Twelve years ago today God called my mom home. I cannot believe it has been that long since I have felt her arms around me ... heard her voice ... felt her stroking my hair. Then, as I shared with a family member I was writing a letter to this morning, on some days it seems as if it was only yesterday. Nevertheless, today I relive it in my head. My emotions are torn between suffering and gladness ... between crying and rejoicing.
Mom had been hemorrhaging for weeks on end. She would end up weak and barely able to stand when we would again take her to the hospital. By the time we arrived at the emergency room, they would inform us that the blood they were finding was stored blood. Whatever hemorrhage she was suffering from had already stopped. This prevented them from finding out where the active bleed was coming from. They would give her pints of blood and we would return home. Two weeks ... almost like clockwork ... we would repeat this journey. Eventually they knew that something had to be done or she would eventually hemorrhage to death.
By the time they arrived at this conclusion, the doctors had pretty much isolated the area where they felt the bleed was located. They discussed the possibility of surgery with my mom and us in the hopes of removing the section in her large intestine they felt would continue to be a danger if left unattended. My mom was given a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery. We choose to look at it as if she had a 50/50 chance of living. As a family, but ultimately because mom wanted to live and not live as this, she made the final decision to go ahead with the surgery.
It was Labor Day weekend. They advised us the surgery would last 6+ hours so we knew we were in for the long haul. My whole family was there ... she had so much support! Mom was the rock this family stood on and the bond that kept us together. We knew she was in God's hands, and we felt peace. So many times over the years we had been advised my mom would not make it through a difficult health situation, but she always did. We had no doubt this would not conclude any differently. She was a fighter. She was strong. She wanted to live more than anything. She did not want to leave her family. It was all the reassurance we needed.
As we read, chatted, and passed time in the waiting room, it seemed as if time had stood still. It was not long when the doctor returned to speak with us. Looking at the clock, I could see it had only been a little over 2 hours since mom had been taken to the operating room. I knew it could not be good. We were advised the surgery was over. They could go no further. They advised us they had opened mom up only to shut her back up as quickly as they could. Her internal organs were like wet paper towels ... floppy and easily tearing. They were concerned they would not get her back together. Needless to say, they never got the hemorrhage or removed anything. Years of being on steroids had taken their toll.
And so it began ... my mom was put in ICU. Basically this is where she remained for the next two weeks except for small respites at trying to put her in a normal room. She never could make it on her own, and she always had to be returned to ICU. During this time, my mom was hallucinating terribly. I will not even try to tell you the things she said to us ... things she saw that were not there ... things which torn at her heart because they were reality to her and they caused her such heartache ... thoughts caused by what they said was "ICU Sycosis". ICU Sycosis is caused by the fluorescent lights found in ICU rooms. Because she was spending so much time in the ICU, she was developing ICU Sycosis which causes people to hallucinate. It was so heartbreaking to watch this. Nevertheless, we all remained hopeful.
My dad at this time was in the very early stages of Alzheimer's and he was basically in a wheelchair as his legs were very weak. He understood most of what was occurring but I do not think he truly grasped the possibility he could lose my mom. I do not think any of us did. It was just something we had to endure until she returned to us, which we had no doubt she would. Our main focal point was keeping my dad from hearing some of the things my mom was saying during her confused state of mind. Protecting him was just as important to us as holding on to mom.
Finally on the morning of September 17th, the sun would again shine bright for us. Mom was awake, alert, and not hallucinating. We were overwhelmed with such joy. As tired as we all were, we felt jubilation we had our mom back. After visiting for awhile, the family started to whittle down as each left the hospital to get much needed sleep and to be with their family. At the last minute ... I was literally outside of the hospital preparing to leave ... I decided to stay with mom. I explained to my family that mom had not been alone for over 2 weeks and there was no reason for her to be alone tonight. I was the only child not married and without a family who needed me at home. My son was a toddler and with his daddy so I knew he was good. I just felt such an overwhelming need to remain at the hospital with mom so I did.
I returned to mom's room. I can still see the smile and confusion on mom's face when I returned. I said, "Mom, I am going to stay with you." We settled in for the evening. We found a good Shirley Temple movie on the television and we were happy. I had pulled my chair up to the hospital bed and I had my head laying on her stomach. I was so happy to be with my mom. As I was watching the movie with her, she was stroking my hair and fiddling with this one curl. I remember saying, "Mom, what is wrong ... is that curl not doing as you want it to?" She laughed!
I do not for the life of me remember how long I had been there. I do know my mom said, "Honey, have you eaten? You have to be hungry." I said, "Mom, I am a little." She responded by telling me to go get something to eat because her eyes were tired and she needed to rest a bit. I said, "OK!"
This is where things get a bit strange for me. I was heading to the cafeteria. It was as if I was having an out-of-body experience. I could see myself heading to the elevator and I heard an announcement come over the intercom. They were paging Janet Molton to return to the ICU on the 4th floor immediately (or was it the 6th floor)? I do not know. Do not forget though that this was in my head and not actually happening.
When you have visited people in the hospital or been in the emergency room for any given amount of time, you are always hearing families being paged to come to such and such place. Well, this is what I was hearing in my head but it was not actually happening. I heard it about 3 times when I finally shook my head and said to myself, "Stop it! Everything is ok. Let go of the fear! This is the devil messing with you." Peace returned to me and I was in the cafeteria.
