Yesterday marked what would have been my mother's 81st birthday.
Well over a decade before I had had one of the greatest shocks of my life. It was a lovely June day with cooling rain coming down that morning and the scent of it wafting through the big windows. Because of the rain I had decided to take the day off from outside work and do office paper work. As I sat in my office my mind on getting things done there and around the house the telephone rang. On the other end of the line was a doctor asking me if I was the daughter of Marilyn Brown.
I hadn't heard my mother's name outside of brief family conversations for almost two decades at that point. In all honesty I thought my mother long dead at that point. To hear this doctor in a little town in New Hampshire ask me was I her daughter sent me reeling, what he would continue to tell me left all thoughts of work far, far behind.
When I asked him to confirm by description his patient and all the particulars I acknowledged she indeed must be my mother, Marilyn. He told me that she had fallen and broken her hip, and while that would not have been a problem with a healthy individual, she had been suffering from a lung disease for the last decade plus and was on a ventilator as her lungs just couldn't cope with the body trauma. She really had no hope of survival. Every time they tried to take her off the ventilator her vitals began to cascade like dominoes going down a slope. She was in and out of consciousness and was not competent to make a decision regarding her health at this point. She had no one but me to make the ultimate decision – to “pull the plug.”
I asked the doctor if I had to make the decision immediately or if I had a day or two. To me this was a decision that was going to take a lot of thought and meditation. This person lying there nearly 1200 miles away had birthed me, however I did not know her. It struck me I had no idea what her wishes were on something like this and what she would ultimately want and need I had to be clear within my mind and my heart. This wasn't going to be easy as so much within me was coming through like a bullet train from DC to NY.
The doctor and I ended our first conversation with my telling him I needed to think about this and would let him know shortly. He told me he would be willing for me to call him at any time to discuss any part of the situation with him. I thanked him and said good-bye.
After I hung up I called my great aunts and uncles who were all well into their 80's at that time. We discussed what was going on as well as events which until now were not approachable conversationally. These frank talks were vital for me to know fully in my heart I was making the best decision. Much of those conversations were confirmations as well as some revelations in my mother's life. When I had finished with the last call, I went out for a long walk around the neighborhood.
With each step my mind whirled with past memories. Those memories in conjunction with what I had learned in those much needed conversations needed walking time for me to sort through. Had my mother and I had a relationship of any nature, things would have been different that day. However no communication in nearly twenty years, as well as little the half decade before left my soul needing to sort through so much and in such a short amount of time too.
My mind wandered to the last time my mother and I had spoken. As I walked down the pavement past the myriad of Victorian homes that was my neighborhood memories of that conversation flowed.
Momma and I had last spoke nearly twenty years before. Her mental illness had been more than a dark rift between us all during my growing up years and beyond. Flashes of our last conversation played quickly in my mind. It had started out pleasantly enough, however, once she realized she was not going to get her way with what she wanted her language and tone changed to one of abusiveness. She hung up the phone that day and I never heard from her while she was alive again. She had wanted to move almost 1100 miles to live with me, a college student at the time, and my new baby. She said she wanted to take care of the baby while I was in school and we could live together.
Months before that conversation she had ridiculed me and said some unpleasant things about my forthcoming child and myself being unwed.
Her diagnosis shortly after I was removed from her custody was that of Paranoid Schizophrenia. After my father's passing her behavior had become more and more unpredictable. Her moods would swing and she could go from being aggressive to very passive with her sitting in a corner talking to a baby doll that we kept in a basket for her in her room. From the time Dad had crossed and family had left, I had had to take up the adult reigns and then some in our home.
With those memories and my understanding of her, I knew having her in my home with my new baby was a danger for all of us. My telling her all those years later I would help her to find a home where she could be near us and we could visit was not what she wanted. Regardless of how I tried to tell her we could make things comfortable and her have all that she needed with a little work would do for her. No amount of discussion would change her mind and that day in November she angrily hung up and we never spoke again.
Here I was with the ultimate decision in front of me. Life and death – it doesn't get any clearer than that. For well over an hour I walked the pavement throughout my neighborhood. The next two days my heart and soul came to their conclusion.
After much soul searching and some discussion with two dear friends I made the decision. I had called her physician during that time as well asking an array of questions regarding my mother on various topics.
With my coffee in hand I rang the doctor's personal number and we discussed the situation. He was going to remove the support the next morning.
Momma passed on a Saturday morning. My wonderful daughters around me after I received the news. My tears were for so much that day, for her crossing over and the relief she would have from this life as well as the complete loss of my having a mother of any kind in this world.
A mother's love for her children knows many forms. It doesn't dissipate or evaporate just because one crosses the ultimate veil. This Momma proved to me just a few weeks later.
Lying in bed I had been sleeping soundly when I felt something in the room. I awoke in that darkish room to see my mother standing at my bed. I sat upright and looked at her as she looked at me. She spoke no words she just looked at me. As I turned to switch on a light she disappeared.
She was free from all this life had dealt her and her love for me brought her to my bedside one more time. She stood there just as she had when I was quite small and she not so very unwell. Momma came to check on me one last time. Thank You Momma <3