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. It was the most nightmarish of calls possible: my mom was in a coma, and she was going to die at any moment.
It hit me that I had come to the very end of my relationship with my mom.
I cried until there was nothing left of me. It was only then that I realized I was out of all other options except for God so I prayed for the first time in over a decade.
I asked God for just one thing—let me say goodbye to my mom.
That was still the longest night of my life. I had no ability to sleep, work or even think. There was no entertainment to be had — nothing but dry tears, restless anxiety and realms of guilt.
In the morning I took the earliest flight possible. To my surprise being around lots of strangers was the easy part. I was able to put on my well-worn fake smile and use my ably-practiced life-full movements. However, the moment I left the airport, the situation hit me and the emptiest moments of my life started.
My world at this point was without rhythm and seemingly without any purpose. The only thing that remained was empty physical pain without a definite source. It was like meditation: stillness but without anything peaceful — I felt like I was a living through a version of death.
Before I got to the hospital I was told that my brother had troubles earlier in the day with our step-dad (my mom’s husband) and gave explicit orders to the hospital that my brother and I were not allowed to visit my mom for any reason. Regardless — 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 and arrived at the same time as me to help calm any potential situation. The potential situation being if I would not walk away quietly after being refused to see my mom.
Part II. The Hospital
So with this in mind, it was a great relief that my step-dad who had earlier tried to stop my brother from visiting our mom obliviously passed me as he was leaving the hospital. Unfortunately this luck didn’t last long as I soon found out why he was leaving– visiting hours had just ended. (Are you kidding me?!)
I told my story to the night security guard and he seemed sympathetic enough to let me pass but said that ultimately it would be the floor nurses’ call. Nonetheless, I now believe that he was actively campaigning for me because by the time that I got to the floor, all of the nurses were literally waiting with smiles to let me in.
As I was putting on my protective gloves and gown, I finally saw my comatose Mom. Even in such a state, she was more beautiful than I had remembered. The looping curls in her hair were crisp and beautiful and her skin tone was so life-full — life-full being the greatest compliment I could think of at the time. To me my mom looked a decade less than her already too young of an age. In fact she was as beautiful and majestic at that point as any woman that I had ever seen.
Despite this, it was incredibly difficult seeing her because 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 giving machines. All of these devices were beeping, buzzing and/or otherwise wheezing to their own mystical and semi-harmonic melody.
I had to quickly temper my expectations as I realized that this wasn’t going to be much of a goodbye. However, being that this is pretty much guaranteed to be my last living goodbye, I was going to try my best to make it count. I made the decision to talk to her for as long as I could, even if it was only going to be for me.
Part III. The Goodbye
Under better situations what do you say to your mother after you have not seen her in over a decade?
Then it hit me; what would I want in this situation if the roles were reversed and my child is saying their final goodbyes to me?
With this in mind, I talked only of love — absolutely nothing but love and forgiveness. I talked to her about the things that love the most and the most favorites memories that I had of her. However, I mostly spoke to her about my grand daughter. My daughter looks just like my mom so I told her that this made me think of her just about every day. The three of us (my mom, my daughter and me) were all born with the same basic inflictions: too smart about stupid things, too stupid about important things and just too flat out stubborn to be anything different so I told my mom that we can’t fairly start blaming each other for qualities that we each possess.
Then with the nurse’ urging I briefly and fearfully held her hand. I had completely forgotten what my mother’s hand even looked like nevertheless how it felt.
Her hand was so much smaller than mine — unbelievably soft; this was obvious to me even through the glove. I could probably write a book about of all of the emotions that rushed to my head at the moment I touch my mom after so many years — but in summary it felt like what I always imagined what a mother’s hand to a child should feel like — perfect. To this day I believe a miracle started when I touched her hand.
Part IV. The Estrangement
I believe that all religions preach love in some way or another — and probably rightly. However from my understanding — absolute forgiveness for those that don’t deserve forgiveness is a major plus with Christianity. And trust me — I needed it.
My mom and I were estranged for many years. It started when my brother and I were roughly 4 and 5 years old. 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 being not so normal at all because she did not return. She never returned to that moment as our nurturing mother again.
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 after this point again. How does anyone forgive a parent that abandoned them when they were only a small and helpless child?
I remember portions of random moments in the immediate days after she left. It was bad for me, but my brother being a just 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 now believe that this event helped to make us stronger — not better men — just stronger men. My brother ended up being a Navy Seal and I became a single Dad at 19 years old.
