Paul Wilson: The Aleatory Side of Life

DSCN7415As some of you are aware – possibly even celebrated – I’ve been absent of late…

I’ve received numerous emails and calls of concern from readers and for that, I thank you all. And Stomper, hearing from you was like listening to the soothing words from an old friend that spoke to my heart at a time I needed it; I can’t thank you enough.

I got back in town late last night so, little by little, get ready, the dry spell is over and your well-coiffed scribe is more committed than ever to the goal of getting Mysterious J all the way through just one story.

So where have I been for the last 10 days?

Saturday at 3:00 p.m., under beautiful blue skies at a cemetery in the back yard of a little country church, in a small community in Southwest Missouri – all three of which are named after my family – I buried my mom.

She awakened a week ago complaining of minor numbness in her left leg and arm. Arriving at Mercy in Springfield, she was greeted by her close friend of 20 years, her doctor. My mom had an artificial valve replaced two decades back and it was determined that either her medicine or chemistry had changed causing her blood to get a little slushy.

imageAppearing overly concerned to her friend, she cradled my mom’s face in her hands and said, “Listen to me, I’m not just telling you this; I’ve got this under control, we are sending you right back home. It’s no big deal.”

With that, Dr. Olson left the room. But after hearing those words of comfort, my mom took her husband’s hand and said, “Honey, I’m not going to be leaving the hospital this time.”

Why would she have said that to him?

Next my mother refused to leave for the hospital until a couple of things had been done at home. She insisted he find the birthday card for my granddaughter and an anniversary card to my wife and me, demanding they be put in the mail even though it was long before it was necessary to meet those dates.

Why would she have done that?

She did them both in such a rush that it’s the only time a card ever arrived with nothing written on it. That was not her; my mom was the consummate hostess with a servant’s heart, Miss Manners; style and decorum her hallmark.

So you have to ask yourself, why? What did she know? She was going to the hospital for something totally benign.

Three weeks ago, she called me from her attorney’s office where she had gone to modify documents not touched since 2003.

imageWhy? What did she sense? Premonition or coincidence?

When not in my office, I would call my mom almost daily in transit between client meetings around town. It passed the drive time for me and gave us quiet time to talk. In the past two weeks she and I had three conversations that ran in excess of an hour; mainly me listening as she talked about old memories and stories.

Why? Why so many uncharacteristic topics and thoughts from someone who seemed to be in good health, great spirits?

Later in the day, I talked to her and she sounded a little slurred. My first thought was a stroke; my mom’s worst fear, voiced for 10 years saying, “I can’t imagine a worse hell than laying there with a sound mind, unable to respond, trapped between life and death.”

imageOver the next few hours that fear became her reality.

Before they labeled it a stroke, they took her to CT for a dye contrast to confirm if it was an “event.” That’s what they call it, an “event.” And trust me; it’s not a fun event and not one you want a ticket to.

Before they took her, she apparently had a third, right side stroke, followed by a larger, fourth right side event and mid procedure. She returned to her room unable to open her eyes or respond in any way other than a gentle head nod or squeezing my hand.

I took that time to read the stream of text messages from each of her grandkids and daughter in law. With each reading I would question about her understanding of the message; she would nod and squeeze my hand. That continued for a good deal of the day.

At 4:00am the next morning, she had what they called a “catastrophic bi-literal event” that left her with 70-80 percent brain loss. The doctor told us regardless of age, this was an event she simply could not recover from.

Her wishes were for total DNR.

The decision had to be made; we opted for 2:00pm that day.

Gearing up for what was going to be the last few seconds of her life, I held my mom’s hand as they systematically removed the technology that was keeping her suspended between here and there. One switch at a time was turned off, and then the ventilator tube removed.

I was prepared for what they said could be from two seconds to two hours of life.

After four or five gasps, my mom leveled out into what would become a roller coaster ride for the next four and a half days. With the removal of all life sustaining machines and the nine medications she had been on for 15 years to keep her alive, she spent the next 3 days exhibiting perfect vital signs, yet no sign of life.

Perfect blood pressure, oxygenation, respiration, all sustained by the only thing left undamaged, her brain stem.

The inevitable decline came in the last couple of days when we lost the epicenter of our family at 4:55am.

imageMore mysteries remained. She has a large home in Springfield on the back side of Highland Springs Country Club. Even though I never lived in it, there’s a room there she’s always called “Paul’s bedroom.” Before each visit she would leave little trinkets for either me or my wife on the desk in my room. Same was true this time, even though no visit had been planned.

Why? What do we know when we come to the end? Is it premonition or coincidence?

Do we get hints or clues from whatever you perceive that great beyond to be? She was going to the hospital for what was to be a minor course correction. Yet, before she could leave, she had things to get in order; for no apparent reason. She had incredibly detailed conversations with me covering every topic you could imagine. She made changes to a decade old document, all this in the last 3 weeks.


