My life was forever changed by a miracle. A series of massively improbable events happened in a perfect sequence to allow me to say goodbye to my dying mom. This is how it happened…
Part I. The Call
My mom and I were completely estranged for over a decade, and then in the middle of a random night a cousin that I never met as an adult called me. It was the realization of almost anyone’s single biggest fear, the most nightmarish of calls possible: my mom was in a coma, and she was going to die at any moment.
You have all of the time in the world to spend with each of your family members until you come to the very day that you won’t have any more.
I cried until there was nothing left of me. It was only then when I realized that I was out of all other options except for God. I prayed for the time in over a decade.
I asked him to let me say goodbye to my mom.
That was one of the longest nights in my life and I was completely unprepared for it. There was no sleeping, no working, emails or any other creature comforts that I clinged to in pass trying times. There was nothing but dry tears, restless anxiety and realms of guilt.
In the morning I took the earliest flight that I could. To my pleasant surprise being around lots of strangers was the easy part. I was able to put on my well-worn fake smile and ably-practiced life-full movements. However, I was only putting off the inevitable. The moment I left the airport, the reality of the situation hit me like a nuclear bomb, and the single most emptiest moments of my life started.
For the next 90 minutes the terrible sound of the rental car music was on but it was silent to me. I was moments away from seeing my lifeless mother with an absolutely overwhelming amount of regret.
My world was without rhythm. It was meditation without peace, a palpable form of death.
As if this wasn’t enough, twenty minutes before arriving, I got word that my brother who had just visited our mom had troubles with our step-dad (my mom’s husband). He gave explicit orders to the hospital that we were not to visit for any reason. It was far too late to turn around now so
whatever was going to happen was just going to have to happen.
I was going to have some help though. My father’s sister, an ordained minister and psychologist, rushed to the hospital to help calm the situation.
Part II. The Hospital
This was when the first minor miracle happened. As it turned out, my aunt’s help to talk down potential conflicts wasn’t needed because I didn’t even see my step-dad except for a passing glance as he was leaving the hospital. How was that even possible that he didn’t recognize me even though he knew that I might be coming?!
Unfortunately, luck didn’t last long. I soon found out why he was leaving. Visiting hours had just ended. Are you kidding me?!
I told my story to the gentleman at the front desk. He seemed to be sympathetic enough but said that it wasn’t up to him — it would be the nurses’ call. Nonetheless, I now believe that he was actively campaigning for me because by the time that I got to the floor, the nurses were waiting to let me in.
As I was putting on my protective gloves and gown, I finally saw my Mom. Even in such a state, she was more beautiful than I had remembered! The looping curls in her hair were beautiful and her skin tone was fantastic. My mom looked a decade less than her age. She was as beautiful and majestic as any woman that I had ever seen.
Despite this, it was incredibly difficult seeing her. She was motionless. Her mouth was taped, tubed and turned to the side. Furthermore, there was a certain distinct rhythmic pattern to the breathing and other life support machines. All of these devices were beeping, buzzing and wheezing to their own music forming a strange melody.
It become quickly obvious at looking at her that this wasn’t going to be much of a goodbye. However, I realized that this is the remainder of the time that I can ever have with my Mom– and frankly probably more than I deserved. I tried to remind myself to be grateful that despite all odds I still made it to have some kind of goodbye.
Part III. The Goodbye
Even under better situations, what do you say to your mother after you have not seen her in over a decade?
What can I say now? Then it hit me; what would I want in this situation if the roles were reversed and my child is saying goodbye to me?
With this in mind, I talked only of love– nothing but love and forgiveness. I talked to her about my dreams and my daughter, and the dreams I have for my daughter.
I also told her that we are the same, and we always were the same, and always will be the same. I spoke of her oldest grandchild (my daughter) looks just like her so of course this made me think of her every day. The three of us were all born with the same inflictions: too smart about stupid things, too stupid about important things and just too flat out stubborn to be anything different than what we are. Because of how similar we are, we can’t exactly start blaming each other for qualities that we each possess.
I briefly held her hand.
I had completely forgotten what my mother’s hand even looks like nevertheless how it felt.
Her hand was so much smaller than mine and unbelievably soft. I could probably write a book about of all of the emotions that rushed in my head at this point, but in summary it felt like what I always imagined what a mother’s hand to a child should feel like — perfect. When I touched her everything changed. I believe this is when the miracle really started.
Part IV. The Estrangement
A lot of religions preach love — and rightly so. However from my understanding, forgiving those that don’t deserve forgiveness is a major unique plus with Christianity. And trust me — I needed it. I have to blame as there is no reason why we should have been separated for so long.
How did we become separated? Let me start from the beginning. Many years ago when my brother and I were roughly 4 and 5, and shortly before our summer birthdays, my mom dropped us off for what should have been a normal overnight sleep over at my paternal Grandmother’s house. However, this time ended up not being normal at all. She did not return. She never returned to be our full time mother — not that night, nor any other night.
My brother and I started living with our Dad from this point on in our childhood. I believe that all kids start off with blind trust (true faith) of their parents. However, in all honesty, I am not sure that I ever truly trusted my mom again. How does a person forgive a parent that abandoned them when they were only a small and helpless child? It took me many years to answer that question.
I remember portions of random moments in the immediate days after she left. It was bad for me, but my brother being a bit older took it much worse. It was also quite possible that seeing him cry so much made me cry less. It was a tough time but I believe now that this just helped to make my brother and me stronger. My brother ended up being a Navy Seal.