There is always another side to every story. When she left, my mom surely lost track of some of the most important parts of life (my brother and I) but it was not completely without a reason. Less than two years before she abandoned us as children, 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. My half brother (same father) born a decade later has a very large tattoo of my deceased sister on his chest — ♡ Christina Ann ♡ .
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 her about what happened so many years ago — not to ignore it— but to understand it more and then with this substantially less baggage to love and appreciate the last living moments that I will have with my mom — it would have to be our golden moments — and our only moments.
I looked at my beautiful and comatose mom and then it happened. I saw the tiniest of cracks in her eyelids, and under the thinnest of squints, I saw a beautiful pair of frozen, unblinking and maximally 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.
(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 slightly away from me in the beginning.)
Nevertheless — with the smallest of cracks and purely dilated eyes of hers to work with, I realized that I had an opportunity of a lifetime to show her pictures of my family — the family that she forever missed being a part of. I pulled out my phone 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 her grandson from my brother.
After no more than a few dozen pictures, still with a frozen gaze, she started to slowly but abruptly rock back and forth in her hospital bed all while being tethered many times over to this medical equipment.
It was wonderful. Perhaps it was just in my head but I felt that she was motioning me to move on to the next picture. I was absolutely overcome with joy. I truly felt the presence of my mother
This went on for about 5 more minutes but to me 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. In any event a medical alarm quickly sounded. The 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.
While stuttering and trying to put a few words together, I joyously told them that my mom was responding to me, and in doing such she knocked off her own sensor! They quickly reset this sensor but immediately called in a doctor to figure out what really was going on.
A doctor (the maestro of these medical machines) quickly entered the ICU room. With each of his steps the hum of the life machines grew eerily more silent as if acknowledging their master’s presence.
The doctor listened to my fantastical stories and the nurses observations while making a few of his own. From what I was told the doctor was a very well respected oncologist and responded with the words and demeanor that I will never forget. His total self-confidence and complete 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. (He said with a smile.) It is normal.”
Then he walked away with obvious disappointment that we were wasting his time. I’m guessing that in his own mind this dissatisfaction was only mitigated by being able to prove himself as being the smartest person in the room — once again .
Nevertheless, literally as soon as he left the room, my mother’s nurse came very close to me. With only a partially concealed grin but undeniably semi-excited voice, she said —
“This is not normal at all. You can stay in this room with your mom as long as you want!”
This situation taught me that when you think something amazing might happen, invite 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 fantastical day dream. Even though I was in a personal world with just my mom and me, at that point I realized that my aunt saw everything and up until this point was quietly sharing this experience with me while leaning on the door frame. My aunt and I looked at each other with huge smiles. This moment was beyond just normal and science is no longer running the show.
I absolutely believe that God himself was here and no longer just being a silent observer.
With extra vigor I resumed showing my mom pictures for about five more minutes, and with all of my new found adrenaline I easily could have done it all night but her movements kept becoming stronger and more sensors just kept getting knocked off! The nurse even had to switch one of the machines completely off. 🙂
This was an amazing time, but unfortunately like all amazing times it couldn’t last. She got to the point where she was bending over so much that her movements started impacting her breathing tube. At this point I thought to myself, Was I doing more harm than good now? I couldn’t take the chance so it was time to go.
On our way out of the hospital, 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 for me I was allowed to share that wonderful moment with my aunt.
I was very content with my prayer being answered and not in my wildest dreams (or prayers) could I have expected what would happen next —
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. Cancer was not cured but mentally she was at 100%! She was walking and talking! She was back baby!
She had a lot to say too! We both did! Cumulatively we talked more in that short time period than we did since I became an adult. We even started making plans for her to visit my daughter and me — in Florida! 🙂
These moments were living dreams after a lifetime of longing. I finally had my mother back!
I was certain this was to last forever or at least much longer, but that was just 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, my sister, that she lost so many years earlier on that fateful Christmas Day. In retrospect as I look back at it, my mother ‘s life really died 33 years prior at the same moment that my baby sister passed. It just took awhile for it to become official.
I still miss my mom but it makes me relieved to know that she died knowing that her two sons and their families still loved her and that we will always love her. However — it took a miracle for that to happen!
Thank you for always keeping me in your heart.
Thank you God for allowing me to find this out.
This is my mom and me after she woke up.
She had no memory of that miracle night.