Prioritizing: ‘It is well with my soul’


In mid-December of 2023, I was told that my mom would require hospice. My initial thought was, “what does that mean”? I remember telling the hospice nurse to call me the next day since I was in a meeting. My mom (Mary Madelina Joseph) passed on Jan. 11, 2024 at about 6:50 a.m. As I reflect on her hospice journey, I accommodated her needs by being present, focusing on the now and embracing a method of prayer that she preferred.  

Reflection #1 Body (being present): The semester was ending, it was the Christmas season and my goddaughter was graduating from college in Orlando. How do I balance all the expectations? I remember telling my mom I was on my way to New York but I needed to attend Christmas Mass with my husband and daughter. I prayed in adoration for the wisdom and grace to meet all the expectations in my personal life, church life and professional life. I eventually packed a large suitcase, adding funeral clothes in case I would need them. I finally arrived in New York on Dec. 26. After arriving, I never left the house unless it was for church and once to go to the supermarket. My sisters and cousins asked, “Aren’t you coming to our home or the city?” My response was, “no.” I felt the need to be physically present and the freedom to say so. Spending the last days physically present is an opportunity of great importance.

Reflection #2 Mind (focus on the now): I am always multitasking personally and professionally. I felt the need to stop multitasking and focus on my mom’s environment. During my stay, my mother’s roommate (aunt Christine) contracted COVID and I had to manage the environment to prevent transmission of COVID to my mom and the 24-hour care team. I had to focus on managing two people who were sick amid all my commitments. I found the freedom to email people saying I needed an extension or could not attend meetings. People were quite gracious and understanding.

Reflection #3 Spirit (new prayer method): I needed to keep my mom occupied as she transitioned, so scheduling prayers became the priority. I used her book with novenas and selected St. Therese of Lisieux. My mom generally likes novenas but novenas have not been part of my prayer repertoire. I decided to pray for a happy death for her. Each day through the process, I became more enlightened by St. Therese’s wisdom. On day 9 of the novena, my mom passed away.  Without any knowledge of St. Therese, my older sister chose a rose for her prayer card and subsequent artifacts (wreaths and rose petals) for the funeral. I realized that St. Therese had showered us with many roses from heaven. 


In conclusion, I recognize that sacrifices occur in many ways and at different times throughout the year.  During this Lenten season, we can reflect on the times we made sacrifices for others with the support of God’s grace in our busy lives. We are reminded of Mathew 11: 28-29, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” I am certain that my frequent visits to adoration gave me the freedom to focus on my mom and prioritize her needs.

In the spirit of St. Therese of Lisieux and recalling the hymn by Audrey Assad sung by the Holy Cross Helpers at the cemetery, God gave me the courage, freedom and wisdom to prioritize my mother’s needs and be there in her last days. Therefore, “It is well with my soul” (Horatio Spafford).

(Lindell Joseph, PhD, RN, FAAN, is a nurse, professor, and director of the MSN/CNL program at the University of Iowa College of Nursing. She is a parishioner of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. She is a lay Carmelite who co-chairs the Healthy Habits Ministry at her parish.)

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *