A lifetime of feelings
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by Ron Cruger
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The daughter living closest to her knew immediately that something was wrong. Her mother hadn’t answered the phone. The daughter called again. No answer again.
The frantic 20-minute drive to her mother’s house proved her worst fears.
Racing from the car to the front door and running inside, she found her eighty eight year old mother sitting in her favorite chair in the living room, her head peacefully resting on her chest. The television was on. She couldn’t tell if her mother was alive or not. If she was breathing it was so shallow that the daughter couldn’t detect it.
The fretful phone call to 911 brought the ambulance within 15 minutes.
The phone lines became active. The closest daughter phoned her two sisters and her brother. Within minutes everyone in the family shared in the numbing fear and concern for their mother.
Time passed agonizingly slow for the family members gathered in the hospital. Finally the doctor approached the concerned family awaiting his verdict.
“We’re not sure if your mother has had a stroke or a heart attack, but we do know that she’s in a very serious condition. It could go either way. We’ll know more in a few hours.”
The nervous hours stuttered by. The part of the family that lives closest to their mother waited, still uncertain about their mother’s fate.
Her other children, those living in other states, stayed in contact with their siblings in the hospital waiting room by cell phone. Midway through the second day the doctor gave the family his diagnosis. “Your mother appears to have suffered a stroke, with complications. Her heart may have also suffered some damage. Most likely she will never recover – she’ll never be able to function as she did before. She could remain in a coma, with no awareness of her condition or her existence. I’m sorry.”
Then the doctor added, “You members of her family may want to discuss the removal of any life support for your mother.”
It hit the family like cannon shot to their hearts. It took a while for the reality of what the doctor had told them to become real.
She lay there, eyes closed, tubes and the pulse of electronic gadgets keeping her alive.
She had been born eighty eight years before when “flappers” roamed the evening streets. The “Scopes monkey trial” was held in Tennessee. Babe Ruth had just become a Yankee. Dempsey beat Tunney. A few years after her birth Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic solo. Her childhood found Calvin Coolidge as her president. George Gershwin was writing and pounding out his popular songs on the piano.
Her parents and her lived through the Great Depression. She watched Franklin Delano Roosevelt replace Herbert Hoover as President and bring some hope to the country. As a young girl she read about the tall building going up in New York City – The Empire State Building.
She adored the new young star that sparkled on the big screen – Shirley Temple. She was part of the nation-wide excitement over the premier of “Gone With the Wind.”
She danced to the music of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. She endured the fears and hardships of World War II.
She married her childhood sweetheart and brought three daughters and two sons into the world. She felt the heartbreak of losing her youngest son when he was 24 years old. A pain that she never shed.
Her great love affair with her husband, her best friend, thrived and filled both of their hearts with a rare, enduring affection. They aged together, becoming closer with each passing year. They shared a rare love that friends and family envied. The years rolled by.
Then, one fateful day in December of 2006, her best friend, her lover, her husband died and for the first time in a handful of decades the sweet lady was alone. Her thoughts so often returned to memories of her lost husband. His pictures decorated her home. Passing the images of her husband brought back thoughts of the years of friendship and love they shared. She tried to think only of her future, but so much of her life was involved with this man she had given her life to.
As so often happens, the elderly lady’s health began to ebb. Doctor’s visits increased as did the prescriptions.
Much of her daily activities were conducted from a wheelchair. She increasingly relied on her children for assistance even as she attempted to live independently.
Then, that fateful day came when she was watching television seated in her favorite chair. She felt a slight headache coming on and a thousand thoughts of her life flashed instantly in her mind. The images instantly paraded. Her childhood. Her marriage. Her children. The closeness of her and her husband. The love they felt for each other. The headache increased and then – nothing. Just dreamless, thoughtless sleep.
Another day of fear and despair for the family.
The doctor asked the gathered family, “Have you made a decision about terminating the life support system for your mother?”
A priest was called for advice. He offered his suggestions to the family.
Her children agreed. The following morning, with members of the family around her, the life support system was terminated. A few hours of life remained and then ever so gently the elderly woman slipped into her final moments.
The eighty eight years she had lived were filled with love and life and deep feelings.
Everyone knew how she had desperately missed her husband, her lover, her best friend.
Somehow, those gathered around her at those final moments, knew that the elderly lady’s wishes had finally come true.
Her children thought they saw a slight smile appear on her face as she left them. They could almost see her and her beloved best friend holding hands, walking together and smiling as they did for so many years.