I held the phone in my hand listening carefully to the voice on the other end. She spoke slowly with a bit of a rasp. Announcing my name as though it was a matter of importance to her, that I understood, she knew who she was calling. Dropping the white sport socks, I had been trying to mate, to the bed, I now paused to give her my full attention. She continued to tell me who she was and why she called. Her words were spoken loud and almost with a happiness, that she had managed to reach me with ease. Very deliberate, and genuine she chose the words that would touch my heart.
I had been battling earlier in the week, with sorrow and sadness. My heart heavily fought back at the despair that taunted me inside. I was struggling with another phase of Duchenne, as my middle son Cody was beginning to lose the ability to climb up and down stairs, independently. Amongst the sadness, that was attempting to grasp at me from another day in the Duchenne world, I was also, just beginning to feel the deep demise of my marriage. Heartache and loneliness screamed at me from all sides. Fear of what was ahead for us echoed through my mind, as the crashing of my world slowly played out before me.
I had awoken that morning determined to get through my daily duties of caring for my three sons and running my house, without tears. Zealously I wanted to be the strength that would carry my sons and I from the hurt were just beginning to accept into our lives. It was summer the sun shined bright in the sky. A warm breeze filled the upstairs room where I had been sorting laundry. My children were happily busy building with Lego's one floor directly below me. Through my open window their laughter escaped up to me, from their playroom. I felt comfort knowing somehow amidst all the madness that had entered in to our lives it was the sound of joy that I was hearing from my beautiful sons.
The image of the voice speaking to me on the phone flashed through my mind. I could see her smiling warm friendly face as though she was in front of me now. Very sweetly she asked " How are the boys, this is Marlene". I recognized her voice almost the instant she told me her name. I paused momentarily with question after question flooding my mind. Marlene was a friend of my deceased mother. The last time I had actually seen Marlene was at my wedding. The last time I had heard the mention of Marlene's name in my world was at my mothers funeral. Marlene, one of my mothers dearest friends was unable to attend because she was recovering from a loss of a limb in her battle with cancer. Here, she was now some 8 years later calling me, out of the blue. I had moved since my mothers death. How could she have my new number I wondered . She also used the word sons. When my mother passed away years ago I had one son, and had just learned myself that I was expecting. I had not announced it to anyone, other than my two sisters at that time. I continued to listen, as she gave me the words I needed to hear.
Almost as though she was reading my thoughts she spoke to me. Shakily I answered her back. "My boys are good" I replied. Laughter from downstairs reached my ears just as I spoke into the phone. The sounds filled my heart with joy. Without hesitating she said "your mom is with you now" and then continued. "She knows your pain and that you are scared." "You will get through this, she is with you at your side." She added. I turned to look at the photo of my mother that sat next to my bed. The photo I talked to daily, the photo that I cried to some nights. In silence I held the phone. A single tear rolling down my cheek. Taking a deep breath I started to ask her why she called. "Your tears are from love not fear." She said so confident. Almost as though she wanted to convince me. She then told me she had been praying this morning with a priest at her home. Very clearly she said, she heard our Lords voice tell her to call me while praying. I wiped at the stream of tears that now fell freely from my eyes. Almost choking on my sobs I managed to ask her why me. Why would God tell her to call me, I had to know. So effortlessly she said, she was dying. She had only days left. I muttered, I was sorry. She cut my words off, and said. " No sweetie, I am happy. I will be with God very soon, do not be sorry for me. This is why I am speaking to you now. He hears your sorrow. He loves you. He believes in you". " Marlene" I said softly in the phone. "I am not my mom I do not have her strength". "Rita" she said softly to me "You have your mother, Jesus and me with you on this journey. " You will find strength from your love for your sons."
Before Marlene hung up she told me she loved me and asked if she could have my number to call and check on me again. I told her she must have my number because she was the one who called me. With laughter she said "no Jesus dialed the phone because you needed hope". I gave Marlene my number. However I never did hear back from her. A week later I was saddened and shocked to learn through a mutual acquaintance that she had passed away. The day after she spoke to me on the phone she slipped into unconsciousness and died in her sleep. Marlenes phone call to me earned some attention. Through a chain of acquaintances I learned her son was particularly interested in hearing about our call because on the day she called me, she was in a semi conscience state most of the day, accept for when father came to pray with her. She was left alone to rest after they had prayed. I kept her her call on my caller ID for several years later.
On occasion when I am sad I still turn to my mothers photo and talk to her. I also on occasion recall my conversation with Marlene. Marlene never told me my sons would be healed from their terminal disease or that my marriage would not fail. What she did tell me was I was strong, my sorrow was real and most importantly that God believed in me and loved me. Those are simple things, things- we are taught God might say to us when we are in need. I was the last person Marlene had a conversation with on earth. So what I took from all of this is, and what I hope to share is, that God is so awesome, he asked a dying woman to give something of herself to someone not very connected to her, who was hurting. He heard me cry and answered. Not in a way I would have imagined but in his way. I still will have doubts in myself from time to time, I am human, and will still struggle with despair at times. Sometimes I will even fall but, every now and then I will get that call that will give me what I will need. A call just to say hey, I believe in you. How awesome is that!!!!