I have never put this story to paper before, so I apologize if it is hard for some of you to read. I know it is a difficult subject. If you don't finish, I understand completely.
The Sunday after Christmas, moma had her second heart attack. I met them at the hospital. Our family doctor was on vacation and another doctor attended her. After stabilizing her, they admitted her to the hospital. They took chest x-rays and said that she had a spot of pneumonia. They started her on IVs of antibiotics. She seemed a little better and was released in a week. She did have to go to Cardiac rehab. With in a month, she was sick again and admitted to the hospital again. Same thing, a spot on her lungs. She stayed until she was better and then released. A month later, she was sick once more. This time her electrolytes were out of kilter and they admitted her. Sometime during the night, she fell out of bed and was bruised. This scenario continued for two more admissions to the hospital. Our family doctored had set her up with a specialist. She never made any of the appointments.
Pat was suppose to take her to a specialist, but they never made the appointments because moma was always sick or throwing up. I always wonder if she had proper medical care if that would have made a difference. I will never know. Every time moma was in the hospital, Pat and I would get in a huge fight over the best care for her. I would leave the hospital in tears. I was angry that he did not take her illness more seriously. The last month she stayed in bed the whole time. In one week, moma lost ten pounds. Something was not right, but Pat would not do anything. We had a huge fight and I stood my ground. I was taking her to the hospital with or with out him.
Against her husband's wishes, I took moma to the ER at the hospital. He and I had so many fights about moma. I told him that I was taking her there whether he liked it or not. I left my flower shop and drove my van to her house and picked her up. She was so weak that she had to lay down in the back of the van. Pat realized I meant what I said and he followed. We waited for hours and hours while the doctors ran a battery of test. At one point when I was with moma, her stomach got hard and looked like a brick. They admitted her that Thursday night. I went home and called my sister, Candy. I could barely speak the words. Moma is sick and you need to come here.
The next day they did more test. They tried to poke a feeding tube down her nose. That was an awful sight to witness. She was too weak to swallow the damn thing. So when they took her for more test, they sedated her and inserted the feeding tube. The doctors did everything they could, but from where I sat, it looked like pure torture for her. Veins collapsing and blood pooling up in her hand. So they went to her leg to find a site for her IVs. Moma was so bruised up from all of their efforts. Thursday passed, Pat spent the night with moma. We had hope.
Come Friday, the doctors were all conferencing in the hallway. The heart doc, the gastric doc, the cancer doc & the lung doc. None of them could decide what to do. Pat went home that night and researched moma's medical books. He tore out an article that sounded like what she had. He gave it to the doctors and Bingo! I could not believe it. We are so angry at this point and frustrated.
Before her death, she had gone into a coma that Friday night in the hospital on June 4Th. That was the night I heard my mother deep in a coma speak. I heard my moma call out to her mother. "Mother?"Just out of the blue she said it "Mother, Mother". It gave me chills at first and then it brought me much comfort to realize that grand moma was with us, even if only in spirit.
That was the hottest night of the year and the air conditioning goes out in the hospital. It was dreadful. Her husband somehow opened the windows. The humidity and heat were unbearable. I was glad that moma was in a coma and did not feel the heat. The next day, Sat., they moved her to ICU because they had emergency backup AC and electricity. I kept wondering what my mother had and what was making her so sick. Little did we know it would be fatal. I remember my sister, Candy, was worried about getting to Longview in time. I told her not to worry because moma would hang on until Sunday. Why, I did not know until later that day when I made the connection with what had happened the previous night in the hospital room.
Saturday moma was moved to ICU. She had so many doctors and not a one of them had a clue what was wrong with her except this one gastroenterologist. He mentioned CANCER...did I hear him correctly? I kept saying that I would hate for moma to die before they found out what was wrong with her. Moma had been sick for a month before and she did not want to go to the doctor.
