It was 9:30PM, the phone rang and I heard a loud frantic voice from my 87 year old Dad. “Go to the hospital, the paramedics just left with your Mother.”
I quickly got dressed and ran out the door. While driving to the nearest of three hospitals in the area, I got another alarming call from Dad. “The paramedics decided to take her to a different hospital.” When he told me which one, I knew this was more than a broken bone or the flu. I’d never even been to this hospital before, then I realized why. This was where ambulances took people who were fighting for their life. I quickly discarded that thought because my Mom hadn’t recently complained of anything other than extreme fatigue.
As I pulled into the parking lot a bright orange helicopter was landing nearby with a patient on board. It was incredibly loud, medical staff was rushed, focused, and I immediately found comfort in their competence. The hospital’s impeccable performance in an emergency was amazing to watch, including the thorough attention my Mom was receiving upon my arrival to the ER.
My Mother was white as a ghost, lethargic, her mind distant, yet she was aware enough to know it was failing her. Her life had become a puzzle, not only were there pieces missing, she was giving up the fight to find them.
After six days of care, she began to improve, her vitals strengthened, and her rosy cheeks hinted of recovery. I was informed by her attending physician that a rehab center with a skilled nursing staff was critical at her discharge. This rehab center turned out being a long term nursing home disguised with a different name. Of course I still didn’t get it… until she died six days later.
I guess you’re never prepared to face death, although my Mom’s frail health was no secret, I still felt helpless. But then I had a different feeling, it was like everything my Mom ever told me became crystal clear, and I knew it was her voice giving me guidance and strength to carry out her wishes. Her family was the light of her life, and it was me who she put her trust in to comfort them through this difficult time. Me? Really? I’m not a leader, and for a job this important I had serious doubts that I could make her proud. But this time there was just no room for mistakes, and although I had no idea how to handle her passing with grace, I would honor her with my very best effort.
I remembered her words, “ Be strong, be kind to each other, and rather than cry, celebrate my life.” To me, this meant keeping our family close through this difficult time, and acknowledging her strong faith with a church service where her loved ones could say their final farewell.
As always, Mom had the last word, and even though she was gone, I knew she had one last request from me. It was church… and I was there Mom.
She was a grandma, a mother, and wife,
Her unconditional love will forever touch my life.