Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I talk about my mom a lot. She is so special to me, and she is in my heart every day.
This September 13 will mark 4 years from the day that changed all for our lives forever. My mom and I had spent that afternoon getting our hair cut and highlighted for a family wedding that was taking place on Saturday, a few days later. I had run errands the rest of that afternoon, and my parents babysat my daughter- their little princess!
I had a throbbing headache and was so tired when I arrived to pick up my daughter around dinnertime. My Mom was not home; she had gone to a doctor appointment. I thanked my Dad for all their help with babysitting, and I headed home.
I had only been in the house a few minutes when the phone rang. It was my Dad. He had been called by the police. My Mom had been in a car accident. My Dad was asking me to drive him over there, so he could drive her car home- we thought she had just had a small fender bender.
Well, the scene we found still makes my stomach ache and my eyes tear when I allow myself to remember it. We will never be sure what exactly happened from the time she left her doctor's office to the time her car finally smashed into a brick wall going full speed, but that night changed her life forever.
We were not allowed near the car- the firemen were there, cutting her car in half so they could get her out. One fireman came over to tell me they had called in a helicopter to get her to the nearest hospital. I just stood there....the world stood still...I did not know what to think. I tried to stay calm so I could keep my Dad calm- but I think we were both in a shocked daze. As they prepared to take my Mom to a nearby park via ambulance to meet the helicopter, a Fireman came to talk to us. He told us one of us could see her- but only for a second. My dad told me to go...and I remember peeking into the ambulance, fighting the tears, and all I could manage to say was "We love you, Mom. We'll meet you at the hospital. Please do not be afraid- it will be OK."
I remember watching the helicopter descending from above- it landed a few blocks away in a nearby park. The only other person I had ever heard of being taken away by helicopter was my girlfriend's 11 year old son who had suffered heart failure...and he never came home. I was overcome with fear, grief and a whole bunch of emotions that I had never experienced as deeply as in those moments. But then something just happened to me. I knew that I had to pull it together, to get us to the hospital and to mobilize my brothers and to get my family secured. I needed to get my friends praying. I am not organized or strong or brave, but something filled me that made me be all of those things, and I was so grateful for it.
I remember approaching the hospital from the freeway, it was about 20 minutes from our house. On top of the hospital, near the helicopter pad, was a huge, brightly lit cross. I followed that cross so I could find my way. It comforted me because I knew it was a sign that she was in His care- and He was going to be there with us.
I knew the accident was bad, but it wasn't until the doctor told us all about her condition that I realized what we were facing, and that news came to us after several hours of waiting. She had broken her neck, she had one collapsed lung and several broken ribs, she had broken both legs and one arm. We were told there was a very high chance she would not survive through the night.
Thankfully, she not only survived but is still living in her home, 3 miles away from mine. I am conviced that her survival was a gift, a miracle.
As you can imagine, her recovery was very long and very difficult. It became a main focus of my life for a very long time. I slept by her side in the nursing home almost every night for months, and then I would go home, get the kids off to school, and come back to cheer her through her therapy sessions. She spent months recovering.
I witnessed my Mom's journey first hand. Many days I was frustrated, angry, helpless...but when I look back and when I look at her now, I am just in awe.
She found the strength to be able to walk again. Nobody could help her with her will- we couldn't do that for her. She was faced with a life changing situation that she had not chosen. She spent months in a bed, unable to move, and she hardly spoke. She tells me now that she hardly spoke because she was always afraid that if the tears started rolling, she would just drown in them. In a way, her not crying made it easier for all of us- because we could convince ourselves maybe it wasn't so bad.
She knew that every therapy session was important to her. SHe wanted to go home so badly that she pushed herself so she could stand up, so she could move her arms. She went to PT twice a day because she knew her journey was long, and she wanted to work as hard as she could.
She never stopped fighting. She never stopped believing that she could make this situation OK.
My Mom has never been quite the same, and she still suffers with excruciating pain most days. SHe cries a lot because she is angry that her body is so broken. She can't garden the way she used to, she can't walk as much as she'd like to.
Yet whenever my kids go visit, she becomes this amazing woman who is loving, patient and makes them the stars of her day. There is no pain then- she can do whatever they ask. It used to bother me that she would catch balls, let them paint on THE dining room table, and do all sorts of crazy things with her- but now I realize it is wonderful. They will always remember their Nonna, who was nothing but joyfilled around them, and I thank her for that.
I thank her for fighting, but I never find words to tell her what I really feel. I thank her for not leaving us that night- I wasn't ready to let her go. I thank her for getting through all the pain, all the difficult days and for letting me believe she was as hopeful as I was. I thank her for being there to help my brother fight his cancer, which came in the midst of her hospitalization. I thank her for being there to welcome and love my 4th child. I thank her for teaching me that there is a strength inside of us that we will never know- until we need to use it. I got a glimpse of it that first night, when I felt it fill me and drive me into action, rather than allowing me to crumble into myself.
I love my Mom, and she'll never really know how much. She has inspired me so much. She has taught me lessons she never knew she could teach.
She is not doing very well right now, and my heart just aches for her to find some peace. She is amazing, strong and beautiful. I learned that no matter where her journey takes her- and us along- we will go with her. We will always remain hopeful and faithful...and I will always remain thankful. Thankful that through all of this, there have been a lot of special moments that we have shared that have changed my life forever.
I wish that night in September had never happened, but I know that is one wish that won't come true. It happened and has changed all of us. I just pray that in her heart, she knows how much she is loved. I hope she really knows how much she means to every one of us- her children and her grandchildren, her husband and her friends. Her body is broken and getting weaker, but I hope her spirit can stay strong.
I wrote this blog because there are so many times that people are faced with challenges, and they are afraid. Especially with parents, it is never easy to face these things. Hopefully my situation holds a lesson- and that lesson is that even in pain and fear and hard times, there are special moments of closeness. We can't always change situations or outcomes. Sometimes bad, unfair things happen to people we care about. We just need to hold strong and be present and open our hearts. That is really all we can do. And sometimes, that is just enough.