And so began the longest two weeks of my life.
Even in those first hours, I could see His grace upon grace. Living only 10 minutes from my parents, and reaching the house before the EMTs whisked Mama away. A dear friend coming in to the ER, although she wasn't scheduled to work. Strength to stay awake all night with my Dad and my sister, as we waited for test results. Clarity of mind to make decisions.
Mama was transported to a large hospital over an hour away. During the days that followed, I was blessed with friends nearby who opened their home, friends who prayed, friends who provided meals for my family. A boss who understood I needed to be with Mama. Traveling mercies on those journeys. An amazing staff of doctors and nurses who worked tirelessly to restore Mama to health. R reminded me that we needed to renew our efforts to share the gospel with Mama.
We will, I promised myself.
She spent much of that first week in and out of consciousness. One afternoon, I received a text from my former pastor asking if he could visit Mama. Unsure of how she would receive his visit, I nearly brushed him off. One seemingly inconsequential decision can change a life forever. Instead, I explained that she was heavily sedated and I'd keep him posted. In all the comings and goings to the hospital and trying to maintain my life at home, I forgot. He didn't.
I just left your mom.
The cell phone static couldn't conceal his excitement. She'd asked him to pray for her before he could even offer. She joined in, her voice still scratchy and wobbly from the intubation, praising the Lord for her physical healing. I was stunned.
The next afternoon, the doctors told my Dad they were transferring her out of ICU as soon as a room became available. I drove up the next morning, wondering if they had moved her yet. They hadn't. In fact, complications the night before meant yet another procedure. The doctors explained it to me as Mama nervously listened. She didn't want to do it. She was frightened of the risks. I encouraged her to rest while we waited, but she couldn't. She told everyone who came into the room that the next day was my birthday. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the preparations, we talked about the year I was born -- how cold it was and how quickly I came. We remembered the start of our life together. The doctor explained that she'd be intubated again until that evening. I promised to stay until the procedure was finished, to visit even though she wouldn't be able to speak. I clasped her hands and prayed over her while the medical staff hovered. Tears moistened my eyes as I heard Mama's weak voice once again praising the Lord for all He'd done. I had to leave before I could explain the gospel.
I left to call Dad and my sister, to tell them about this latest bump in the road. I was bone weary with waiting by the time the nurse came. Everything went smoothly. Surprisingly, they had removed the tube. Mama was alert, different. I told her we'd made the right decision as she gripped my hand. She was so tired, but reluctant for me to leave. I knew she wouldn't get the rest she needed so badly as long as I was there. I told her I loved her and headed for the door. She couldn't stop talking to me. I tried to leave several times, only to hear her call me back.
Tell R & CJ I love them.
Tell them thank you for praying.
Be sure to check on your Dad.
Tell S (my former pastor) to come back if he can. I'd love to see him again.
I walked to her bedside one last time, promising to be back in a couple of days. I kissed her hand, told her how much I loved her, told myself there would be time to share the gospel on my next visit, and left.
I didn't know that we'd be called back to the hospital a few hours later, that we'd sit together all night as Mama endured emergency surgery, or that we'd soon be gathered around a conference table listening to a doctor tell us that Mama would never leave the ICU. How long she would be there was up to us.
I didn't know I'd say goodbye to Mama on my birthday.
It was R who reminded me of the date, and suggested we ask the doctors to keep her alive until after midnight. They weren't sure she'd make it, and that was okay. But Mama was a fighter. She slipped away 33 minutes after my birthday was officially done. Her final gift to me.
I have thought much about my last visit, what I would change if I could. Still, as we begin a new life without her, I am at peace that she has begun a new life in Heaven. I witnessed the change in her heart on my last visit. I can still hear her voice saying, "Yes, Lord." while I prayed over her. Evidences of the Holy Spirit's workings. I don't know if she knew exactly how to pray, but the Lord has reminded me of His promise in Romans 8:
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. ~Romans 8:26-27
I cling to that hope for Mama's eternal life, and for my earthly one.