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.
Appearing 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.
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.”
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.
More 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.