First an apology as this is going to be LONG.
At almost exactly this time 5 years ago tonight, I was sitting in Applebee's in Lawrenceville enjoying dinner with my family. I remember the booth and what I was eating. I was headed to a meeting at church, where I was to make a presentation about volunteerism in the church as it related to our annual Stewardship campaign. My cell phone rings and it is my sister. My heart stopped a beat as I instinctively knew why she was calling.
"You need to come to Augusta. Mama is in liver failure. Actually, everything is shutting down and she might not make it through the night."
I leave the restaurant to talk to her. "I'm headed to a meeting," I say. I can't believe I said those words, but I did. She said, "We need you to come tonight." I said I would, but needed to run home for a few things and I'd call her once I was on the road.
I head to the church to see the pastor and tell him why I can't stay - he understands. His father had died just 6 weeks before.
Usually, I play music on these drives. Not that night - that would just be too painful. Plus I don't feel well and have a cold. I pray the whole drive, "please don't leave before I get there." It felt surreal. It still does.
The whole year had been unreal for us. I had been very sick - diagnosed with the same chronic illness that my mother had neglected. The neglect turned her into a diabetic heart patient, wheelchair bound and in chronic pain and depressed. She had become unrecognizable as the lovable, fun, laughing, singing mother I once had. She was never a really easy person to live with - and now I know why - it was that blasted illness she ignored. Through a series of unfortunate events, the house my parents lived in was forclosed on as their landlord quit paying his mortgage, despite the fact they continued to pay their rent.
A rapid purchase of a house, an infection in a leg that would not heal, an amputation which was too late, and ultimately her death happened in a matter of months. The infection had been many months in the making.
When I got to the hospital after visiting hours, I found a warm welcome from a nurse who had been told I was coming. She had moved an extra sofa bed into Mama's room so my sister and I could stay. The doctor had approved us staying with her in her final hours. Natalie and I stayed up through the night when we found a M.A.S.H. marathon on the TV. It seemed appropriate. We used to watch M.A.S.H. with Mama as well as many old shows in the middle of the night. Mama never slept well.
We talked to her and told her it was okay to go, that her mama (my Big Mama) and brother and sister and daddy were waiting on her. She shook her head "no." I thought surely it was involuntary, but apparently she was still aware enough to respond to us. The next day her college roommate visited and held her hand and told stories on her - she also responded to those. I was amazed at her resolve to do this on her own terms. Probably the most stubborn person I've ever met.
During the day she began lifting both arms and then they would fall down. She had not been able to lift her arms in weeks, she was so weak. We made a connection - when music played, she lifted her arms. She directed choirs for most of her adult life - maybe she was directing? We won't know until we get to heaven I guess.
I got a hotel room across the street and decided to stay over there some during the day. On October 28th, we decided we all needed to leave the hospital and maybe that would help her relax about leaving us. So, after lunch, we came back and my cousin was there, singing hymns to her. Her arms were raising and dropping.
I was so tired. The nurse did a pulse-ox on her and showed me alone that it showed 0%. I knew exactly what it meant and went to the hall to get my Daddy. "Daddy, it's time." We gathered around her bed and watched her take her final breath. It was one of the most peaceful events I had ever witnessed. If you knew my mother, you would know she was NOT a peaceful person. Again, it was surreal. We began making calls and my sister and I went to the funeral home to make some decisions. Daddy & I had already gone and picked her urn for her cremains. He wanted one big enough to hold his as well, so we did that.
After a dinner of fried flounder (Mama's favorite) I went back to the hotel to try to sleep. I was amazed to be able to sleep at all, but God provided rest. The next day I was packing, getting ready to head to Vidalia, pondering all that had happened. I was remembering how unhappy she had been for about 5 years. She rarely laughed, had little sense of humor and never sang anymore. I wondered what she was doing, and then I heard laughter. HER LAUGHTER. I ran to the door and saw no one. In fact, the only car I saw was my own. I thanked the Lord for giving me a glimpse into what she was doing. I know she was and is filled with joy at being with her Savior and with her family.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this post, but my mother was the person in my life who had the most influence on me. Some was positive. Some was negative. But it all helped shape me. There are times when I get really angry at her because some of the negative is so hard to get over, but God has helped me to learn from her mistakes. Now, I make my own mistakes, but He's still working on those, too.
I'm not sure who reads my blog anymore - I write so seldom. But if you stuck through this, thank you. There's more to come over the next few days and weeks.