Sunday, October 30, 2011

What if Mamma Hadn't Prayed...

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Death had come knocking in May. Turns out it had just been a warning volley fired across the bow of life's ship. As much as we clung to hope, we knew. There was only so much the medical wizards could do. Death could be placated for a while. Only for a while.

The days had come and gone in monotonous progression. Until, that is, Death would advance demanding yet another bribe. Then, the frenzy of alarm-driven activity would punctuate the monotony like lightening splitting a dark prairie sky.

The medical team would rally and make another offering on the altar of life. He'd slink away reluctantly, looking over his shoulder planning his next advance even while on retreat. We'd breathe a sigh of relief and wonder if it was our last.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

The respiratory therapist's brow wrinkled in perplexity. “Have you,” she asked, “seen that before?”

Yes,” I allowed as my pulse picked up knowing her brow said more than her words. “For maybe 4 days now. I've mentioned it before, but no one seemed to mind. When she sleeps more deeply, it goes away. Is she dreaming?”

Death snickered at the door. His final assault had begun. He began to pace and whine. No longer the black robed figure with a scythe, he had become the wolf waiting for the fire to die out. He was hungry and would demand his prey. I could feel his hot breath on my neck.

The room filled with staff. By then, they knew I could take most anything. She brought me into the world. I had promised to take her home. Sepsis had not driven me away. This night, no one asked. Two of them turned and directed me to the door. One followed me to the room across the hall. “It's better this way. I'll be right back.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I saw the tube of blood as they rushed it to the lab on my side of the hall. Its size telegraphed an urgency I had not seen on so many urgent nights. I blinked once, maybe twice. She was back. She didn't say, “It's over now.” That might have been preferable. Then again, maybe no.

Instead, she said, “The time has come. Do you want to opt for palliative support only now?”

That is fancy medical speak for, “We've run out all options but one. We will do all we can to keep your patient comfortable until death has run its fateful course.”

The drum beat of my heart throbs threatened to rupture my eardrums. “What time is it?” I asked.

Two a.m.” she said.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I growled at the Wolf. Coward that he was, he always came in the wee hours of the night. “I cannot do this to them,” I say. “I cannot wake them with this news. Let them sleep.” And, our deal with the Devil was sealed. Daylight dawned, but the Wolf did not retreat back into the darkness.

In the end, her lucidity allowed that she was the one to make the final call. By the light of day, the doctor explained her options. He sealed off the tracheotomy and gave her back her voice but only long enough to legally dot the i's and cross the t's of death. The end had come.

The gathering began. She made her final wishes known. They had planned to renew their wedding vows a few weeks hence. “Now,” she said despite the absence of her voice. And so it was. Her family had gathered. The pastor came. Stiff upper lips ringed the room. She beamed and nodded agreement as the pastor repeated the vows for her.

The news had traveled up and down the hall. The all seeing eye in the corner of the room insured that few dry eyes looked on from the nurses station even as they carried on heroic tasks.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The pastor prayed. I did as I had done so often during that mean season. I watched. Tiny tears glinted at the outer corners of her closed eyes. Her hands lifted into the air towards the heavens. Her lips formed silent words as she whispered to the one waiting to take her home.

Her face belied the words. “Are you sure it's time? What about them? How can I leave them behind? Will you take care of them when I'm gone? If this is what you want, I am yours. Not my will but thine.” Shock, confusion, relief, expectation. It was all there in that last earth bound prayer.

I remembered all the times I had wakened to find her bowed in prayer. All the times I had come in from school to find her praying. In the 15 months she's been gone, I've found the notes she wrote to the boys. No matter how they started out, they always included, “I prayed for you.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
After the funeral home staff came and we drove away from a place we had never wanted to be, my husband said, “I never saw your mom that she didn't tell me she prayed for me. I don't think my own mother ever told me, not a single time, that she was praying for me. Your mother never let me leave without reminding me that I was in her prayers. What will we do without them?”

Friends who watch over the dying tell me that most people die as they lived. If you live with a cold, dead, angry heart devoid of hope, you often die full of fury literally cursing the end. She died the way she lived. Asking God to watch over the ones she loved. “What,” I ask myself, “if Mamma had never prayed?”

Courtesy B. Creasy

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.

Luke 18:1(NIV)
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.


  1. You did it again girl---Beautiful.

  2. That was a truly lovely tribute.

  3. Thanks you guys. Some days it all comes together..and you have graciously confirmed that this post represented one of those days!

  4. You got me again.

  5. I consider that high praise coming from a big brother!

  6. The 5 people at our dinner table today (including your brother) have all lost our mothers, but I believe your mother's passing was the most poignant of all. Your blog is great. I'm so glad Lloyd introduced it to me.

  7. Carolyn, I am so sorry to be delayed in replying to your kind and gracious comment. Thank you so much. We were sorry to miss Lloyd at lunch but hope you guys had a wonderful time. Mom's dying and death were indescribably poignant...but then aren't they all. Hope you have a wonderful Advent season!

  8. I wish I had know her. Does that sound silly since you and I haven't even met? But I do ... I love people like her. Just love them! I'll have to be satisfied that I'll meet her one day. : ) Thanks for sharing her beauty. I have a feeling you're a lot like her. Tissue please.