I just finished another heartrending and well written memoir of Cathy Glass.
In the Night the Angels Came Cathy’s family is given a unique request. Normally fostercarers take children who have been abused or neglected. Either for short term while the parents get rehabilitated or long-term. But another use for foster care is so that parents can put their children in safe hands when they’re very ill or dying.
Michael is a 12 year old boy. He lost his mother when he was very little. His Father Patrick, currently has terminal cancer.
At first Cathy was overwhelmed by the prospect of working with a child in the process of losing a parent. Her own family had dealt with their own loss what with their father leaving Cathy recently and the divorce.
When Adrian and Paula hear about Michael’s situation they insist that Michael should come stay with them. They feel they can empathize with Michael as they know what it’s like to lose a father.
Cathy agrees to look after Michael. This fostering situation is very different from any Cathy has been in. She will only be looking after Michael when Patrick is in the hospital and then of course when Patrick dies. Patrick and she feel though that it would be good for them to meet regularly so that Michael is fameliar with Cathy and their family.
Both Patrick and Cathy are in extremely vulnerable places in their lives. Patrick for obvious reasons. And Cathy due to the recent divorce and situation with her husband John. She is left wounded and needing the kind of emotional support that Pat seems to so easily provide. Patrick is positive kind and thoughtful. He has an attitude to live everyday and make the most of it and rarely is down about his illness.
He is good company to Cathy. They go out on some occasions and the two families grow quite close. Jill warns Cathy about getting too close. But she doesn’t take in her warning. Patrick eventually falls ill and has to go into the hospital. He spends a couple weeks there there some of it unconscious. When he comes out he tells Cathy that he needs to put distance between them. As it wouldn’t be fair to Adrean and Paula to lose a father figure, or for that matter Cathy. Cathy is saddened by this but realizes that it is the best decision.
As a reader I felt like Cathy having a friendship with Patrick wasn’t professional. As with other foster placements she would only interact with the parents for contact ETC. Though this was a unique situation I don’t think it was a good idea for the boundaries to come down and for Cathy and Patrick to become friends. However I suppose in fostering it’s hard to draw the line between personal and professional.
As time goes by Michael spends more time at Cathy’s house. He is as positive as his father. And as thoughtful. Both he and Patrick are catholic. And they have a very strong faith. This sees them through the intense trauma of the illness. Michael prays every night and believes that the angels will take his father to Heaven to be with his mom.
As Patrick gets sicker he goes into hospice. He tells Cathy it will just be for a few days. He slips into unconsciousness. Michael goes there and is encouraged to talk to his father even though he isn’t awake. It is a touching scene to hear him talking to his Dad. And a time for Michael to express how he feels.
He has a premonition that Patrick will not last the weekend. And sadly that Monday Patrick dies.
Michael’s greif is emense and indeed so is Cathy’s and the children’s. Still it seems as Michael’s faith continues to help him through. He and Pat have also had the support of coleen and Eamon. Friends of Pat’s and Michael’s godparents. As well as neighbors Nora and Jack. These friends have helped the family and been their through the traumas of the illness. So that though Michael doesn’t have biological parents he has these caring people in his life for support.
Cathy is vigilant to be there for Michael when he cries or just needs to talk. She also is sure to reassure her own children through this hard time. The social services meet. Patrick thoughtfully arranged things for after his death. Coleen and Eamon had approached him. They didn’t have any children and really wanted to adopt Michael. He encouraged them to think it over and if they felt the same way when the time came to go forward with it. Michael had two options. To stay with Cathy and her family long term or to live with Coleen and Eamon.
Knowing that Michael is very mature for his age and deserves some say his father said that Michael’s decision should be final. He knows that Coleen and Eamon have been there for him his whole life and are truly like family. He chooses to live with them knowing that he will see Cathy and her family regularly.
Though this was an incredibly sad story it was also uplifting. It showed that with faith and support even the most difficult life events can be overcome. Cathy and her family faced this situation and were better people for knowing Michael and Patrick. It helped them too come to terms with their own sense of loss and made them stronger as a family. Amd Coleen and Eamon gained a son. Michael is an extremely mature resilent person especially for his age. He is open and honest about his feelings. He was able to appropriately greeve while still remaining connected to those he loved and not becoming withdrawn. Patrick would be proud of how things turned out.
I’d be curious if others have fostered children with terminal illness, or those who have lost a loved one. And how this experience was for you.
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