I spent most of Sunday packing and getting the car ready for the seven states 1,800 mile journey back to Pennsylvania. Oddly enough the car was the easiest part of all of it because a few weeks earlier I got a tune up and rounded it with new tires. I wasn’t sure what all I would need or how long I would be away from home. Because of all the uncertainty swirling around my mother’s condition, both my wife and I decided it would be best if she held down the fort while I was gone. I wanted to do everything I could to make sure my wife was set up for success because I simply didn’t know how long I would be gone . Being away from her for an undetermined amount of time was weighing heavy on my mind. I didn’t like the idea of being separated from her for an extended amount of time ; but both of us knew it was the best option in a scenario filled with crappy choices.
I left early Monday morning; exactly one week to the day since my mother’s hip surgery. This was my 8th trip home in 10 years; far too few visits in a span of 10 years. 27 hours of driving was the separation between my doorsteps and my mother’s driveway. Buried deep down in me I knew this could possibly be my last trip to the state I once called home. As I pulled out of my driveway a thousand little things were going through my mind. How long would I drive the first day? Where was I going to stop? Was I going to run into a lot of construction? I drove 15 hours on the first day and stopped somewhere in Wisconsin. I called my wife to let her know I was stopping for the night. I was already missing her. I crashed I soon as my head hit the pillow. I was beat.
I slept like a rock and was up early and on the road by 6AM. I still had 12 hours of driving ahead of me. My plan was to make it to the hospital my mom was at by 8PM. I arrived at 10PM. Construction and traffic had cost me some time. I parked on a side street and made my why to the floor the ICU was located on. I didn’t know what to expect. Would my mother be awake and if she was would she recognize me? I was extremely apprehensive about what I might see. I wondered if I would be strong enough to see my mother is such a helpless state. After a couple of wrong turns in the hospital I finally found the main desk in the ICU.
My mother’s room was off to the right of the main desk. I told the nurses on duty that I was her son and I just got in from North Dakota. They told me my mother was resting and I could see her if I wanted. They led me to her room and when I first saw her my heart sank. The full of life woman that was my mother lay helpless in a bed hooked up to a breathing machine and all kinds of monitoring devices. She looked so frail. I just stood there not knowing what to do or say. I finally leaned over to my mother’s ear and told her I was home and that I loved her. I held her hand. It was so cold. As tears began to fill my eyes I looked at the nurse and informed him I would be back first thing in the morning. I gave them my cell phone and told them call me if her condition changed. I kissed my mom on the forehead and told her I would see her in the morning. I left to head to my mom’s house.
I was at the hospital first thing. When I first entered my mother’s room I immediately noticed her hands tied to the bed rail. I looked at the nurses and they informed me they would be with me in a moment. When they finally came into the room I introduced myself, then asked why my mother’s hands were tied to the bed rails. They told me they had to tie her hands because she was trying to pull out the breathing tube. I looked at them and said, ‘”You will not tie my mother’s hand as long as I’m here.” They warned me that she would try to get the tube out. I replied, “Not while I am here.” They untied her hands. The five days I was with her not once did she try to pull the tube out.
The next five days were an emotional roller coaster ride that had it’s ups and downs. Mom seemed to make great strides the first two days I was home. The doctors were weaning her off the breathing machine and she was aware and responsive to commands. She knew I was with her and communicated to me by squeezing my hand. I felt very good about her progress then Friday morning came. When I walked into her room one of her doctors pulled me aside and told me my mother was in decline. I didn’t know how to take what the doctor was telling me. My mom just had two very good days. She must be wrong I thought. I sat down in the chair next to my mother. The room was strangely quiet. I look over at her and her eyes were open looking at me. I smiled and told her I was here and kissed her on the forehead. The nurse taking care of my mother came in the room to check her vitals and saw how distressed I was. She said not to give up. It was all rainbows and unicorns out of her mouth. Things were going to be ok. There is always hope she said. I stayed with mom the rest of the day. We watched the Waltons together. Held each others hand and stay connected in a way that only a mother and her son could do. Doctors came in and out of her room checking on her status. Looking for nonverbal clues, I was trying to get a read on where they stood with my mom. By Saturday afternoon all doubt was removed.
It was early Saturday morning and mom’s condition continued to deteriorate. The breathing machine was doing most of the work for her. She told my brother and me that if there ever came a time when a machine was keeping her alive, pull the plug. That wasn’t living in her opinion. Before I left her house for the hospital I grabbed one of my mom’s angel books. It was the kind of book that had real life short stories about people and their experiences with angels in the material world. My mom loved angels and had five or six books on the topic. This particular book was a birthday gift from her best friend who had visited her from Florida. The bookmark told me that she was about half way through it. I wasn’t sure if she could hear me or not, but I felt compelled to read it to her. Maybe it was to comfort my mom or maybe it was to help me cope with her current state, I guess at the time I really didn’t think about it. All I knew is something inside me told me to read out of it to her.
I read aloud the angel stories during the morning hours. At lunch I decided to get some air and go for a walk. Right next to the hospital was a city park. I had a connection to the park because it was the park that my mother would take my brother and me to when we were children. I felt it would be a good place to talk to God. As I entered the park there appeared to be some sort of Saturday afternoon music festival going on. They were playing songs from the 70s. As I made my way through the park an old stone building off the beaten path caught my eye. I felt drawn to it. The weathered stone bricks and detailed design were remarkable. I walked up to the building and soon realized it was a park bathroom. It was nestled under some trees on the corner edge of the park facing the hospital. I walked around to the building admiring the detail when I noticed some steps on the back side of it. What better place to talk to God. I walked over to the steps, sat down, took off my hat and prayed. My request to God was a simple one. If my mother’s works were not yet done, I asked God to heal her. If her works were done, then I asked God to make haste and take her home. I wanted what was best for my mother and needed God’s help no matter His decision.
When I made it back to the hospital after my prayer I saw one of the weekend doctors making his rounds. The doctor was a pulmonary specialist. I walked up to him and introduced myself. I asked him what was going on with my mom. He pulled me away from her room and asked, “Hasn’t anyone told you?” “Told me what?”, I replied. “We learned this morning that your mother has pulmonary hypertension.” I had no clue what pulmonary hypertension was, but by his tone I could tell it wasn’t good. He informed me that when the mini-clots went to her lungs, they damaged the capillaries. The capillaries are are key in transferring oxygen throughout the body. The condition was irreversible and at her age more then likely she would be unable to recover. I asked if the breathing machine was delaying the inevitable and he replied, “more than likely”. God had already decided before my prayer. My best friend, my mother was leaving this world and there was nothing that modern science could do to stop it…
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