Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Night That Changed My Life

This is the story my mother had me read on my last visit with her, a month before she passed. The title is hers, as well. The photo is her photo from her graduation from high school, in 1961. For the explanation of this blog, go to Connie from South Dakota.

This hospital room is so quiet. There are lots of us in the room, but no one is talking. It's like a church when you are not supposed to talk. We were called earlier to come, as our mother was not good. This doesn't seem real. I can hear her breathing. She'll be all right. She has to take care of me.

Five months ago, I had back surgery which left me flat on my back for six months. When I came home from the hospital, I insisted that I have the phone close to my hospital bed. I thought at least I could help Mom by answering the phone. I was the only child left at home. The rest of the family had married and gone on with their lives. Some lived as far away as Nashville, Tennessee, some much closer. One brother, Loren, lived across the field from us.

Mom and I had a good relationship with each other. I was 22 years old but felt I had an obligation to her. She wanted me home with her. Even though these words were never spoken, I felt them. She never helped me, or insisted, that I find a career. It was understood that, because of my physical handicap, I stay at home and take care of them. I lacked the courage to leave her and go off on my own.

One morning, as I lay in bed recovering from the back surgery, Mom started acting funny. At first it was strange. She dropped things and talked a little bit slurred. She lay down on the couch and continued to mumble. Dad was gone for the morning. I was worried. I reached for the phone and dialed my brother's number. He was there within minutes. He took one look at her and called the doctor and hospital. They took her away. My sister took me to stay with her.

The doctor said Mom had a stroke. I knew what that meant. No one Mom's age recovered from a stroke. I cried. The thought of living without her was inconceivable. Even more inconceivable was the thought of her living as a helpless old person not knowing what was going on around her. I cried again.

The weeks went by slowly. The doctors were discussing nursing home. She would have hated that. Then came the phone call when the nurse said we should come to the hospital. My sister and her husband loaded me in the van, as I was still laying flat. At the hospital they put me on a cart and wheeled me by her bedside. I tried to talk with her. She opened her eyes, but I don't think she knew me. One by one my family got there. The nurses moved the other patient out so we had more room.

Somewhere around 11pm my sister from Iowa arrived. My brother was leading in praying the rosary. Suddenly the breathing stopped. She was gone. Surrounded by her family, she passed away. It was August 26, 1966. She raised 14 children to be good people. She loved us all and loved all her grandchildren.

The next few days, weeks and months have become a blur in my memory. After recovering from the surgery I again felt obligated to return home for Dad's sake. It wasn't the same without her. I needed to get on with my life. With the help of Vocational Rehabilitation of South Dakota, I went back to school and became a Medical Secretary. I got a job in a hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. I married and have two children. None of these things were ever 'expected' of me. I feel that God knew I wouldn't leave my mom, so He took her to Heaven to guide me from there. I really loved her and I know she approves of my life so far. I only wish my children could have known their grandma.

Connie, Oct. 9, 1991

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