Strange how life changes in an instant. My mom is always on my mind but today it wandered to our last evening together. It was a Thursday evening and we were headed towards the Labor Day weekend. I was working from home. I decided to make one of my mom’s favorite meals — baked salmon in a garlic butter sauce with vegetable fried rice and a salad. My husband was working late and so it was just the two of us. She really enjoyed her meal, I cleared the dishes and we both went and sat in the family room. We talked about our family, the kids, my marriage (4 months old), the start-up business I was involved with, the joys and challenges on this journey called life. A short while later she went upstairs to her rooms, relaxed and content. My husband arrived sometime around 7 and we sat down to chat. That in itself was unusual because we always went to our ‘fun cave’ to relax. A few minutes later mom came out of her room saying her stomach didn’t feel good. I made her a cup of tea and took it to her. She seemed to be okay and so I handed her cell phone to her and told her to call me, if she didn’t feel better. Ten minutes later she called saying something was wrong.
Sammy and I bolted up the stairs together; somehow we both knew something was very wrong. Within seconds we were in her room… she was fading; her breathing was labored; her color was draining. I held her in my arms as Sammy called 9–1–1. The fire department arrived first within 5 minutes of the call and suddenly the room was in chaos. Three firemen were asking questions, starting an IV, putting an oxygen mask on her face, clearing the room for a stretcher, getting us out of the way. I just wanted to hold her… The ambulance arrived about a minute after the firemen and brought the stretcher up. My neighbor came in to see if she could help and was stricken by the state of emergency we were in. She started crying… I got in the ambulance with my Mom; my husband followed… I called her Mami… She was unconscious as we arrived in the emergency room. The ER doctor came to speak to me and he told me they had to intubate her or she would die in minutes. SHE WOULD DIE IN MINUTES…. My head spun, the room swayed, my stomach lurched. He told me they didn’t have time to determine what was wrong and whether they could save her. I said yes. The guilt began.
Mami and I had discussed life support systems… Neither one of us wanted to be kept alive through artificial means. She told me never to ‘hook her up’. I did. Miraculously, she rallied and although weak she seemed to be recovering. Family and friends surrounded her; she was too weak to talk but she was happy to have us around her but — I could tell she was scared. They began to run tests and did what doctors do to determine potential treatment. Twenty-four hours later she was in distress. Again the doctors told me she needed to be intubated … I reluctantly said “no”. I would honor her wishes. I asked that she be made comfortable and be taken to a private room. Friends and family were not pleased with that decision, she was going to die… Guilt intensified.
Late Sunday morning, the family gathered to say good bye. I left her alone with my husband so that I could go home and run an errand… Crazy? Yes, we do strange things when we’re grieving; we run away searching for a minute of normalcy in the midst of emotions that scatter your thoughts; away from questions; away from that painful reality. I returned and my husband left so that I could be alone with her. I climbed into her bed and put her in my arms and started telling her how much she meant to me; how much I love and will always love her; how much she taught me not just by what she advised but by the way she lived her life; how sorry I was for the times I disappointed her; how glad I was that she had lived with me the last 12 years of her life. Then I started singing some spiritual songs that brought me peace. Hearing is the last thing we lose; I pray she heard every word. She sighed her last breath at 4:52 p.m. Life changed forever
It’s been six years since that day and not a moment goes by when she’s not in my heart and in my thoughts. Sometimes her words pop out of my mouth and I am seeing her face in my mirror! I am so grateful that our last day together was so special; that we had an opportunity to talk about our lives; the joys and challenges that are the colors painting the masterpiece of our lives. It is not perfect but it is ours and it is meant to be cherished. The bumps on the road build our character; reveal our strengths; give depth to our story. Mami and I were blessed to have a sweet goodbye.
Life is short, life is unpredictable, life is a gift; it’s meant to be opened with gladness and joy sufficient to temper the tough moments in life.