MOM WAS A SPECIAL LADY
For years now I have said I was going to write about my mom…someday. But ever since she passed away in April of 2006, it has just been too hard. Well, I guess today is the day.
My mom had a great childhood growing up on a farm in Virginia. She had an older sister and a younger sister which made her the “middle child.” I think that is why she always had a special place in her heart for her middle child, my brother, Eddie. I can understand that now. During our child and teen years, he put her through a lot of heartache, but so did my other brother and I. Yet, she never gave up hope for any of us. She did whatever she thought was best for us all.
The main thing she did was just “be there.” She was there for us all…all the time. Even if I had an argument with her, she would still talk to me. I would apologize, she would apologize, we would cry together, and it was said and done – never any rehashing of it again. That’s what I loved about her. She didn’t throw things up in my face that I had done before to hurt her. I try not to do this with my children either or anyone else for that matter. But I admit, I fail sometimes.
The years I treasure most about my mom, though, were the years after I had my two children before we had to move away from her. We still saw her a lot after we moved, but it wasn’t the same. She wasn’t a five minute drive away any more. But she was always just a phone call away. We had many conversations after we moved. We talked almost every day. But one of the scariest conversations I remember was when she called me around Christmastime in 2005.
In that conversation she told me she was going to have an operation for an aneurism that had been found in her aorta. I asked her what the risks were. She said the doctor told her if she didn’t have the operation, one day the aneurism would burst which would mean instant death. But she was a smoker, and the doctor told her that the operation would be risky as well. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember one thing. I begged her not to have the operation. That may sound strange, but in my gut I knew somehow that she wouldn’t survive it. I was afraid of losing her while she was on the table! I thought I would have her just go instantly one day, but in a way I’m glad that didn’t happen.
As it turned out, after the operation, she survived. But things went downhill from there. She hallucinated from the drugs they gave her for pain. Her blood platelets never stabilized. They found out she had a calcified kidney. It was just one thing after another. She was in the hospital for five weeks.
The weather was rainy on and off that year. The kids and I were studying birds in our home school. We were putting bird seed in the front yard every day to attract them and learned we had many, many different kinds of birds in our area. We were working to identify them with bird books. We were doing activities to go along with our study of birds. My mom loved birds, except for squawking blue-jays.
Then one day after we had come back from visiting her, the kids and I were sitting on the couch looking out the window at the rain and the birds hopping in the front yard eating their seeds. The phone rang. My husband answered it, I think. My oldest brother was on the line. In tears he said, “You better come back, Patsy. The doctors say there’s nothing more they can do. She doesn’t have very long.” I was in tears, speechless, then sobbing. I was nodding my head, but no sound was coming out. I handed the phone to my husband.
We proceeded to start packing. Then we left either that afternoon or the next morning. I honestly don’t remember. The drive was painful. So many memories were flashing in my head of my mom. Her smiles, her tears, her love. Everyone else in the car was in a somber mood as well. My daughter had just turned seven. We had celebrated her birthday down at my parents’s house the month before…while my mom was in the hospital. My son had just turned nine in February of that year. They loved grandma so much and still do.
When we arrived in the town where she was at the hospital, we went straight there I think. We visited for awhile, got the doctor’s updates, and went to their house to unpack and settle in. We probably ate something, then went back to the hospital.
I don’t remember how many days we were there until the doctors said they were going to try to give her dialysis for her kidney which they did. I thought it was a waste of time which it turned out to be. Then that last day when the doctors asked us if we wanted to take her home or let her die in the hospital, we all talked about it. I sure as heck did not want her dying in the hospital. There would be too much of a chance she might die without all of us there. So we opted to have her brought home.
She came home the next morning, April 15, 2006. The next day was Easter. We had planned to hide eggs in the backyard for the kids to find Easter morning. I wasn’t sure if she would make it until then, but I prayed she wouldn’t. I wanted her to be out of pain; we were having to give her morphine every couple of hours. I wanted her to be at rest. I just knew she was not going to survive much longer. I wanted her suffering to end even though mine would continue.
My mom had the most beautiful blue eyes. I remember sitting and looking into them all that day and evening. She couldn’t talk for some reason which was the hardest thing of all. She understood our questions to her and could nod or shake her head. But having not been hearing her voice for over a week was really tough. I wanted to hear her say good-bye and that she loved us. But her eyes said it all. She was always pretty easy to read. She wore her emotions on her sleeve so to speak just as I do most of the time.
That year we had given her a copy of Alan Jackson’s CD of gospel songs that he had recorded for his wife and mother. I took our CD player with me that trip and played that CD throughout the day crying through every song while sitting in a rocking chair next to her bed holding her hand. I remember the last time it finished, I asked her if she wanted to hear it again. She shook her head. I said okay. Then I said the hardest thing I’ve ever said to anyone. I said, “Mama, you don’t have to hang on for us. It’s okay. You can go. We love you and don’t want you to suffer any more.” She sort of indicated that she understood.
Several hours later in the evening, her breathing became more shallow and labored. My husband and I, our daughter, and my oldest brother were at her side. Our son was watching TV in another room. My dad was doing the same in the living room. We asked them if they wanted to say good-bye to her, but they didn’t. They just couldn’t, but it was okay. Everyone handles death differently. My other brother had left the house an hour or so earlier and wasn’t back yet. I don’t remember when he got back. But she was gone when he did. I don’t know if he regretted his decision to leave or not. But I never held it against him. I believe it was when he came back that he read the 23rd Psalm. But it may have been before he left.
I remember my brother, Wade, and I both with our heads lying on her chest after she was gone, sobbing. I remember my daughter crying. I remember telling my son and dad she was gone and their crying. I remember my husband crying.
But what was the strangest thing of all for me was that second when she took her last breath. Everything just went still. I put my hand up to her nose to make sure she wasn’t breathing any more. My brother and I locked eyes and knew she was gone. Then we started sobbing and holding hands. It was a very sacred moment. I knew she was with the Lord, and I thanked Him that her suffering was over. But I cried for myself wishing she had never gone through all of that and wishing she were still with us.
That was the hardest day I have ever lived. It was Easter the next day, but I knew her soul had been resurrected to live with her Savior for eternity. And that knowledge is what gave me the peace I felt so immensely in the midst of my pain. The love of my Lord, the love of my mom, the love of my family. I was privileged to have been able to see the soul of the one woman who influenced my life more than any other, be set free.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.