We Carried the Mat
by Katie Jordan
WestBow Press, 2012
Kindle Edition: $3.49
Hello again, Readers! After a longer than expected hiatus, I am returning to The Lit Witch as promised. It’s good to be back.
I return to you today with a “review” of sorts that’s very personal. It is not from a genre that is at all typical for The Lit Witch. I chose this book because I’ve had the privilege of meeting its author and her subject – and because my house is one of the “characters.”
In June of 2005, I was 8 months pregnant with our second child and living in a too-small house that we had been trying to sell for years. At that rather inopportune time, we finally found a buyer – but with one very inconvenient requirement. We had to be out in just over a month – 2 days before my due date – in order for the buyer to start his new job on time. A mad house-shopping scramble ensued in which I waddled through house after house looking for our “forever home” with no time to spare. And just when it looked like I would be coming “home” to a hotel room with our new baby, we found just the house that we had hoped for. It was perfect in every way, met all of our requirements, and I instantly fell in love with it. We put in a full price offer tagged with the very difficult request that the sellers move out in just a few short weeks so that we would have a place to house our newly expanded family.
What we didn’t know until later was that the sellers were moving because the husband and father in their family, Jay, had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) earlier that very year and that they were moving because he was already suffering profound mobility problems. In spite of that, they agreed… and incredibly, packed up 16 years of their lives and moved, even though their new handicap-accessible home would not be complete for several more months. This necessitated that they undertake the very difficult task of moving not once, but twice.
I only met the Jordans two times – first at the closing and second when I joined them at the Walk to Defeat ALS just a couple of months later. I remember that Jay walked into the closing. He was in a wheelchair by the time the ALS event took place. We heard occasional updates on Jay’s condition through mutual acquaintances and were sorry to learn of his passing just 2 short years later.
Recently, a friend reminded me that Katie had written a book about her spiritual journey during her years as Jay’s caretaker. So last night I found it on Barnes and Noble, purchased the Nook Book and read it in a single sitting. I cried when I read it. I cried again when I tried to tell my parents about it this morning.
Katie kept a journal throughout the time she was caring for Jay and used it to put together a very sweet narrative of the trials and tribulations they suffered, the lessons they learned and the unique emotional issues that only someone caring for a dying loved one can truly imagine. She documents their victories, their defeats and the ways in which the experience strengthened not only their relationship with each other, but their individual relationships with God. Anyone who finds themselves in the difficult position of caring for a gravely ill loved one will find a sense of solidarity and companionship in Katie’s touching narrative. Her account of Jay’s strength, dignity and humor throughout his ordeal is inspiring.
For the spiritually-minded, Katie includes Bible passages and verses that helped sustain them throughout this difficult time. She also chronicles the kindnesses of both their church and our community and the value of accepting help when and where it is offered. She shares an incredibly thorough list of suggestions – all learned the hard way – on vital features to consider in planning a handicap-accessible home. These are features that go above and beyond minimum ADA standards. Families wrestling with similar issues will find these suggestions conveniently grouped at the end of the book.
Leading up to that lesson, Katie describes the dawning realization that their long-time family home would soon be unnavigable for Jay. The chapter entitled “Musical Houses” recounts the ordeal of selling their home to us and figuring out the logistics of making those two difficult moves. In one early passage, she speaks of her family home – now my family home:
I knew every inch of our comfortable, sprawling home where our family laughed and loved. Under the circumstances, there was no time for waxing sentimental over the memories. Relocating was inevitable.
Time or not, I still remember being touched by her sentimental smile at closing when she told a very-pregnant me, “It’s a wonderful house to raise a family in.” That it is, Katie.
So please support this lovely woman and have a look at her very personal book. Suggest it to friends and acquaintances who may at this very moment be living with similarly tragic diagnoses. The cover image at the top of this post will link you directly to its Amazon product page.
And Katie, if you’re out there and you stumble across this page, know that my family continues to laugh and love in this home. Know also that you are welcome to stop in and join us at any time. Oh… and know one more thing: there are still ladybugs here. I find them in the front bay window from time to time. And now I know why.