January 11, 2009 was a Sunday. We were running late for church as usual. Driving down the street towards our church I noticed people on the sidewalk out front. I looked at the car's clock... maybe we weren't as late as I thought... people were still talking outside. No... it was 10:38... we were late... weird. As we drove closer I noticed my Dad among the crowd... and then the crowd began to resemble more of a huddle than a loose gathering of church members... and then I saw my Mother at the center of the huddle... she was hunched over. I ordered Big Daddy T to drive practically up onto the curb and I flew out of the minivan in a wild panic. I first thought she was throwing up and as I burst into the middle of the huddle I realized my Mother was bleeding from her head. I was quickly informed of what had transpired as someone ran out of the church saying "the ambulance is on the way."
By this time last year doctors had exhausted all possible treatments for my mother's cancer. She was dying. Not in the "we're all dying" sense but really dying... her 58 year old body was being eaten alive by a ruthless killer. Her body was in constant pain. We maintained a meticulous 24/7 cycle of pain and anti-nausea medications to keep her comfortable. She was yellow. She was less than 90 pounds. She slept more than she stayed awake... no longer leaving the house except for the doctor and going to church. Going to church was her favorite activity. And though she would doze on and off... or leave early... or visit the bathroom numerous time... she would muster all her strength to be able to attend Sunday worship. And on this particular Sunday... there just was not much strength left. Even though the church graciously made an impromptu parking space sign out of a dry-erase board that shouted "RESERVED" in the parking space closest to the door... her frail thin legs could not manage the step up off the sidewalk and back she fell.
Not wanting to wait for an ambulance we quickly wisked my Mom into the front seat of my warm minivan that was still parked on the curb of the sidewalk. I hopped in the back and we rushed towards the ER as my Dad and sister followed in a car behind us. As I wheeled my Mom into the Emergency Room the admissions secretary allowed us straight back. My mom no longer looked like an average patient. The bleeding goose egg on the back of her head paled in comparison to the appearance of this frail, sick woman... no one needed to ask... they understood she needed and deserved extra T.L.C.
I suppose I am writing about this today, because January 11th sticks out in my mind as when we really began to give my mother round-the-clock care. Over the next 6 weeks our participation in her daily routine would increase until we said goodbye. Even though it may seem sad... those were the most precious 6 weeks of my entire life. I wanted nothing else than to be by her side. Honestly, I came to resent my poor children many times during those weeks because for the first time I didn't want to take care of them. I didn't want to do homework, or drive carpool, or say prayers... I wanted to park myself in my parent's house and give Mother my full attention. And we were surrounded by so much love. Precious, dear friends met all our needs. They visited and laughed and helped. My sister came from Florida and my brother from Indy. We were together more than we had been in close to 20 years. My mom got more mail than a rock star. We'd save the mail and when my Daddy would come in he'd sit close to her couch and read them to her. Most she heard... but some she couldn't stay awake for him to finish. And so it went. Some of those days were really good, some days not so much. But I'd take any of them back. Even the worst day... because she was there. I would sit on the end of her couch and put her feet in my lap and we'd talk. I heard her voice. I held her hands. If she dozed off I would watch her breathe. I studied her face. I wondered what it would be like when her body was no longer lying there but in the ground. I would always kneal beside her on the couch when I said good-bye before going home for the night. I could rest my head on her chest and she could rub my hair. Many times as I drove away those last 6 weeks I wondered if I would get a call in the night. I never did. Those winter morning dawned and God allowed me another day with her until it was so bad we prayed for the end to be merciful and come quickly.
This January 11th my Mother is healed. This day she not only made it into church but is sitting at the very feet of Jesus Himself. She is rejoicing... as am I that my sweet Mother is alive and well.