The 15 months of waiting were over. The wondering each time the phone rang. Would this be the call?
Because I lived 250 miles from the nursing home where my mother was a resident, communication with the staff and hospice team was by phone. Each time I identified a voice belonging to either staff or hospice team member, my heart started to pound. I held my breath until I heard the reassuring words, “Don’t worry, Joyce. This is no emergency.” Only then did my mind and body begin to relax, waiting to hear the reason for the call.
The anticipated and dreaded call came from the hospice nurse early in the morning. She told me to call family; Mom would be in heaven by evening.
Mom had beaten the odds. Seven days before she’d had two mini-strokes, leaving her without speech or the ability to swallow. At that point, I was told it would be about 72 hours. But she was a fighter. She wanted to live. A rheumatoid arthritic for over 40 years, she was an inspiration to many. Even when her hands became so crippled and deformed that she could not hold a pencil, she always tried to do for herself, not wanting to bother anyone.
I felt like I was in a fog and someone else was answering when I heard myself tell Kim I’d notified relatives and friends the week before after her strokes. Those who wanted to say their good byes while she was alive had been there over the weekend. The only one to notify immediately was my husband.
Shock and numbness were creeping in. My rational mind tried to grasp that my precious Mother and best friend would soon be in heaven. Even though I had peace and assurance that she’d be with Jesus and rejoiced that she’d finally be free from pain, my bleeding daughter heart overruled. The little girl in me screamed, “No, no. Please don’t leave me.”
Waiting for the call over those many months, I’d prayed and agonized over a decision that needed to be made. Health challenges prohibited me from going down to Mom at the point of death, and then staying the additional days until the memorial service. I could do one or the other, not both.
After her strokes, I could no longer procrastinate. The time had come. Thinking I could use a little impartial input, I placed a call to the hospice team social worker. Our talk clarified my thinking. I needed to attend the memorial service to say good bye to Mom. I also wanted to meet and thank the many people who had shown such kindness to Mom during her last months. I sighed with relief as I hung up the phone. The decision was the right one. There would be no regrets later.
Now, three weeks later, the trip home and the memorial service were only special memories. The numbness and shock were beginning to wear off. Reality settled in as I waded through paperwork, paid final bills, and filed for life insurance benefits.
That particular morning I was so lonely for Mom. I was weary and drained. Angry, too, that I’d received incorrect death certificates the day before.
Out of habit, I lifted my heart to the Great Comforter, asking Him to send a ray of sunshine…a little encouragement…something to help ease my aching heart.
I dismissed the idea of the mailman bringing anything. Anyone who might have sent a sympathy card already had. Halfheartedly I returned to my morning tasks, periodically checking for the yellow ball to be up on my mailbox, signaling mail arrival. I hurried out when I saw it.
I sorted through the stack of mail anxiously looking for something besides bills and advertisements. Curious about a small red envelope with an out-of-state return address, I immediately ripped it open.
The first sentence identified the writer as a hospice volunteer. My hand holding the letter began to shake, my heart pounded, and my legs almost buckled under me. The wooden swing next to the cabin was near. I slowly walked over to it and sat down. Only then did I continue to read, letting the healing tears flow as I drank in the words that described a few of their activities and Mom’s impact on her life.
After I wiped my eyes and blew my nose, I smiled and thanked the Lord for prompting this sweet lady to put pen to paper, so her words would arrive…just when I needed them.
Joyce Heiser copyright 2003 [email protected]
Joyce Heiser is a strong believer in prayer and volunteers on a “call in prayer line. She also enjoys reading, music, bird watching, and tatting.