Please note: I was invited to submit a “poignant memory” of my mother, for a book that will be published in honor of Mother’s Day. The following story took place last year, April 8, 2006.
My brother’s voice on the other end of the phone was urgent. “Del, you better hurry. Mom is slipping away fast.” For days, my family and I had taken turns at her bedside, knowing her time was near. She was ninety and had lived a good life. Now she was ready to go and be with the one whom she loved most of all.
I found myself reflecting on the countless days and nights she had stayed at my bedside through long hospitalizations. As a child of seventeen months, I had been run over by a truck. Miraculously, I recovered, only to be stricken a year later with polio.
Each day, she would make the one hundred mile round trip from Hamilton to Missoula to be at my side. But winter was fast approaching and she knew, soon, she would no longer be able to drive those icy Montana roadways.
So she set aside three days to fast and pray. “O God, please strengthen Del enough to let him come home from the hospital.” Then she fasted a fourth day, but spent the entire day giving praise and thanksgiving for the miracle she just knew was sure to happen.
On that fourth day, Mom took a step of faith. She went to JC Penney and bought a little pair of snow pants and a jacket for me to wear home from the hospital. That very afternoon, the doctor met her in the hallway and told her I had made such remarkable improvement, he was going to fit me for braces and send me home.
Now, flying down the freeway, I wondered if I would make it to the hospital in time. My daughter met me out front with a wheelchair and together, we raced through the corridors, practically taking corners on one wheel.
Halfway down the hallway, I began to see family members coming out of her room wiping their eyes. Something told me I was too late. Sure enough, my brother put his hand on my shoulder and told me she was gone.
I went in and stood at her side. She was so quiet. After days of watching her labor for every breath she seemed so peaceful.
Then suddenly… she took in one more breath… and slowly… let it out. And she was gone.
Somehow, Mom waited for me to be at her side.