I remember walking into the cafeteria and picking up my tray and utensils. I was standing at the end of the aisle where you first enter the cafeteria, where the room opens up and you decide which food item you desire. I was standing there holding my tray debating what I wanted to eat. I finally made up my mind. I went through the line to pay for my food, and I picked out a table to sit and enjoy this quiet time. I felt as if my life had been anything but quiet for the past few weeks. I was actually looking forward to just sitting by myself and chilling. It was not to be!
No sooner had I sat my tray upon the table when I heard, "Would Janet Molton please return to the 4th floor ICU immediately! Would Janet Molton please return to the 4th floor ICU immediately!" I knew this was not in my mind. It was for real. Fear gripped my heart and I left my trade of food where it was and ran ... literally ran ... to the elevator to return to my mom's room. I know it was not long at all, but I felt as if the elevator door would never open. Once the door did open, it seemed forever for it to ascend to the 4th floor. I did not think I would ever get there.
The elevator doors opened up across from the entrance to ICU. When you walked out of the elevator, you were right there at the closed doors. I do not think I have ever seen doors to the ICU left opened. You always had to use the telephone to seek permission for entry. However, when I left the elevator, the doors to the ICU were not shut. They were wide open! I thought to myself, "how strange!" I had just processed this thought when I saw my mom's doctor and a nurse appear in the doorway. It was as if they dropped out of the very ceiling. I did not want to move. Part of me knew and part of me refused to accept it.
My feet must have moved because I was now standing in front of these two individuals ... mom's doctor and a nurse. As the doctor spoke, he had his arms outreached as if to block my entrance. He was wasting his time because I was getting to my mom one way or the other. As all of this was playing out, I heard him say my mom was gone. I glanced at the nurse who stood there with such a sadness on her face. My mom had gone into heart failure when they tried to give her the shot she had to have periodically throughout the day. It was given to her through an injection area in her neck. We knew this was dangerous but there were no other veins in her body which had not collapsed. They simply could not put a line in anywhere else and her neck was their last option. The neck is always their last option because the dangers outweighed the need on most occasions. Mom seemed to be handling it well so we really never gave it a second thought. We were made aware of the situation from the get-go, but we had no other options.
I pushed past them and proceeded to my mom's room. Now as I look back I wish I had not returned to my mom's room. What I saw is an image I have of my mom which I simply cannot make go away. It is an image I never wanted my siblings or dad to see. After I collapsed ... yes collapsed ... I just as quickly regained my composure. I had to make sure this mess and my mom was cleaned up before I called my family. I had to make this right for them. It became my main concern, and I pushed everything else aside. I would deal with the loss of my mom later. For now, I had to protect my family. Isn't this what I have spent most of my life doing? Trying to protect the ones I loved ... the same as my mom! It was up to me now because she was gone!
Somewhere during this whole fiasco God filled me with an awe-inspiring peace. I did what I had to do, and then I praised Him. Yes, I praised Him! I had so much to be thankful for and my heart was so full of love and appreciation for the mighty God we serve.
You may be thinking, why? Why would she praise God now? He took your mother away! I praise Him for allowing me to be with my mom as it was always a big fear for me ... not being with my mom and dad when they were called home. (Note: My dad also passed in the arms of me and one of my sisters. I was honored to be with both of them in their last moments here on earth.) I continued to praise God for my family not being there to go through this. I praised Him for my mom's peace and the fact she was no longer suffering. I praised Him for removing me from that hospital room so I would not be there when He called her home. I had so much to praise Him for, and now my peace had to be transparent for my family.
I called my family and little by little they returned. The hospital had my mom presentable, and they left her exactly where she was until each sibling I had could return, along with my dad. It was a very difficult time for all of us because we were of the mindset we had mom back and not that she was leaving us. She had always been an overcomer. We did not think any differently during this trial. He had other plans.
She looked so peaceful and as if she were only asleep. You would think this is the image I would hold on to and not the other. If it were solely my choice, I would but unfortunately the other image is always prevalent.
My dad, bless his heart, was so confused. He simply went through the process over the next few days as plans were made, family was called, family arrived, and so forth. We could see his sadness setting in daily. Mom was his life. She was gone, so it was only natural he would want to go too! Over the next few years we watched my dad honor our mom in such remarkable ways. Until his memory completely left him, his first words in the morning were, "Who is going to take me to visit mom today?" His last words at night were, "Who is going to take me to visit mom tomorrow?" She was always on his mind. He would go to the cemetery daily. He talked with her, decorated it for holidays, and even had lunch with her. Over time it became less as he would forget, but it was such an honor to watch our dad respect and admire our mom in such a way. What a true testament of their love. They had fought many battles together, but ultimately they won the war. They found a love and happiness others can only strive to find.
Today ... September 17th ... I relive this day. I cry ... I hurt ... I miss her so much BUT I am again praising Him. To Him be the glory! Yes, it is glory ... glory that she is in a better place and no longer suffering. She suffered far too long and she so deserved this peace. She has a new body now ... not one crippled or ravaged by the horribleness of rheumatoid arthritis. Her hands and fingers are not all curled up. She is full of joy ... full of life ... full of peace ... full of love ... dancing with the angels in heaven ... sitting at the feet of Christ ... and most of all, she is spending eternity in heaven with our awesome King! I cannot wait to see her again, along with other loved ones. What a glorious day it will be! Can I rest assured I will see you there also?