SYLVANIA, OHIO — She lies immobilized in bed, 24/7. In her waking hours she gazes placidly out the lone window in her room. Her eyes light on a short tree whose flaming gold leaves still cling to branches well past their usual time of fading and falling to the ground.
“A miracle,” she tells us during our visit. “A sign,” I reply, “of how much God loves you.”
Franciscan Sister Patricia Taube, 82, for 30 years a chaplain at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, is now in palliative care here at the Rosary Care Center in Sylvania, off the northwestern edge of Toledo. In summer 2013, while still in Huntington, she suffered a serious episode of sepsis poisoning. To save her life, doctors opted to amputate both her arms to the elbow and both her legs to the knee.
Moved to the Sylvania assisted care facility, she was fitted for prostheses.
At that time she told me, “I guess my vocation is to live the rest of my life in joy.”
And so she has. On our most recent trip up to see her, Paula and I found her utterly at peace, and still joyful, waiting for death to claim what is left of her body.
Over the past four months Sister Patricia has lain isolated from all but the nurses and other caregivers on the second floor of the Rosary Center. The facility is supersensitive to COVID-19 and consequently has been banning all visitors, including even her brother, Mike, who is himself ensconced on another floor of the building.
“How did you get in here!?” Sister Patricia exclaimed as we entered her room, waking her from a light nap. “They haven’t been letting anyone in at all.” We came, of course, wearing masks.
I had phoned four days prior to see if it was possible to visit her. A supervising nurse told me, “Yes, you can come.” And so we did. Thus when initially Paula and I were told upon our arrival that no visitors were allowed, I cited the phone call and the permission we had been given and said we had driven up from Huntington.
We were asked to wait patiently while the shift supervisor and her associates huddled. Finally word came down to the lobby: “Send them up.”
“It’s another miracle,” Sister Patricia remarked about our breaking through the ban on visitors, this after she had already gone over the miracle of the tree and its enduring gold leaves. Previously, when she was able to go outside in a wheelchair, she had spent many hours sitting in the garden right next to that tree.
“God is sending us miracles all the time,” she told us. “But we don’t let ourselves see them.”
Of her decades at St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Detroit native said, “I always felt at home in West Virginia.” She was especially fond of Huntington and was a hit not only in the Catholic community there but in Protestant circles as well.
“It’s wonderful being in this room all the time,” she said toward the end of our visit. “I pray a lot and I’ve learned so much from God. When I have trouble sleeping, I ask the Virgin Mary to send me angels to sing me to sleep. And they do.”