Dear Momma …
I took care of a woman today who survived what took you from me. Every patient I have come across this past week has, actually. What once was a unit only accepting post-op spinal fusions, spinal decompressions, ventriculoperitoneal shunt placements or removals, and craniotomies, now covers all facets of the neurosurgical field, including brain hemorrhages secondary to aneurysm rupture. This all came about after everything happened and left me shocked and wondering what God was up to. As her husband described the scariest day of their life, I was reminded of my own, except the end of mine was filled with sadness instead of the relief they were describing. With a lump in my throat, I smiled and was able to tell them how happy I was for them … that [the brain aneurysm ruptured but] a surgical intervention was an option and saved her life. You, on the other hand, didn’t even have time to know there was anything wrong. You “took a straight shot to heaven”, as my friend Meghan so perfectly put it on the day you died. I think that’s how you would have wanted it, so I thanked God for that. I’ve been able to do a lot of that through this grieving process, actually … especially in the immediate phase of your passing.
- You did not suffer. Thank you, God. No one wants to see their momma hurt.
- Your cause of death was not a traffic accident. People say I’m strong, but I am certain I wouldn’t be very strong knowing your body was harmed in any way or the cause of your death was bodily harm. Thank you, God.
- You are in Heaven. You minored in religion in college, but you were always so private about your faith to the point that I questioned where you went. God did not like how unsettled I was about this because, [your cousin] Misti uncovered a poem from an old newspaper clipping she found in a book of yours at Aunt Jan’s. When it was her time to speak on the day of your funeral, she read it aloud and handed it to me after the service. You had written “Jesus is my Savior” on it, in your perfect cursive handwriting, and I, again, cried and thanked God for that.
- It was on a Saturday morning and no one else was hurt. Your aneurysm burst while you were driving on I-95N (our busiest highway) and could have easily involved other vehicles if it had happened during the week or a high traffic time. I know you’re probably laughing at me right now … that I’m thankful for this. I guess that’s why you said you thought I should go into nursing, because I’m “always thinking of others.” But, really, it could have been bad for more than just us. Thank you, God.
- He made things clear that once were not. Remember when I was home visiting from Colorado in June 2012 and I cried like a baby because I knew I needed to move back to Florida? You were so calm and patient as I boo-hoo’ed my way through explaining how scared I was to make that decision because of who it affected, one of my best friends and favorite people, and the headache it would cause them. I continued on to explain how frustrated I was about it because all I wanted was to start a life somewhere else, but there had been so many doors slammed in my face, making it clear that that wasn’t where I was supposed to be. It’s crazy how He works. When you died, God reminded me that He loves me more than my desire to live anywhere else, enough to not answer my prayer, enough to not allow my life in Colorado to bloom. Instead He pulled on my heart so strong, and I came back to you. He knew that spending those last fifteen months under the same roof with you would mean more to me than starting over, that those memories would mean immeasurably more, and that this independent girl needed to forced back in after being “out of the house” for eight years. He goes before you, right? He knows what we don’t know, and calls us to walk obediently in the path that He has laid out. It was not easy. It wasn’t something I thought I wanted, but I’m so happy I didn’t resist. Hindsight is always 20/20. Fully surrendering to His call was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It means everything to me now that I had those nights on the couch, our day dates, our dance parties, to think back on. Thank you, God.
- FSU won the National Championship this year. I know you had everything to do with this. Jesus must really love your cute and spunky self. You were so excited about how great they were doing and I remember thinking that, although I’m a Gator fan, how adorable you looked with your FSU t-shirt on that morning … when you came to my rescue one last time. I missed you rubbing it in my face every Saturday how great they were and your sweet dance moves all over the living room. I’m sure the dance parties are way better in Heaven, though. Thank you, God.
