There are days that, in spite of the bright light, the cheery spring flowers, and the perfect spring weather, are not perceived as they are meant to be. Today, for me, is one of those rare days when I’m a lot bluer than normal.
An Urgent Call
On Sunday, just after writing last week’s Sunday Coffee, I received a call that my dear mother was sleeping continually, not eating, and had needed to be rushed to the hospital. Monday I was on a plane, and I arrived at about 2 in the afternoon to find my mom lying in a hospital bed struggling for her life.
A Sight I Never Expected to See
The shock of seeing her in this state was beyond anything I had comprehended previously, and I assumed she would not know me or see me until she recovered, if she recovered. I tried talking to her, but she just lay there.
Precious Last Words
In a moment of utter frustration, knowing she had hearing issues (a family tendency caused by skeet shooting at a young age), I took my own hearing device and placed it in her ear, and cranked up the volume. Suddenly she perked up, opened her eyes, and saw those of us who were there. Though her speech was slurred, she communicated with us, and I heard the words “I love you” from my mom. Her big blue eyes opened briefly, giving her assurance that my brother, sister-in-law, and I were there, and a big smile came across her otherwise struggling face.
Without the Smile, She Was Different
That smile was her trademark. This is a woman who never met a person she did not like, and if she did, we never knew it. She wanted everyone to feel her love. And I quickly realized I had never in my life seen this beautiful woman without that smile. This hospital visit was the first as I watched her struggle with pain.
Soon, a meeting with the doctors gave us the bad news that her meds were not working, and I had to make the most important adult decision of my life, which was to remove her care, move her into hospice, and allow her body to shut down in peace. In spite of its difficulty, it never once felt like the wrong decision. And though I wanted to cling to my past with her, I knew we had to keep her comfortable and allow her to enter her next chapter.
An Angelic Moment
People tell me of odd occurrences they experience in this situation. Some talk of loved ones awakening before they pass, calling out that they see heaven. In my case, the night before, I laid my head on her arm and said a prayer that she be taken without more struggle, and when I opened my eyes, I saw her in a somewhat white, almost fuzzy light. Her skin was youthful and her silver hair was glowing. It was clearly an angelic, peaceful look. I can’t explain it, I was not hallucinating, and it was so special that I can’t even begin to articulate it. It was almost as though she had been taken from her body at that moment, though she continued to labor hard with her breathing.
An Experience I’d Never Trade
Hours passed, and there were a few more moments of consciousness and recognition, a few words, and then a lot of sleeping. She responded when I kissed her goodnight and left for the evening, thinking we would watch her go through this for a couple more days. Yet when morning came, before I made it to the hospital, she had graduated to the next level in the cycle of life.
This, the hardest day of my life, was met with a lot of tears, but remarkably, a lot of feeling OK about her being ready. I spent a lot of time consoling others, which made my own angst over this moment somehow easier.
And, with death, for the first time, I was faced with the decisions so many others have handled in the past, such as funeral and burial arrangements, things I’d never before considered. Then, in a cathartic sort of way, sorting through her stuff, finding papers and photos for the rest of the day, was also part of the process.
An Empty Day
Flowers will arrive at my mom’s house for this weekend because I had already planned ahead, yet I remember thinking last Sunday, before this all happened, whether this would be my last Mother’s Day with her. And today is my first without her. And today, I realize for the first time that Mother’s Day is as much about the rest of us celebrating our mothers as it about their accepting our adoration.
Those of you who have been through this in the past, who miss your mom, sometimes after 30 or 50 years, know exactly how empty it feels. And if you’ve still got your mom, cherish every moment.
Giving Up Everything
My friend Skip tells me he would give all his wealth, all his success, everything he has, just for one more conversation with his mother and his dad. Our wealth lies in those we love, not the things we acquire. It’s acutely obvious to me today, more than ever.
As I look back, regrets in my mind, I see too many times when my mom did not receive the respect she earned and deserved, whether it be teen years of rolling my eyes or talking back, or dismissing her wishes in her older years. In an instant, those regrets sting.
Today, though my heart hurts, I celebrate my own mother, and the mothers around this earth. Being a mom can be a thankless job, brutally difficult at times, yet amazingly rewarding. There is no possible way to accommodate all the sacrifices these women make on our behalf, so the least we can do is give them our time and attention today.
Join me as I toast my own mom, and those around us today.
PS: My pastor often talks about how the world’s religions make us think we can earn our way into heaven. Yet heaven is for perfection, and perfection can only come through your life being substituted by the perfect one. It’s not about earning. No one is good enough to earn their way. It’s about accepting the gift of Christ.
Not one doubt enters my mind on this day when a celebration is taking place, with big smiles as my mom enters the Kingdom to see those who went before her. Though I rarely talk about my faith here, because people tend to take offense (not my intent), today, in honor of my mom and her Maker, I celebrate with her. Tears and grief cannot overcome the joy I feel for her at this moment, making this the perfect Mother’s Day for her.