Candy arrived and we went to the hospital to see moma. Moma had all kinds of IVs hooked up to her and monitors. There really wasn't even room for a chair, much less us. I will never forget the kindness of the nurses, aids and everyone that worked on that floor. They were so gentle with her compared to the other floor. I witnessed compassion in a whole new light. Kindly and freely given to our mother. We spent most of our time in the family waiting room. Sitting there watching other families going through the same thing as us. Emotions filled the room. I remember every sound and smell just like it was yesterday.
People coming and going and people not returning to that floor. Not returning to ICU. The whole room would get so quiet when any news came in about some one's loved one. A hush...quiet respect for the family that had just received bad news. We all had but just one thing in common. We all bonded from that one thing. We all wept from that one thing. We were crying not just for ourselves, but for all the families in that room and for what they were experiencing. For what was surely to come our way as well.
I have never experienced total unconditional love and compassion like I did that weekend in the ICU waiting area. Total strangers caring for one another. Total strangers comforting one another, hugging one another as if they were family. No racial boundaries, no differences, no one went untouched or unnoticed by the random kindness of total strangers. If you have never experienced this well then it is difficult to explain. I call it a God thing. God using others to reach out in their time of need.
Some had good news, others not so good. We fell into the later group. The doctor stood there feet firmly planted on the ground. We were dealt a blow that none of us were prepared for. Moma's husband Pat had such a hard time accepting it and holding back his emotions. He left and went to the restroom and I could hear him weeping, slapping his face in disbelief, desperately trying to pull it together. Candy and I embraced and cried inconsolably. Even the nurses cried with us. That Saturday, we cried all day. Crying so much that even the nurses broke down with us. Angels of mercy, Angels of compassion, Angels of Love.
Nothing more could be done for moma, so she was move to a different floor. A floor where she would go to die. A room where she would feel no pain. No feeding tubes, IVs or any other means of life support. A room to wait for death to come softly and take her away. They say that the hearing is the last sense to go, so I talked with her about how much I loved her and that despite our horrible childhood, I know that she was a good mother and that she did the best she could. I thanked her for being my mother. I stayed by her side, wiping her brow with a cool rag, touching her hand, combing back her hair. Touching her to say "I love you." Telling her to go to the light and be with grand moma in heaven. Telling her that we would take care of Pat, her husband and not to worry about us. Giving her permission to leave us and to go to a much better place, heaven.
Being with my mother was one of the greatest honors I could have ever had. Dying is a journey for the family and the loved one that is dying. Pat would stay the nights with moma and Candy and I would take the day shift, while Pat would go home and feed the cat, wash, sleep, just do what ever he had to do. I realized that Saturday that the Sunday was our grand mother's birthday, June 6Th. I knew then that moma calling out to grand moma, her mother, was a sign that moma would die on her mother's birthday. What a beautiful thing to happen to moma.
Moma's feet began getting cold, very blue and cold. This coldness slowly crept up her body. I placed blankets on her and the cold kept edging up to finally her face. I told her I loved her one more time. She took her last breath and exhaled and was gone. I will never forget that moment as long as I live. I sent Candy to run after Pat, but he had already left. The nurses ask us to step out of the room while they cleaned her up and prepared her. The funeral home came and picked her up and took her to their mortuary. Candy and I, stunned, went to my house. The end had come. Moma died from Lung Cancer that had spread to her liver. She was sixty-five years old. I miss her terribly.
Since then, I have looked in our family Bible and noticed how many family members die on a loved one's birthday, anniversary. I have noticed how life goes on through death and birth. Children born on an ancestor's birthday. It seems like God balances it all out with an amazing accuracy. Nothing restores my faith in God more than the birth of a new baby because I know God is renewing us through that little life. I no longer fear death, in fact I embrace it.
Can you really hear me?
Is there anyone there?
When I look into your eyes,
All I see is a blank stare.
There are no feelings to show
If you can hear me,
I just want you to know,
That I love you Mother,
How I miss you so,
Can you really hear me?
We've shared so many thoughts,
How I need to hear your words,
and the comfort of your voice.
I always tell you Mother
How I spent my day,
Though you have no voice
I pray one day you too can say.
I can hear you calling...
I love you daughter too.
I can see a tear in your eye.
Good-bye, darling daughter...