Three years ago this morning, I was awakened by a phone call at 6:45am. A mere 18 hours later, my Mom - my best friend, my greatest encourager, and one of the loveliest creatures to ever grace this earth - was gone.
My mother had been at Seton Northwest Hospital for 8 days, following an undetermined neurological event that had left her disoriented, confused, and struggling to speak. Since arriving on Monday, September 6th, she had been showing signs of improvement during her first few days. But by the weekend, she was beginning to show slight signs of decline.
The phone call that came on Tuesday, September 14th at 6:45am came from an ICU nurse named Julie. Her voice was calm but urgent. Mom's blood pressure had dropped significantly. "Julie, tell me," I said, "Do I need to come there right now?" "Well," she said, "We've had some rain and the streets are slick, so please be careful, but yes...you need to come here right now".
The next 18 hours would be a blur of harrowing events. Pulmonary embolism, cardiac arrest, Code Blue, CPR, chest compressions, seizures, more drops in blood pressure, kidneys failing, no neurological activity, sobbing siblings, shocked friends, discussions about Mom's end-of-life wishes, doctors using words like "grave" and "hopeless". And worst of all, standing at the bedside of my paralyzed father, and telling him that his adored wife and best friend had passed away.
Sometimes, when this anniversary is far off, I wonder why it is so difficult. My mother's absence hurts every day. Why, I sometimes wonder, does it seem to hurt more on this day? But then when the actual day arrives, I wonder no more. Because there is re-living of the events of the day, almost as if someone has put you in a "Back To The Future" DeLorean and sent you back in time to that very day. Or tied you to a chair and forced you to watch a video of the unfolding of the day's events. (The fact that I have a freakishly sharp memory does not help matters). It all becomes, once again, very vivid. Hauntingly vivid. And it's hard and it's sad.
But what also comes back are the glimpses of grace that colored those days, and the many days and weeks and months that followed. I would be remiss - nay, dishonest - if I were to mention the terrible events of September 14th and 15th, 2004, and not mention the love, support, generosity, selflessness and magnanimity that was so lavishly bestowed upon us during those days and the days that followed. An ICU waiting room FILLED with friends, the provision of food and drinks, the assurance of prayer, the gentle reminders of God's promises and provision, phone calls, emails, cards, flowers. Every face I looked into that day and in the days that came after seemed to be saying to me, "You are not going to walk through one minute of this alone."
And I could hear my God saying the same thing.
"My child, you are not going to walk through one minute of this alone."
And as shattered and grieved as I was, I knew it was true. And it was. And it still is.
Those of you who have known me for a while have heard me speak and/or write about this before. But it's something that I honestly cannot speak or write about enough. Indeed, I will probably never stop speaking or writing about it. Because as much as the dreadful events of those days still hurt and still grieve me, the love and grace that was showered upon me those days still heals and restores me. I still hurt, but I still heal.
And you know what? I could not ask for more. So thank you Jesus, and thank you ALL for "faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." (I Peter 4:10).
There will be a memoriam in the paper tomorrow for my Mom. For those of you who may not see the local paper here in Austin, here is what it will say:
Kindness, selflessness, humor, compassion, enthusiasm, intelligence, inexhaustibility, poise, warmth, vigor, courage, generosity, devotion, integrity, grace, hospitality, dignity, loyalty, and above all, love. You were the very embodiment of all of these qualities, and we strive every day of our lives to live up to your example. What a legacy you left for us all! You are forever loved and tremendously missed. Love, Daddy, Julie, Barbie, Chandler, Darby, Chris, Shelby, Brookie, Tom, Rachel, Christopher, Krissy, Alan, Marky, Christy, Camden, Erin, and Ivan
I'll leave you with a photo of my dear Mom.