I can’t make sense of it, but I what I know for sure is love those close to you. Tell them you love them. Go see them. Don’t assume you have all the time in the world, because you just may not. Don’t assume you will have that Thanksgiving with them, as we had already been planning, but will now never come to pass. Don’t skip that visit because you’ll have lots of other chances.

Because you may not.

You can talk all day about net worth, what you own, what you have, but in the end, those are not the rules of the game. The only measure of who we are is the legacy we leave behind for those who loved us; things that endure.

My mom left that legacy like no other.

The tears will dry, the loss will heal and we will soldier on, as she would have demanded!

God speed, Mom. You were one of a kind.

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44 Responses to Paul Wilson: The Aleatory Side of Life

  1. the dude says:

    Sorry to hear about your loss wilsun, I figured something pretty big was up for you to miss out on all the shenanigans here. Godspeed to your mum.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Yeah, you’re right; a little preoccupied. I didn’t even read much of anything, let alone comment or write.
      Thanks…appreciate your words.

  2. chuck says:

    “For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
    And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

    Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
    And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
    And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

    I am so very sorry to hear of your loss.


    • paulwilsonkc says:

      You always have the words, kind sir. Thanks.

    • mike t. says:

      Very nice, Chuck, very nice.

      Paul, very sorry for your loss. How you managed to write this in your grief, I’ll never know. My sincere condolences. – Mike

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        Mike, it’s not easy; won’t be easy for some time I’d assume. When I’m writing for KCC, I keep a dozen or so folders on my desk top with story ideas that aren’t time sensitive. I add notes as I build thoughts, ideas, positions; so when I’m finally ready to write the story, most of the work is done and I wrap it up in maybe 30-45 minutes for an 800-900 word piece.
        I wrote my moms obit. Didn’t need a folder of facts, she was my mom. Didn’t need any real research, she’s my mom. I chiseled away at it for four hours before I got it where I wanted it! Hardest thing I ever wrote and one of the shortest.
        Thanks for your kind words and Chuck nailed it, huh?

  3. Mysterious J says:

    My condolences and best wishes to you and yours.

  4. Krisi says:

    She was one of the kindest women I have had the pleasure of knowing! What a blessing she was to those she met. She was my 8th grade Sunday School teacher. What a difference she made in the lives of so many!

  5. GW says:

    Beautifully written, Paul, your Mom must have been so proud of you. Sounds like she was a lovely woman, keeping you in my thoughts.

  6. paulwilsonkc says:

    Thanks, GW; may I call you G? My only regret regarding my mom involves my writings here. She was really pleased I was exploring that interest, but she wasn’t as tech savvy as Bill, even though she too had a brand new lap top. I would tell her what my latest story was and her reply was always, “Well, honey, you’ll have to print that off and MAIL it to me!”
    I’m creeping up on my 100th story and knew I’d be there well before Christmas. I was going to have my son hard bind then for her, entitled “My First 100 Stories” and give it to her at Christmas.
    Like I said….don’t ever assume you have that window, you just may not.
    Thanks, G; you sound like a nice girl!

  7. Veronica Hornsby says:

    What a truly lovely, well-written tribute and how she will heart-breakingly be missed!

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Veronica; good to see you back. You have a rain check on your previous coffee meetup; it’s still good if you’d like to redeem it. (Only on offer per person, can not be combined with other offers, no expiration, no cash value)

  8. harley says:

    sad to hear about your mom. Having lost mine 10 years ago you will realize
    something about her. She may be gone physically but she never really leaves.
    They don’t. They’re always around. They’re watching us. When we do something
    good they’re watching us and laughing. And when we do something
    really dumb or stupid…they’re still watching us and shaking their heads
    in disbelief.
    But they’re always with us. And I learned that they still can communicate
    with us. Not verbally but emotionally. I was driving down I 70 and hadn’t
    had much sleep. I could feel myself falling asleep and the car going off
    the road. Then I felt a sharp pull on the steering wheel and there she
    was making sure I didn’t run off the highway.
    Most importantly we have to realize that we only get one mom. There
    will be replacements but they never fill that special gap and connection
    that we feel with our “real” mom.
    To those lucky enough to have your mom still around….worship and
    love her. Because everyday they’re gone you will think of them.
    sorry for your personal loss wilson. peace be with you and your

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Even though parts of the “family” demanded I remove certain words in the obit relating to your comment, I agree with you totally. I’m most certain she’s looking down on me and is still “here.”
      And once again, as when I lost her dad, my grandfather, who was more a dad to me than my dad was; I’m more than grateful that when her time came I had NOTHING left unsaid, uncovered, unresolved.
      I appreciate your sentiments.

  9. Jack Hanrahan says:

    Paul, so sorry to hear of the loss of your Mother. My sincere condolences.
    Thank you for writing about the last days of her Life so eloquently for us to reflect on.
    Very Best, Jack

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks, Jack. When the dust settles on your end, lets sit down and talk. Doesn’t have to be The Pendergast next time, you’ve got your own place now; I’d like to do a story about it when you have the time.
      Cigar section?

