Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Mulligan Day ... the One I Would Do Over

The Garden Lady Buffalo Botanical Gardens
My mom would have loved her.
There is always that one day in your life you wish you could do over, the one filled with regret and  "If I had only known."  

For me that day was the day I lost my Mom; and the few days leading up to it run a close second. I wish I had listened to my heart and not others; listening to others kept me from spending precious time with her, time that I will never get back.

It was a warm, overcast windy day in May. I will never forget it, and it was a few days before Mother’s day. I had planned on visiting her during the week to help sort through some things that she was getting rid of.

I never got the chance. Work had been very busy for me and as a school bus driver my days were broken up into 3 or four hours chunks of time. Time there was never enough of. I kept putting it off for tomorrow morning, or Friday after work or Sunday after church. I just never found the time.

She had gone in the hospital a couple days earlier for a biopsy of her lung. There was suspicion of possible lung cancer, and because she had been on oxygen for the last year, the doctor wanted to confirm his suspicions. The procedure was supposed to be out-patient and she was supposed to be home the same day. The details were a bit sketchy.

I got the phone message that night after work from her husband that she was in the hospital and she wasn’t doing to good and I should get down to see her. When I called he said  "her lung had collapsed with the biopsy and she had to spend the night for observation, and a visit would lift her spirits." Her husband sounded uncertain about her prognosis, but that I should just stop down.

The next day was a Saturday, so I went before going to a birthday party.

Had I known it was one of the last days we could spend together I would have stayed with her, I would not have gone to that party.

We can always go to parties. We don’t always get to spend times with our mom.

When I got to her room I paused at the door and caught my breath, saying a simple prayer for strength. Never in my life had I seen my mom sick or at the mercy of doctors and nurses or the restraints of a hospital bed. It was surreal.

It wasn’t natural to see her helpless. My mom was many things, helpless was not one of them. I needed to be strong, not only for her but for myself. It was a jolting scene to see her sitting in that bed, to say the very least.

“Hi mom,” I said joyfully as I walked in. Despite the fact that my whole being wanted to shake and I could feel my eyes getting moist. “Are they treating you good?” I smiled as I said it.  She looked up and smiled at me, with a little bit of worry mixed in and said, “yea, they are doing OK.” She chucked a little and said “it will be better when I get home.”

I told her about the party I was going to for my cousin and she said to make sure I wished him a happy birthday, “There is no reason for you to hang around here, go to the party and I will be home tomorrow,” she smiled and gave me a hug. “Come visit me at home.”
“OK, are you sure? I can stay for a while longer, give Charlie a break,” and he broke in saying, “I don’t need a break. Go ahead; I will call if I need to.”

So I gave her another kiss on the cheek and hug, told her I loved her and to get some rest, and I would see her at home.

I never saw her at home, not ever again.

The next call I got was from her husband saying that she was in ICU and that there had been complications, and I should get there as soon as I could.

I was in a panic. How does one go from going home the next day to ICU? I was so distressed and so confused and so distraught with the horrible thoughts going through my head that I don’t remember how I got there. My husband took me I think.

It was a long walk to ICU.

The "beep," "beep," "beep" of the monitors in different rooms cut the silence of the hospital corridor as I slowly walked to see my mom. I kept saying to myself over and over again in my head, “she’s OK; she will recover and be home in no time. The doctor will find a way to get her back on her feet again,” as I tried to talk myself into believing these things.

My thoughts couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

It was a sobering truth, like someone threw ice water in my face. My tiny little brain could not wrap itself around the fact that my mom was in ICU and it was more likely than not that she wasn’t going to leave there the way she went in. 

And thoughts of living without her flooded my mind. I think my whole life with her flashed before my eyes. 

These thoughts where disturbing to me, and hard to get out of my head; but I shoved them to the back of my mind and stepped though the doorway of into ICU.

She smiled and had me come over to the bed and as she held my hand, she started telling me what had happened and how she “got a promotion to the end of the hall where they could keep a better eye on me,” she said. We made small talk and laughed and remembered fun things. My brother and some other family members stopped in too, making light of the whole scene, and then it was time to go. 

I fought to stay to the last minute but there were others who insisted I leave, so to avoid a scene, I took the high road and I left.

Had I know that was the last day I could talk to her I would have stayed overnight; in a chair or in the waiting room. I just know I would have sat vigil until she no longer needed me; I would have stayed no matter how long it would have taken.

I will never get that opportunity again.

In the next two days she deteriorated quickly. She was on high doses of pain medicine and other medications due to a heart attack she had from a "complication." On the fourth day she seemed to be getting much more distant, like she was always dreaming, and the visits were made up of holding hands and waiting. I returned to work the morning of that last day with a heavy heart because I didn’t want to leave her.

Shortly after I got to work they received the call from the hospital for me to go back. As I walked through the door of the office my friend said,  “Amy you need to go back to the hospital, your mom has very little time left,” and I turned around and left.

This was such a blur … I called my brother, I called my husband and my sister … and I think my girlfriend rushed me to the hospital.

I ran down the hall of the hospital as fast as I could and when I got into her room she was slowly going into cardiac arrest. She was slowly slipping away, and it was not peaceful. She was fighting it the whole way. 

I just stood, staring, holding her hand, her best friend Alex sitting next to her on her bed, and her husband Charlie sitting close by in a chair, her hand in his. It is one of those moments that is branded into you memory.

Her sister, my aunt, called and I had to go talk to her and tell her what was going on and that I had to go. “she’s leaving us, I have to go. I will call you later,” I told her. I heard her scream as I hung up the phone and ran over to grab her hand again.

She was breathing shallowly, finally not fighting, and after taking the oxygen off and letter the medication take over, within moments, and after one last labored breath, she was gone.

And the tears flowed and the sadness filled every corner of that ICU room. There was no way to hold it back now and we let the emotions take over for a while. 

We sat there for about an hour next to her and then it was time to go. Leaving her was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

As a Christian I had been wondering about my mom’s salvation, she was not one to talk of religion or politics or other "politically incorrect" subjects. As I left the room Alex, my mom’s best friend, pulled me close and told me "Amy, your mom is in Heaven, she accepted the Lord - I  prayed with her." That was music to my ears. There is no better news at someone’s death as knowing they have chosen life eternal. That is the hope that Christians have, that they will see their family again in Heaven. I am looking forward to that reunion.

My biggest regret is leaving her so many times. Not talking with her and staying late and worrying about so many things and NOT being with my mom. I cheated my self and my mom, and I have adjusted my life accordingly so that never happens with anyone else in my life.

What I do know is this; no one will care how late you worked or how much money you have or how big your house is, or isn't, when death is at your door. They will only regret time not spent with you, missed chances to have fun with you and memories not made. 

Not doing those things make us the biggest losses.

And lastly, Love and honor your mother, she is the only one you have. She has done the best she could and she loves you more than you know. Mom's are people too, they all deserve a chance, just like we do.  Make peace, forgive and let it go, but no matter what, let bygones be bygones because the best is yet to come. 

You will never be sorry that you took the initiative to love, forgive and spend time with your mom, and neither will your mother. It is never too late to honor her.

Ephesians 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother(which is the first commandment with a promise), so that it may be well with you, and that and that you may live long on the earth.