- I was given time. I went back to work two weeks after everything happened. I wasn’t sure how many hours of paid time off I had left, but I was positive that I wasn’t ready to go back. It was too much to be fully invested in up to six patients’ plans of care for 13+ hours. I had gotten emails saying that paid time off was donated to me while I was gone, but I wasn’t able to see how much. After two days on the floor, I asked my manager if she could look into it for me. She found me in the equipment room when she handed me a sticky note with 224.94 written on it. That’s hours. 224.94 hours. Divided by 12 hour per shift and then divided by three shifts a week equals … SIX WEEKS. I was gifted six weeks worth of time to work through the grief. I started crying uncontrollably. Thank you, God.
- I got my Momma Bear hug. When I woke up that Saturday morning, you were still sleeping. I took Fish outside then laid him in your bed with you, like every other morning, then headed off to work. When I got a flat tire, I called Dad and asked for you and him to come help me because they needed me at work. When y’all got there, I gave you both big hugs and jetted off in your vehicle. Dad walked on to my unit to relay the news to me about five hours later. At the time, I didn’t know your cause of death. The only thing I knew was that you were in my car, it wrecked into the guardrail of the highway, and you were gone when the ambulance came. Even though the emergency personnel told Dad that it didn’t look like the accident was the cause of death, I immediately tortured myself thinking that if I hadn’t gotten a flat tire that you would still be alive, that you wouldn’t have been in my car in the first place. God revealed to me that that flat tire was actually a blessing in disguise. Usually, by the time I was leaving for work, you were pouring your cup of coffee, even on weekends, so this morning was different. If I hadn’t of had a flat tire, I wouldn’t have given you that one last hug and gained that one last vivid image of you. Thank you, God.
Mom, when I think about all of these things I am at peace. I believe it’s tangible proof that God’s hand is always at work, He walks with us through pain, and He never leaves us or forsakes us. You get to hang out with Jesus and marvel at the beauty of Heaven, and that helps a little, too. But, it’s on days like today where I struggle, where the hurt is almost unbearable, where I question how I was able to get through work today without crying more than that one time. I want you here. I miss coming home to old movies on TCM. Yes. I said it. You would get so excited to tell me about them. And, speaking of movies, I can’t watch Bridesmaids or Hocus Pocus or Sister Act without crying because I miss hearing your laughter during your favorite scenes. Oh gosh, I don’t even want to think about what Father of the Bride will look like without you. Or Steel Magnolias. Oh, Shelby. And Ouiser. Our fave! How many times do you think we watched that movie together? I miss seeing how excited Fish would get in the morning to see his G-mom. He fawned over you and loved you so much. I miss you harassing me via text to pleeeeasssee stop and pick you up chocolate fro-yo without toppings (which I never understood, but anything for you). You always had a quiet eye on me, too, and I miss that. Like, finding that you put the colander in the sink for me when I go to drain my spaghetti noodles, because you know I can never remember which drawer you keep it in week after week. The thought of not having you here on my wedding day or the fact that I will never see your face light up over meeting your grand babies throws my emotions over the edge almost immediately. You couldn’t wait to witness all of those moments. I wish you were here to enjoy the beautiful view of the house that you and Dad were about to start seeking once the Diego Island property sold, a mere three weeks after everything happened. But I have to remember you are not hurting over any of these things … because you are not of this world anymore. You’re at rest.
It will be awhile before I know what God is up to and why I am called to take care of patients who have also experienced aneurysm rupture, but I trust Him. Even though my eyes well up with tears almost daily and I often find myself in our supply room at one point or another seeking out a box of tissues. [No one has seen me yet. I think I’m hiding it well.] But, maybe it will get easier. Maybe He will use me in some way. Whatever He needs me to do … I’ll do it. I’ll walk in faith, like I did before.
The girls at Zoe’s Kitchen are giving me insinuating looks, like they really want me out of here. So I think I need to wrap this up. I’ll end with how thankful I am that God made you mine. Thank you for all of the ways you have shaped me into the woman that I am and continue to become. I will always strive to make you proud. Miss you, my sweet momma. See you in my dreams.
“How lucky I was to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
Winnie The Pooh
“The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help.
He rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”