Mortal Blessings: A Sacramental Farewell

Mortal Blessings: A Sacramental Farewell

by Angela Alaimo O'Donnell

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Winner of a 2015 Catholic Press Award: Family Life Category (First Place)

In this lyrical adieu to her mother, renowned Catholic essayist, poet, and professor Angela O'Donnell explores how the mundane tasks of caregiving during her mother's final days--bathing, feeding, taking her for a walk in her wheelchair--became rituals or ordinary sacraments that revealed traces of the divine.

With Joan Didion's grasp of grief, the spiritual playfulness of Mary Karr, and the poetic agility of Kathleen Norris, Angela Alaimo O'Donnell narrates the events that followed her mother's fall and the broken hip that led to surgery. As O'Donnell and her sisters cared for their mother's failing body during the last days of her life, they unconsciously observed rituals that began to take on a deeper importance.

Bathing her each morning was a kind of baptism, the nightly feeding of pie took on a Eucharistic significance, trimming and polishing nails became a kind of anointing. Beyond the seven there are the myriad sacraments they made up: the sacrament of community via cell phone, the sacrament of wheelchair pilgrimage around the nursing home, and the sacrament of humor and laughter. This deeply human portrait of loss is balanced by the surprising grace found in letting go; it will resonate with any spiritual reader but especially caregivers and those currently in grief.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594714092
Publisher: Ave Maria Press
Publication date: 09/08/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Angela Alaimo O'Donnell teaches courses in American Catholic studies, English, and creative writing at Fordham University, where she also serves as associate director of Fordham’s Curran Center for American Catholic Studies. Her most recent book of poems, Waking My Mother, isa collection of elegies focused on the relationships between mothers and daughters. Her previous book, Saint Sinatra & Other Poems, was been nominated for the Arlin G. Meyer Prize in Imaginative Writing. Previous books include Moving House and two chapbooks: Mine and Waiting for Ecstasy. She is also the author of The Province of Joy, a book of hours based on the prayer practice and grounded in the theological imagination of Flannery O’Connor.

O’Donnell’s poems have appeared in many journals, including America, Christian Century, Christianity and Literature, First Things, Hawaii Pacific Review, Mezzo Cammin, Pedestal Magazine, Post Road, Potomac Review, Relief, RUNES, String Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Verse Wisconsin, Vineyards, Windhover, and Xavier Review, and in a variety of anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature. She has been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Web prizes, and was a finalist for the Foley Poetry Award, the Elixir First Book Award, and the Mulberry Poets & Writers Award.

O’Donnell also writes essays that engage literature and art in the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Her essays and reviews have appeared in such journals as America, Commonweal, and Christianity and Literature, and have been included in a variety of collections and anthologies. O’Donnell is a columnist for America and contributes columns and blog essays devoted to books and culture.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Chapter 1 The Sacrament of Speech 1

Chapter 2 The Sacrament of Distance 21

Chapter 3 The Sacrament of Beauty 39

Chapter 4 The Sacrament of Humor 67

Chapter 5 Sacraments of the Cell Phone and the Wheelchair 81

Chapter 6 The Sacrament of Witness 93

Chapter 7 The Sacrament of Honor 109

Chapter 8 The Sacrament of Memory 123

Acknowledgments 129

Notes 131

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