It was 1:30 AM on January 28, 2002 when we received a phone call from the hospital. We were told that we needed to get there as soon as possible, but not to rush.
My mother had been hospitalized 5 days earlier to undergo Aortic surgery. My brother, sister and myself all lived in different states and my parents lived in yet a fourth state. We were all told that the surgery she was about to have had a 30 percent mortality rate. The 3 of us arrived a week prior to the surgery and had decided to be with them through her recovery. She didn't look or act like herself; it was obvious that she was declining and the surgery must have been necessary. We all individually had conversations with her at different times during that week as well as round-table laughter and reminiscing. We ate all of our meals together, watched TV together, it felt like the family I had when I was growing up. The sad part is that deep in my heart I knew this was going to be bad. Something just wasn't right.
The day of her surgery we all drove together to the hospital and sat with her until it was time for her to be admitted. We were still an entire family. It was a very long day but when the doctor came to see us he made us aware that the surgery went fine and we were all ecstatic. He went on to tell us that the next 24 hours were critical; she needed to wake from the anesthesia, breath on her own and then the long haul would begin. But, she never woke again.
During those 5 days she had a seizure, they thought it might have been a stroke. We OK'd the CT scan which would tell us if it was a stroke, if it were they might have to do something to keep it from doing permanent harm. After the CT scan the Heart Palpitations began, serious palpitations. They had slowed when we were told to go home, the doctor said she needed rest and there was nothing we could do at the hospital and besides we needed our rest too.
A few hours later while a nurse was bathing her she hemorrhaged and was gone. That's when we got the phone call. They never told us she had died but told us not to rush. Needless to say, we made record time getting there only to be told that we could go and see her if we wanted. When I walked in the room I lost it. This wasn't some somebody laying there dead, this was my mother. I was then expected to just take over and make it all happen, which I did. I thank God that all I had to do was make phone calls and supply details because I don't think I could have done any more.
The next three days are a blur. I managed to have her taken home, have the wake, the mass, the burial in the family burial plot but don't ask me to repeat how I did it. When we took Dad home he had 3 sealed envelopes. On the front of each in my mothers handwriting were our names. In each was a letter from mom to us; I only ever read mine. I still cherish that letter.
Apparently the three children were "spared" from the truth. The mortality rate of this particular surgery was 70% not the 30% we were all told. However without the surgery she didn't even have a 30% chance of survival and that's why she had decided to go through with it. She went on to tell me her innermost feelings and to tell me how she loved me. Gave me advice on what I might want to do, should do and shouldn't do. I wish I could have heard this straight from her mouth although at that point the letter was like candy to a child.
It was at that time that I knew I would never try to shelter someone from the truth no matter how dire it may be. It didn't make me feel better knowing that the truth had been kept from me for my own sake. As a matter of fact I felt cheated. I was never given the opportunity to cry with her; for her while she was alive. I know she did what she did because she thought it was best and I don't condemn her for it. She will always be my one and only mother, my love. I know she did it for us. But I won't. I don't think I can.