Kindly click here to read installment three before proceeding.
Eventually word got out about my Mother's illness. It was unavoidable. One morning we were late for school, and my homeroom teacher had asked for a note explaining my previous day's absence. I told him on the way out the door that my Mother had almost died the night before, that I'd been at the hospital until the wee hours, and I didn't have a note. I had tried to be matter of fact, but my response came out in squeaky, suppressed sobs. I only briefly looked at him before running to my class. The expression of sympathy and shock on his face will stay with me forever. He'd had no idea. I had kept my silence well.
The next trip to the hospital was one I will never forget. There was a meeting room with a long table in the center. Seated in chairs surrounding the perimeter were my family: Grandma, Grandpa, Dad, Aunts, Uncles, Brother, Sister, Pastors, and the Doctor. And me. Although I didn't really feel like I was there. It seemed like I watched the whole thing in another place on a screen larger than life.
We had been gathered together to discuss the next step. Sister was on my right side, and Dad on my left. My Aunts, Grandparents, and one Pastor were already crying and wiping noses. Others of my family members looked uncomfortable at having been included in this meeting. My Sister was leaning on my Nan's shoulder. Me? I was taking inventory, and willing myself to act like it was ok.
The Doctor cleared his throat and began the discussion. My Mother's cancer was very aggressive. She was on a breathing machine now, and had not been conscious or communicative for days. It was keeping her alive. She was medicated for comfort, but could not feasibly recover from the cancer.
We were here to decide whether or not to remove the breathing tube.
The whole experience was very surreal. To be surrounded by so many people you loved, and have one missing. To have that special one be down the hall plugged into machines, and tubes, dying. And having in our hands the power to end her life.
When the Doctor finished his part, he left. My Sister immediately broke down in shuddering sobs. Many others were weeping openly. Me? I grabbed my Sister and held her. I rubbed her back, soothed her with my words, and reassured her it was alright, that God had a plan, and no matter what, we would still be together. But I did not cry. I couldn't cry. I wouldn't cry in front of him, the Uncle who had called me.
Well, we discussed it for quite some time, but the family ultimately left it up to my Father. I know he didn't want to make that choice. But he decided to remove the breathing machine. However long she lived after that would be up to God.
We sat in the room for a long time, just Dad and us kids. There wasn't much to say. I was hoping everyone would be gone by the time we came out, but there they all were in the waiting room, staring at us. Brother, and Sister and I sat side by side in chairs. Every five minutes Brother would say "It won't be long now. Could be any minute." And I would silently scream in my mind for him to shut up. Like we didn't already know that.
Dad was in the room with my Mom. We were asked if we wanted to go back in, but I couldn't. The images of my last visit were still fresh in my mind. I was afraid of vomiting.
We sat for hours in that waiting room. Shifting uncomfortably in the seats, standing, walking around avoiding one another, sitting again. Finally my youth pastor came in and crouched in front of us kids. He informed us that our Mom had passed away. I didn't know what to do, what to say. So I pushed my feelings aside, and tended to Sister. She would need me a lot more now.
I could hear in the background my family grieving. But I couldn't cry. Instead I went to the phone and called my best friend. I told him my Mom had just died. I don't remember any more than that. What transpired the following days is a blur. I don't remember much, except helping pick out her casket.
It was beautiful. It was a dusty rose color, and every so often along the sides it had small oval plaques with paintings of bunches of wildflowers on them. The inside was lined with a soft cream colored silk, and the handles looked to be brushed pewter. I can still see it in my mind.
The funeral service was beautiful, though I don't remember much of it. I know my Youth Pastor read memories from us kids about my Mother, and the church was packed with people. Sister sat with her head on my shoulder most of the time, and I was content to mother her.
The time following the funeral was awkward for me. I would cry often in private, mourning the things she would never see me do, the things she could never teach me. When I was alone in the car with my Father, all he wanted to do was talk about it. I had kept the charade of strength going for so long, that he felt he could confide in me too. Fact of the matter was, I was not ok. But I wouldn't admit it.
The school psychologist wanted to meet with me and talk about it. It was routine for them to follow up with students after the death of a parent, or a traumatic incident. I didn't even know before that meeting that we had a school psychologist. The meeting was a joke. He couldn't help me. I knew all the trite things he would say. I would answer the way I was supposed to, and we would all go on with our day.
I can't really say when I came to terms with my Mother's death. I think her extended illness in the hospital prepared me for life without her at home. When we went to visit her, many times she was sleeping, or unable to communicate. So to me, it was like she was already gone.
The Lord is so good to heal us when we are broken. My Father eventually forced me to stop doing the housework, and be a kid. So I slowly went back to being involved with my former activities. Eventually the dust settled, and people treated me normally again.
Years later, looking back, I can see how God's hand was in it all. The lesson in forgiveness I learned during that time dealing with my Uncle is now precious to me. The close friendship I have with my Dad is something I cherish. I can see the blessings behind the pain, the beauty in the thorn. And I can look forward to a happy reunion someday.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Kindly click here to read installment three before proceeding.