March 25, 2014. A date I’ll never forget. The day my Mom died.
To say her death came as a shock would not do justice to the definition of the word. Yes, she had been ill. Yes, she had gotten another diagnosis. Yes, she was going through treatment. But Mom had always pulled through these things – breast cancer, congestive heart failure, kidney issues, and other things that tested her body and resolve. She had always won the fight. It was sometimes hard, but she did it!
So why now? Why this? Why so fast?
She had started treatment that Friday for a small cancerous nodule found on her lung. Saturday she seemed fine, happy, a little tired but our phone conversation was upbeat and she was joking and laughing and glad to not be experiencing any of the side effects she had heard about. I told her I loved her and let her know I would call on Monday to check in again. I hung up from that call feeling comforted that she was feeling so well and that I had heard her laugh.
The next night my sister called to say Dad had taken Mom to the hospital. She had been having stomach pains that worsened throughout the day, along with severe nausea. They admitted her for pain management and I’m guessing to keep her hydrated. This was not an unusual situation for my Mom.
Monday, as promised, I tried to call her. I started around 10am and tried every hour or so. I tried, and I tried – but there was never an answer. After checking with my family, it was clear we had all been trying to contact her. It was my sister who finally got through in the evening – only to hear Mom crying in pain and then quickly hang up. Click. Another call to the floor nurse revealed that Mom had been receiving doses of strong pain medications – none of which seemed to be helping her. She was incoherent and often times unresponsive. They were considering their next course of action. We went to bed with prayer and believing that we would have better luck the following day.
That luck did not come for her, or for us.
I remember waking up around 4am that next morning. Something nudging me awake, telling me something was off. I tried to fall back asleep, but it was useless. I went downstairs hoping a different location might help. I had a frank talk with Jesus – asking him to strengthen my Mom as he always had and to help the doctors and nurses know how best to treat her. I dosed off. That is when the call came.
Calls at 5am are never good.
I can remember that call with vivid detail. My sister – incoherent, inconsolable, frantically trying to relay that my Mom was in failure. At best I understood 1 of every 20 words she spoke, but I understood the meaning of her call without question. I cried and then I prayed with Bill. The first time we had truly prayed together in that way. Lord, give her strength and please let us get there quickly.
The rest is a blur. Calls to family, calls to the hospital, running through the house to pack, arrangements to have someone feed the cat. And then the call I dreaded – she’s gone.
Nothing after that mattered. My husband took control as I fought the urge to collapse. My husband was strong when I could not be. We drove the 6 plus hours to my family. I don’t remember what I thought about during that drive. I watched the trees fly by, in between fielding calls and texts. None of it real. I cried. I listened to music. My husband trying to lighten my heart. Memories.
Praying, Lord what do I do now?
The next hours, and the next days were the most difficult I’ve ever been through. Arrangements, emotions – none of which we were prepared for. I wanted to be the strong big sister, to help my Dad and my brother and sisters through the pain of it all. I tried. I was so thankful for my sister, who stepped right up and began the process of notifications, arrangements and other details that needed attention. I cried as my baby sister gave one of the best eulogies that I have every heard. I watched my strong baby brother dealing with his deep sadness. I held my Dad and thanked God for my husband’s strength. I said my goodbyes to Mom, thanked Jesus for His Grace and smiled, knowing I would see her again some day.
Much has happened since that day, March 25th 2014, when our lives changed. I am good on some days and others, not so much. I think of her often and still expect her to answer the phone when I call their house. I see her in my dreams, I feel her near me from time to time. I think back to our last call and am so glad I told her how much I loved her that day. I am comforted to know that she is at peace and envious that she is with our Father.
I loved my Mom! I will always remember her in love and even though sometimes those memories are hard, they are always special.
March 25th. A day I will never forget. And yet I know that God will use this to strengthen me in some way. To teach me something. To continue my transition into the person I want to and am meant to be.