I worked in a nursing home as a bookkeeper. I had finished my lunch and had sauntered back into my office when the telephone rang. I answered the call in my usual business tone and was interrupted by my distraught step-father’s voice. “Come right away. Mom’s blood pressure is very low. We are losing her. I want you here!”
The call came as a shock. I felt numb. Mom…dying, those words did not compute. I knew the inevitable would happen eventually, but today? I frantically told my office assistant about the call, grabbed my coat, and ran out the door to the parking lot. With keys in hand and as tears streamed down my face, I unlocked the car door, jumped in, and raced out of the parking lot. As I drove, I prayed aloud, “Please God, allow all of us the chance to say goodbye before you take her home to be with You.”
Mom had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon six years ago. After she had surgery that had removed a quarter-sized cancer, she had received chemo treatments every Monday morning, for a full year. These treatments had caused her loss of appetite and extreme tiredness. By Thursday of the week, she had recovered her meager appetite, always knowing that the process repeated the next week. Since that time, the cancer had been in remission. Although six months ago, it had returned with a vengeance. The disease had metastasized to her liver and other areas. She had battled this treacherous invader with tenacity, and the hospital had been her “home” for the last month.
As I drove to the hospital, I reminisced about our relationship. Mom and I had never really been very close. Because my father had died of cancer when I was six years of age, Mom had raised my brother, Brett and I all alone. She had become both the caregiver and the disciplinarian of the family. As I remembered my past behavior, I viewed myself as a very rebellious, strong-willed child. Mom and I had many verbal wars. She had not agreed with many of my decisions, even as I became an adult. Because of my eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, I had caused her and my other family members many trying times and much emotional pain. In previous times, whenever Mom had been injured or hurt, I usually ran away from my family responsibility. I avoided her and the situation that she faced. But this time, I had vowed to make amends with my Mother.
When she had received the doctor’s prognosis, I was determined and spent quality time with her. Through this last bout of her illness, she had accepted Christ as her Savior which gave us a unified connection. We had discussed her concerns for the family, and we had prayed together about many of them. We still had our problems. She still had her negative bent and criticized me about my dress, my voice and my life in general. Despite this, we had become closer, and our broken relationship had begun to mend.
I entered the hospital and hurried to her room. My youngest brother, Jeffrey, sobbed, as he wrapped his big burly arms around me. I held him and comforted him in the best way I could.
He said, “She can’t die. I don’t want her to leave me. What am I going to do without her?”
I held him even tighter as he wept. Words of comfort escaped me for that moment.
Finally, I said, “Jeff, just as Abraham had placed Isaac on the altar, I believe we are asked to place Mom there. We all should release her and then willingly accept God’s plan. I know how hard that is to do. Remember, Abraham was commanded to kill his only son, but God stopped him and provided a replacement. Maybe today is a test of our obedience of faith, and He will heal her.”
Teri, Jeff’s girlfriend, worked in the hospital as a student nurse. As she bolted through the door, Jeffrey turned his tearful affection toward her. She tried to console him as he embraced her.
I reflected once again on past relationships. Mom and Jeff had always been close. He was her baby boy. After her discovered illness, he had spent many hours with her. He talked with her about the every day life experiences. Because Mom loved to ride around in the country side, Jeff took her for drives. He enjoyed teasing her, causing her laughter. His eyes glimmered as he had relayed his believable tales to all of us. He produced a knowing smile and a laugh at the end of his story that told us it was all make believe. His sense of humor had always made Mom laugh. I had envied their closeness.
My middle brother, Bruce, arrived next. He had been crying, but it was less noticeable. He sat down in the chair next to Mom and held her hand. Mom smiled at him and told him she loved him. When Bruce heard those words, he wept silently again. He had always showed his love toward Mom in more subtle ways. She told me of her concern for him. She thought that he could not care for himself without her. As he was growing up, she had guaranteed that he awoke each morning for school, by her “daily yell” up the staircase as he responded with his usual grunt. She had prepared food that he liked at meal times and had become his short order cook.
When Bruce became engaged to his fiancée, Janette, Mom had been overjoyed. Janette and her five-year-old daughter, Brenda, added a special essence to our family. Mom became close to them. She loved Brenda as her own grandchild, and when Mom babysat with her, she would make her “strawberry milk”. Mom had been confident that Janette complemented Bruce and would help him be a caring, responsible husband and father.
Bruce and Jeffrey were two years apart in age, but they never had any brotherly love between them. As a child, Jeff played with cars, trucks and farm machinery, but Bruce watched and played sports. Since they had little in common, their relationship dwindled. When they were little, around the ages of four and two, they fought as all brothers tend to do, but as they became older, they stopped communicating. They had not talked with each other for more than a year. Mom had told me of her concern for their relationship. We had prayed together about it on many of my visits.
Brett, my oldest brother appeared last. He came around the bed and gave Mom a kiss. Lyle, my step-father, sat in a chair on the other side of her bed. He faithfully stroked her hair and told her of his love. Their relationship had been strange. They had always bickered back and forth. The gentle care that Lyle had given Mom since her illness showed me he truly loved her and would miss her deeply.
Mom spoke in a breathless monotone voice. She told each of us that she loved us. I watched as everyone gave mom affection. At that moment, my emotions did not match the event at hand. As my Mother’s blood pressure dropped, and her pulse became lower, I felt joyful and excited. Without my family’s knowledge, I began singing praises to myself. I couldn’t t understand my exuberance, and my passionate behavior made me feel ashamed. I felt like someone who had attended a somber occasion, such as a funeral and had become overpowered in a fit of laughter.
As I scanned the scene before me, I noticed Bruce and Jeff sat by Mom’s bedside in chairs near to one another. Jeffrey had stopped sobbing and was very at tentative. Mom looked over in my direction, and I remembered one of our previous conversations.
I peered at Mom and said, “Mom, do you remember your prayer about these two?”, as I pointed to Jeff and Bruce.
She looked at them and said, “I want you to act like brothers.”
Both Bruce and Jeff said in unison, “We will, Mom.”
She then said, “I want you to hug.”
They hugged in a tearful embrace that lasted several minutes. Everyone became overwhelmed with emotion by the response that each showed the other. I was so joyful with what I had seen happen. Immediately, Mom’s pulse and blood pressure rose to normal again. She lived a few more days.
I believe that God allowed that incident to mend a broken relationship. It worked, and they have communicated ever since that day!