  10. Jeff says:

    This one hit home Paul. Very well written. My sincere condolences to you and your family.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks, Jeff. You know, I kind of burn it at both ends in my professional and personal life; pretty much on the go all the time doing what I need and doing what I love. Writing here takes a ton of time, and while most think I make a staggering amount of money doing this, it’s actually far less than you’d think.
      So what’s the motivation? To make people think, question or dig a little deeper. Sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always to connect on some positive level.
      If it hit home for you and no one else, it made its point.
      Thanks, Jeff, appreciate your words.

  11. Libertarian says:

    Only mothers and dogs love you unconditionally.

    Sorry to hear you lost your mom, Paul.
    This is one of those moments I can only hang my head, and pat you on the back.

  12. Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

    We’ve never met and probably won’t, but this blog entry touched me deeply. As a son whose mother is in the throes of Alzheimer’s slow fade into nothingness, I can appreciate your sense of loss. The mother I knew growing up now only exists in my memories. You and your family have my deepest sympathies. May God bless you, and the soul of your dear departed mother.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks, Guy. My grandmother went that route and I saw early signs of that in my mom, but maybe only because that’s what “I” feared most after seeing how it robbed her mom. Luckily, Gran never had a bad day in her version of that horrific disease. She lived on vacation, “new” friends came to see her daily and she loved everyone!
      Go read up on Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConner and her husband. He’s now in a care facility, has developed a love affair with a lady in the facility who’s husband is also still well. This man, his family and OConner with her family now go visit this “new” couple together and all have lunch or dinner as one, big happy family. The two simply think they have new friends.
      As for meeting, we just may. I’m going to see to it Hearnes KCC Christmas wilding gets better attendance from more readers this year.
      Thanks for your sentiments; prayers for you and your mom.

  13. Ohio Sam says:

    Sorry to here about your mom Paul.

    Chuck always gets it right.

  14. Andrew says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, and glad that your mother didn’t suffer for long. I hope you and yours make it through this difficult time okay. It sounds like you have plenty of wonderful memories that can comfort you; I hope so.

  15. Helen McMaster says:

    I know that we as children are never far removed from our parents and based on what you have written, your mother must have been a truly wonderful woman. Your heartfelt tribute brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes and made me treasure all of the wonderful times I had with my Mom who died 8 years ago. Since my Mom died, I have lost my best friend, my dad and most recently my dear, dear sister and you are SO correct in your advice to always say “I love you”; don’t think for a minute that you always have tomorrow…Paul, I am thankful for you and your beautiful words. Take care, my friend.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Oh, man, Helen; about the time I think I’m good for the day, someone like you says something like that!
      Thanks so much, you are appreciated.

  16. Paul says:

    I’m 54. My mom is 76. I called her today.

    Thanks Paul.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks, Paul; I’m 59, she was 78.
      You can; I can’t. Cherish that.
      This may be the most touching summation yet. Less is almost always more.

  17. harley says:

    song played at m. jansens funeral. She was 98…husband still going strong
    at 102. Springsteen “if I should fall”….seen it live 6 times…so true…so true.!!!!!!

    We said wed walk together baby come what may
    That come the twilight should we lose our way
    If as were walkin a hand should slip free
    Ill wait for you
    And should I fall behind
    Wait for me

    We swore wed travel darlin side by side
    Wed help each other stay in stride
    But each lovers steps fall so differently
    But I’ll wait for you
    And if I should fall behind
    Wait for me

    Now everyone dreams of a love lasting and true
    But you and I know what this world can do
    [ So lets make our steps clear that the other may see
    And I’ll wait for you
    If I should fall behind
    Wait for me

    Now there’s a beautiful river in the valley ahead
    There neath the oaks bough soon we will be wed
    Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
    Ill wait for you
    And should I fall behind
    Wait for me
    Darlin I’ll wait for you
    Should I fall behind
    Wait for me

  18. Jeanne says:

    Paul, that was wonderful! A great tribute to your mom and so well written! Everyone needs a little push now and then, no matter what age, to let our loved ones know how much they mean to us. Bless you. Many prayers.

  19. Dwight D. Sutherland, Jr. says:

    I was very moved by the post and the replays,

  20. Dreamwriter326 says:

    Paul, as someone who in time will be holding my own aging mom’s tiny wrinkled hand to give her comfort in her final moments, I was touched by the detail and calm sincerity of your words. I hold back the water welling up in my eyes as I type this knowing that all too soon many of us will also face that inevitable numbing goodbye.

    It was a touching tribute. You have my condolences, as well.

    • paulwilsonkc says:

      Thanks, Dream. I guess the bottom line it, make it count. Dont pass up a chance. We only get one Mom.
      It’s been an interesting, introspective week. Appreciate your comments, as always.

  21. Stomper says:

    Powerful effort Paul.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  22. Barb Garrett says:

    Paul, I think back to good memories and the fun we all had, God has been so good. Sorry we could not be there, our prayers and thoughts are with you all.

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