There are some instances in our life where the memories are so vivid that we can even remember what we were wearing. This is the case back in December 1968. I was 15 and my father had picked me up from school that day. I had worn my favorite khaki colored wool jumper with pleats and a grey and khaki sweater underneath. “Your mom isn’t doing well and we need to run down to the hospital,” he said. I didn’t think too much about it. She had just had surgery and I figured she was just having a little setback.
When I got there, however, I began to realize that she was much worse off than I thought. She was lying in bed with ice packs all around her. A huge green oxygen tank was beside her bed with a tube hooked up to her nose. She was non-responsive. The lovely plants that were just brought to her room yesterday were now limp and wilted as if they were crying out that something is terribly wrong here. “That’s from so much oxygen in the room,” the nurse told me, obviously noticing my bewildered look.
”Squeeze her hand and she will squeeze it back,” my father said gently. I walked over and took her hand and gave it a squeeze and she did squeeze it back. I was confused. Why could she squeeze my hand but not speak? What happened next was like a car speeding out of control and there was nothing to do to stop it.
The nurse must have been sensing that I was in denial as to what was happening, because she took Mom’s temperature and made sure that I knew it read 106 degrees.
Then those in the room began telling stories about when this person died or that person died and I became very angry. I was raised to never yell at or question adults but I was angrily thinking to myself why are you people giving up so easily?
I spent the rest of the night in the waiting room right outside her door trying to process what was happening. Then around 2:00 in the morning there was a lot of commotion around her room. A few minutes later, the doctor came and got my dad for a short conversation after which dad came back out shook his head and said “She’s gone.”
The nurse asked me if I wanted to go back into the room to see her one more time and I declined. We stopped by an office where my dad filled out some papers and then we went home.
I lost a lot that day. I would never know what is was like to have a relationship as a grown woman with my mother. She would not be there to help me when I brought my first newborn home or the three that followed after that. She wouldn’t even be there when I graduated high school. As a teenager, I had been worried about having to take care of her post-op, now I was going to have to cook meals for my dad and two brothers practically every night. I was to grow up perhaps sooner than I should.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
Even as a young Christian this verse kept me going during this time. There was so much that I didn’t understand but through all the painful grief I found comfort in trusting that somehow God was going to make good come from this.
The year that followed was hard. I didn’t know how to cook as all I had ever done was bake cake from mixes, so I just opened can of beans and heated them up for dinner many times. But slowly I got a little better and sometimes my aunt who was an amazing cook would bring us dinner which was a real treat!
A year later my dad remarried and that brought both blessings and curses. I no longer had to be the chief cook and could go back to being a teenager; but along with the marriage came a step-sister. While thrilled to have a sister, our up bringing was very different which caused a lot of friction in the house.
I left home at 17 to go to college and never moved back.
So what good came from all these trials? My step mother and I gradually became closer through the years and when my children were born, she loved each of them as if they were her very own grandchildren. The man I married is one of the godliest on earth and his mom treated me from day one the same as her own daughters. In fact, years later when she got dementia, I was the very last person whose name she forgot.
I was given four of the greatest children to raise. They are all healthy, talented, hard-working, successful, God fearing adults of whom I couldn’t be more proud. My life has been so blessed in every way and even though I never knew either of my grandmothers. (They died before I was born,) and I knew my mother for a very short time, this Mother’s Day I choose to dwell on not what I have lost, but what I have gained and the multitude of blessings I can be truly thankful for. I hope you can do the same.