There is always another side to every story. When she left, my mom surely lost track of the important parts of life but it was not completely without a reason. Less than two years prior, her 3rd child, our baby sister, died in her sleep on Christmas day. Although I was too young to remember that event directly, I can speak to the multi-generational suffering echo chamber that this event caused.
Part V. The Miracle
Back to the present. In that hospital while I was holding my mother’s hand, my mind raced from the past to the present with complete freedom and honesty. I understood then that the goodbye that I prayed for was not just about saying goodbye, but it was about making peace with myself and her about what happened so many years ago– not to ignore it, but to understand it more. And then to love the last moments that I have with my mom, it would have to be our golden moments.
I looked at my beautiful still mom and then it happened. I saw the tiniest of cracks in her eyelids, and then I saw a beautiful pair of frozen, unblinking and extremely dilated pupils fixated right on me. Oh my Gosh!
Her eyes were open so fractionally little that the space did not come close to clearing her closed eyelashes.
My mind a very good job at rationalizing and without missing a beat I just assumed that her eyes were cracked earlier. Looking back, I missed a lot more than that, I was completely oblivious to when she turned her head ever so slightly in the direction of me since I distinctly remember her head tilted away from me in the beginning.
Nevertheless– with the smallest of cracks in her eyes to work with, I realized that I had an opportunity to show her pictures of our family — the family that she missed being a part of. I pulled out my phone, opened to the picture app and placed it directly in line with her gazed and ever so cracked pupils. One by one I told her a short story about each picture, spending extra time on ones involving her grand-daughter or my nephew (her grandson).
After no more than a few dozen pictures, still with a frozen gaze through unblinking cracked eyes, she started to slowly but abruptly rock back and forth in her hospital bed while still being tubed and attached. It was wonderful. I felt that she was trying to help me motion the device to move on to the next picture. I knew that this was something special, and I was overcome with joy.
I felt the presence of my mother.
This went on for about 5 more minutes but it seemed more like two hours. After one of her more jarring movements, she knocked off from what I believe was a heart rate sensor. A medical alarm quickly sounded. These same wonderful nurses who let me in past visiting hours arrived within seconds seemingly ready for everything, but I doubt that even they were ready for this.
I joyously told them that my mom was responding to me, and in doing such, she knocked off her own sensor! They reset the sensor and immediately called in a doctor to figure out what really was going on.
This situation taught me that if at all possible, when you think something amazing might happen, invite somebody. It is best to share incredible moments with someone who you know, love and trust. They will not only help make it more real, but will help keep your mind from introducing enough incremental doubt over time to eventually relegate the experience to just a really detailed dream.
I looked back and left my incredibly small world and saw my aunt in the doorway watching everything, every moment. It was overwhelming wonderful to realize that I was sharing this.
A doctor quickly entered the ICU room. With each of his steps as if on command the hum of the life machines grew eerily more silent, judgement time was upon us. He listened, he watched. I am sure that even he could see my mom making some very basic repetitive up and down body movements — even they slowed down a fair bit.
After analyzing the situation, the doctor, a well respected oncologist from what I understand, responded with the words and demeanor that I will never forget. His total confidence and understanding of all medical and worldly things enshrined the moment. He said, “That is impossible. People in her state can not respond to stimulus. This is just an example of involuntary movements. Don’t worry. It is normal.”
Then he walked away with the obvious disappointment that we were wasting his time by rushing him in. Nevertheless, as soon as he left the room, my mom’s nurse came very close to me. With a concealed grin and a semi-excited voice, she said–
“This is not normal at all. You can stay with your mom as long as you want!” So I stayed.
My aunt and I looked at each other with huge smiles. The doctor confirmed to us what we (the nurse included) were feeling. This moment was beyond just normal, and science itself is no longer running the show.
God himself was here.
I resumed showing my mom pictures for about five more minutes, and I would have done it all night but her movements kept becoming stronger and more sensors kept getting knocked off. The nurse even had to switch one of the machines completely off!
This was an amazing time, but unfortunately it couldn’t last. She got to the point where she was bending over so much that her movements started impacting her breathing tube. I thought to myself, Was I doing more harm than good now? I couldn’t take the chance. It was time for me to go.
On our way out, my aunt and I found a tiny non-denominational prayer room and we prayed a few beautiful prayers together. I thanked God for the miracle of answering my prayers. I was not only able to say goodbye to my mother, but in an unfathomably lonely time I was allowed to share that wonderful moment with my aunt.
I was very content with that special moment, and not in my wildest dreams could I have expected anything more.However, unbeknownst to us, this was only the start of what God had in store.
Part VI. THE NEXT MORNING SHE WOKE UP!
Let me repeat this. The next morning she woke up from her coma as if nothing happened! For two weeks afterwards and for whatever reason God allowed her to come back. Mentally she was at 100%! She was walking and talking! She was back baby!
She had a lot to say too! We both did! We talked more in that short time period than the cumulative time since I became an adult. She even started making plans to visit me in Florida. 🙂
These moments were living dreams after a lifetime of waiting. I finally had my mother back!
I thought this was to last forever or at least a while longer. I was certain of it. But that just was not in God’s plan. It was her time to go. She ended up dying peacefully in her sleep two weeks later. She was buried very close to her baby daughter that she lost so many years earlier.
I miss my mom now, but it makes me happy to know that she died knowing that her two sons and their families still loved her and that we will always love her.
Goodbye Mom. Thank you for always keeping me in your heart. And, thank you God for allowing me to find this out.