Remembering my Mom...
December 1, 1945 - July 4, 2009
My Mom was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease in 2006 after a year or so of misdiagnosis but knowing "something was wrong". During the last 3 years, the disease progressed, and was little by little taking Mom's body from her, but never her loving, kind spirit, her simple approach to life and her ability to make others smile with her coaxing (she always said "if you meet someone without a smile of their own, you should share one of yours").
She had been wheelchair bound for about 1 1/2 years, and was completely dependent on others to care for her, primarily my Dad and my sister Gena who lives about an hour from them in Nebraska. We all expected her to live some time longer (hard to say how long) as she could still move her head, eat, breathe (though not well) and talk. Lou Gehrig's patients typically languish and need oxygen, a feeding tube, lose the ability to speak, etc. before the end. We all expected this to be the case for my Mom, but as He always does, God answered Mom's prayer to "please take me...I'm ready" and all of our prayers to "ease Mom's suffering".
Her faith deepened and grew in a way that became convincingly genunine and she witnessed to so many lost in her last 3 years. Just when many of us would be depressed, wondering why God had abandoned us, and complaining, she was loving others and telling them about how blessed she was. While I'm biased, of course, and thankful to have had a Mom like I did, hearing from friends, neighbors, the pastor and extended family how Mom impacted them, I am humbled. I had an idea that others loved her and thought highly of her, but I really had know idea how far and deep her reach had been. I can only hope I do indeed become more like my mother.
John, the kids and I had planned our summer vacation from June 25-July 12 so we could celebrate the 4th in the Midwest with family. We went to an Omaha Royals baseball game on June 27 with my brother Dave and his wife Stacy at which there was a Lou Gehrig "Luckiest Man" speech reenactment. July 4th was the 70th anniversary of that famous speech. I recorded it and when we travelled to my parents on June 29th, played the video for Mom/Dad...which she enjoyed very much.
We spent the week doing all the things we always did at my parents, things my Mom used to orchestrate and love being part of: kiddie pool swimming, golf cart riding, yard games, eating too much, fishing at a cousin's stocked "hobby pond", seeing a movie, roasting hot dogs on a fire and making s'mores after that and shooting off fireworks. Spencer played his sax for everyone and Camryn played the piano. My sister, Tricia and her husband Larry and kids Anna (6) and Ryan (4) were there with us beginning on Wednesday...a request my Mom insisted on (having all 5 g-kids there at the same time).
When it was bedtime late on July 3rd, after hot dogs, smores, fireworks (in the rain mind you), and sax "concert", Mom felt faint while sitting in bed changing into PJs, and it soon became clear to my Dad that she suffering from heart failure. I didn't know that at the time, I thought a panic attack or something, but my sisters and I came right to her side and we held her hands, talked softly to her, and I prayed for comfort and peace. Since my parents live out in the country the ambulance took about 20 minutes to arrive. Within a few minutes of their arrival, Mom lost consciousness, and they headed to the hospital (another 20 minutes away). My Dad went with them, and later told us she passed away about 3 miles from home.
The ensuing days were very hard... even though we were expecting Mom to pass, her death was sudden and a shock. There were many many people around my parents house, mostly outside on their huge deck and they brought tons of food, drinks, etc. I think their presence was a comfort/distraction to my Dad, but honestly for me, it was really hard. I felt I could only grieve in private with John.
The funeral was on July 7th...and was really lovely. Her dear friend, Shirleen, sang "Angels Among Us", the pastor ( wonderful woman) gave a sweet tribute, we read several passages of scripture (Psalm 116...it's good...so fitting), the church was packed (300+) people, flowers and angel figurines everywhere (she believed there were angels among us), and my Dad's barbershop choir sang "You Raise Me Up" and "Irish Blessing". The interim 3 days and the memorial really helped me find some relief.
This would've been exactly the week my Mom would've planned and loved as her last on earth. She was a simple, loving woman, and having her kids and grandkids around, doing the things mentioned above, just added to God's perfect timing. Now, 2 weeks after her passing, I miss my Mom. I want to pick up the phone and call her just to say hi, to get her brownie recipe, that kind of silly stuff. BUT, God is so good. He answered our prayers and she is with Him now...with wings like an eagle and sharing her smiles with everyone there.
Camryn said something so sweet when we told the kids on July 4th. She said, "so, Grandma Ruth gets to see her Mommy again, now?" (my Mom was 11 when her mother died in the 50s). Indeed.