We all know mom could light up any room. We know she embodied joy and love. We know she showed extra care and compassion in her 40 years as a nurse. We know she loved me, Dad, Michael, and Theo, as well as everyone in this room. And if you ever had a deep conversation with her, you probably know she loved Jesus. You also know she wasn’t traditional. This celebration of life/memorial is not traditional so certainly this speech/tribute will not be traditional.
I’ve mentioned things you know about my mom, but what you probably do not know is the story of her last two weeks of life. It is a story of strength and determination during a physically and emotionally exhausting time for her and her family. It was a valley, but it was also a time of sweet precious moments, and reassurance to all of us that God was in the midst of these weeks and ultimately her passing. With that said, I’d like to briefly share that story with you, her close friends and family.
On April 18, mom was running a fever and was incoherent. I had called Dad concerned from New York, as she had hung up on me three times in a row while I was on the phone with her. That night dad called 911 and she was taken to the hospital. From this point, she was treated for what they thought was a bladder infection and the treatment seemed to make matters worse. Through the course of the 1st week, her Kidney function and all blood count levels dropped drastically and she quickly became neutropenic- masks and extreme cleanliness were required as a common cold could end her life. She had a team of doctors working on her case, but every test came back negative. No infections and all organs seemed to be functioning with the exception of her kidneys. After multiple blood transfusions and tests, her counts continued to plummet and we still had no answers.
During this point in mom’s story, while she was exhausted and not eating, she was calm and funny, and sweet to everyone around her. She was determined to get better and go home. But, dad and I were worried. We helped as much as we could taking care of the woman who had cared for us throughout the years.
On April 24th, mom was moved to the ICU. Her lungs were quickly filling with fluid. Over the next few days we watched, we prayed, we cried, we waited for a miracle.
During this time, a close friend and Pastor, began texting dad and encouraging. Through this Dad wrote this analogy that he later texted me:
Each day we seemed to slowly descend into the valley, hoping to reach a small plateau where maybe we could find a path to higher ground. Once in a while, I see a shadow, that’s the nature of a valley as the sun moves across the sky. I’m comforted by knowing God will protect us and help us walk this path. The valley is not so bad all the time. There is an occasional stream of fresh water and certainly a lot of flowers growing.
And wow! Did we get some flowers- Literally and figuratively. Mom actually had “the most flowers anyone in the ICU has ever seen one person get!” And I had some precious moments with mom I will never forget. We laughed one day as I detangled her hair and pointed out this was the first time in my whole life she had ever let me play with her hair! She was always adamant that I was not to touch her hair! At one time she said “Shut up George” and then proceeded to apologize profusely. It made everyone in the room laugh. And I’ll never forget the time she mustered her strength and pulled me to her, breathing me in- in a hug only a mother could give her child. Or the way her eyes spoke “I love you, too.” when she was unable to speak.
On April 30th, we put mom on a ventilator. Previous conversation with her revealed she wanted us to pull out all the stops. She was a fighter. The purpose of the ventilator was to give her body time to rest and restore. That same day Dad received a text from his sister whom he rarely speaks to. It referenced Psalm 46:1. But dad read on and was struck by verse 5 which he sent to me that night. It read “God is in the midst of here, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.”
Leading up to this, I had not voiced my thoughts but something, or someone, kept saying “she’s going to wait til May. She loved May Day and her middle name is May. She will wait til May.” On May 1st, Dad and I arrived at the hospital. Within 30 minutes of being with mom, her heart rate began dropping fast and she flatlined. We rushed out of the room while a team administered CPR and a defibrillator. And They restarted her heart. Dad and I were in shock. Having said good-bye multiple times, we thought this was it. But Mom and God Had other plans. Was it to finally be our miracle? As we know now, it wasn’t the miracle we hoped for, but God did have plans to give us a just a few more flowers in the valley.---- Mom woke up. She answered Yes by squeezing my hand or blinking. Looking back, this extra day wasn’t for me though. I think the Lord, truly wanted my dad to be with mom in the end, “Til death do us part” my dad reminded me when he stayed with her yet another night in the hospital. That night he texted me with such joy. “My God she woke up and she talked for a few moments! It was incredible!” She was able to respond to dad with hand squeezes. He told her “I love you. Sara loves you. Jesus loves you. Can you hear me? It’s ok to go home.” “yes yes yes.” she responded. From my understanding, the night was filled with these special moments between husband and wife. I think this was one last flower that God would give my dad in this valley.
At this point, I’ll remind you of the verse we kept coming back to… “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” On May 2 at 5:40 am dad texted me “heart rate dropping fast.” As soon as I got the text at 6:02 I jumped out of bed and got the dogs ready to take a quick walk. I stepped outside and noticed a sliver of light was creeping up over the horizon. Dawn was breaking. I got a hold of dad moments later. Mom had passed. I really believe God was true to His promise and He was with her as she entered into eternity.
So what about May? Was there any significance to that? Why did I keep coming back to that every day she was in the hospital? That she would wait til May? May is just the 5th month of the year, the last month of Spring. But in Literature it often indicates one’s Bloom or Prime. And I find something just beautiful about that…. My mom had a wonderful life on earth, but there is no doubt she reached her full bloom on May 2nd when she entered into the Presence of her Saviour.
Today, yes, we mourn the loss of my mother, but I hope in some way we can all celebrate her eternal bloom and life in heaven.
If you've read this far, Please keep reading to hear from my father below.