Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tribute to a Strong Mother

"Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." – Ephesians 6:13

I always loved that Bible verse. There’s so much meaning in those final two words. On Friday I saw it written on a sign outside the old church down the road: “And having done all, to stand.” I pondered its meaning anew…

My sister called early this morning, “You need to come on back to the hospital. Momma’s not doing too good.” That’s all that needed to be said. I had heard that message before on the day my Dad passed away.

And as I made the long drive back to the hospital I had left just hours earlier, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is this it?”


Mom has overcome tragedy many times. She’s suffered more heartache than anyone should have to bear. From the tragic death of her father –- a man I never had the privilege of meeting –- to the unimaginable loss of her daughter -- my sister and best friend -- to Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever. Next her younger brother died in a horrific auto accident, then her Mom passed, and finally her husband, my Dad, lost a nearly fifteen year struggle with heart failure.

Through it all, my Mom soldiered on. Never wavering, never stumbling.

That was Mom’s way. She faced each tragedy, each day, with a workman-like attitude. By the time a crippling combination of Fibromyalgia and Osteoporosis forced her into an early retirement, she had accrued a full year’s worth of sick days. Momma didn’t take sick days. Least not for her, anyway.

She took care of my Dad through countless hospital visits. She took care of us all. And when Dad’s heart finally stopped beating, there was a bit of hope in the air. His long battle had carried a heavy burden. And despite the sadness, a weight had been lifted. I was excited for Mom – excited to see what she would do; excited to see what she would become.

Just a few weeks later I sat by her bedside as she awaited triple bypass surgery.

It was unexpected. She reluctantly went to the doctor about some tightness in her chest, and hours later she was transported to Duke Medical Center for life-changing surgery. As we talked through the night, she didn’t complain. She said she’d get through it, and she did.

Over the past five years, Mom has suffered through immeasurable pain. Heart attack... Fibromyalgia... Diabetes... Back surgery after back surgery...

Over those same five years, Mom has traveled the country and visited Mexico. She’s walked the beach. She’s hiked the mountains of Colorado. She fulfilled a dream that her and Dad shared of seeing the Grand Canyon. She’s soldiered on…

Her back pain recently got so bad that she could no longer walk without a walker. This hurt her pride, but she didn’t show it. The neurosurgeon recommended spinal fusion, along with removing some fragmented vertebrate and the insertion of pins into her spine.

This surgery was serious. The best case scenario was several days in the hospital and four weeks in a nursing facility. But Mom agreed. After all, there was more of the country she wanted to see.

The surgery went well. The aftermath didn’t.


When I arrived at the hospital this morning, the prognosis wasn’t good. A heart attack… possibly two. A stroke. Pneumonia. The odds weren’t in her favor this time.

When everyone had left the room, I took her hand and leaned over. “Mom, are you going to make it,” I asked. “Oh I’m going to make it out of here,” she said, “but it ain’t going to be easy.”

I don’t know if Mom will live to see tomorrow. But I do know that when the doctor pulls the curtain for the last time, and when that final breath of air comes passing through her lips, she’s not going to leave this world lying down.

She taught me today what the sign on the church means.

“And having done all, to stand.”


Continued: Celebrate the Living

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