In August 1993, my world changed drastically. I was 18-weeks pregnant with our third child, and morning sickness was still creating turmoil in my body. I had picked up the phone to call my doctor when my mother walked into my bedroom.
She gently brushed the hair out of my face. “Do you think you’re going to have to go into the hospital again?” I just nodded. I had a sense of impending doom. She sat on the edge of the bed and scooped Emily into her lap.
After a few minutes of cuddling, Mom asked Emily to leave the room. Emily kept asking “Why, Grandma, why?”
I looked at Emily, then back at Mom; the sudden need for privacy became clear. “It’s fine honey, you can stay. Grandma wants to tell me that Great- Grandma died last night.” We held each other and cried together.
The next day, the vomiting had depleted my electrolytes. It was imperative that I be admitted to the hospital; I missed Grandma’s funeral. On Tuesday I had an ultrasound. When I called Mom with the news, the only thing I could do was squeal.
My mom laughed, “I assume it’s a girl?” We rejoiced together, I had been longing for another daughter.
The next morning Mom called, “I just wanted to tell you that Dad and I have to go to the lawyer’s to settle Grandma’s estate.”
Later, Dad entered my room. He hated hospitals, he’d never come alone; something must have happened to Mom. Before he said a word, I started screaming.
My father rubbed my arm, trying to soothe me, but it only made me more frantic. Mom was the comforter in the family, not Dad. Eventually, I stopped screaming.
“Your mom had a cranial aneurysm, she’s still alive, but they’ve called the helicopter to take her to the city. She has a fifty-fifty chance of surviving.”
My husband came to comfort me; every time the phone rang, I paled and started shaking. My sister called around 11 pm, “Mom had three ruptured aneurysms; they drilled burr holes to release some of the pressure. She still needs surgery, but the doctors said she a 10% chance of surviving.”
I sobbed as my husband held me. What happened to 50-50? That had sounded horrible earlier, but now I wanted those odds back.
Finally, I was healthy enough to be discharged from the hospital. We drove to the city to see Mom. When I walked into her room, I took a deep breath; I barely recognized her. She had bandages wrapped around her swollen head. “Mom, you can beat this. You always told me that a positive attitude could fix anything. Now it’s your turn to keep your chin up and your eyes on the Lord.” She made a grunting sound; her alarms started screeching. The nurses rushed in to check on her.
Thirty-six hours later, the doctor called and said she was brain-dead. She was kept on the ventilator because she was an organ donor. I went in to see her; even though her heart was still beating I knew her soul was gone. She didn’t glow anymore.
I muddled through her funeral. One afternoon I flopped on the bed to take a well-needed nap. I dreamed I was on the phone with Mom, “Happy Birthday.” She sounded just like she always did.
“Are you in a good place? Sometimes I feel your presence, is it really you?”
“I’m in a wonderful place but…” She hesitated, my heart thumped. “I’m with you in your memories. Jesus knew of your struggle, so He sent me to wish you a happy birthday, but I must move on.”
The doorbell woke me. I opened the door and saw beautiful flowers. My hands shook as I read the card written by Mom’s best friends. “We knew today would be difficult. Consider this a gift from your mother. She loves you.”
The dream helped me move forward; soon it was Christmas. I was 38 weeks pregnant, uncomfortable, and still grieving. I wanted to cancel Christmas. But I didn’t, it was important to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Dad gave everyone a present that Mom had picked out. She had a post-it note on every gift. It wasn’t unlike Mom to do shopping ahead of time; however it had never been completed by August. Then it struck me; she may have died, but she would always live on in my mind and in my heart.
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