknown masses. Often, she led us in saying the rosary. Prayer was my mom’s response to any challenge or difficulty, and we had plenty of both on our farm.
Mom’s most common expression was, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” While some of us might curse or yell in frustration, Mom would say this phrase instead. So, when one of my brothers sent a golf ball through the picture window, Mom called out “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” before scolding him. When we siblings squabbled with one another, Mom would mutter, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” before sending us to our bedrooms. Without exception, we grew up knowing that when Mom said “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” we were in trouble.
I can’t remember a time when Mom wasn’t praying. Whether washing the dishes, hanging the wash on the clothesline, working in the garden, or driving us to a sporting event or a 4-H meeting, Mom quietly prayed. I asked her about this once, and her response left an indelible impression.
“Life is short,” she began, “and we must use every moment to the fullest. People need our prayers, and some don’t have a family to pray for them like we do.”
I didn’t understand her comment about using every moment to the fullest until I grew older. But her explanation helped me grasp why she rarely watched television and why she rushed from one room to another throughout the day.
When Mom passed at ninety-two years of age, she left a legacy of beliefs and practices that had found a place in the heart of each of her children. We may have complained about kneeling on the hard floor, but even as little tykes, prayer became part of our lives because of our mother.
At her passing, we were bereft. Mom was our strength, our compass. She was the one we called about concerns, both large and small; she was the one we talked with about our hopes and dreams. Her passing left a huge emptiness that still echoes in our memories. When we sorted through her belongings, not so surprisingly, we discovered she had a dozen or so rosaries. I received two of them.
When I checked into Cedars Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, I took my mom’s wooden rosary with me. I felt her near when I held it, and this sensation gave me comfort. I held the beads tightly and imagined Mom with me.
After the surgery, I was rolled into a room on the Pain Floor where all neurosurgery patients were housed. Next to me was an adjustable overbed table, and when I awakened, I realized that my mom’s rosary rested on it.
My nurse, Lucy, regularly came in to check on me, and each time she walked through the door, she sang a refrain which included the words, our lady of the rosary. I was surprised by this, because Cedars Sinai is a Jewish hospital. After Lucy left, an aide visited, and she explained that her sister was a nun, and my rosary reminded her of this sister. Later, the night nurse came in and told me about immigrating to the US and how she loved the rosary.
During my hospital stay, one staff person after another visited me and shared family stories and photos—all evoked by the rosary that rested on the overbed table. As I was preparing to leave, Lucy came in to say her goodbyes. She pulled a photo from her pocket.
“This is my mom,” she proudly stated. “I thought you’d like to see her.”
The image was of a petite woman, hunched over by time, smiling broadly at the camera. She stood next to her much-larger daughter, Lucy. I was stunned; she looked like my mom.
As the hospital staff came to say goodbye and wish me well, I suddenly realized that Mom had been with me the whole while. I had been loved and cared for by many at the hospital, but it was Mom who drew them near with her rosary.