As I drove home in the rain that Thursday evening, Dec. 14, 1995, I thrust a prayer through the tumble of thoughts and emotions that had enveloped me.
“Father—heaven will be richer for having Mom there—but I will miss her so much. I commit her into Your hands. Your will be done.”
No sooner had I uttered those words than I was awash in tears. I stared through the now blurred windshield, my mind replaying the particularly memorable visit with my parents that my family and I had enjoyed in August. Our boys had grown close to their grandparents in those few beautiful hours. Now Mom lay close to death, thousands of miles away.
Earlier that day I had received the call that I knew would one day be inevitable. Yet nothing can adequately prepare you for its grip on your heart or its numbing effect on your mind.
My Mother, a healthy 83-year-old, had earlier in the week suddenly become unable to speak or recognize family members. She constantly clutched her head in excruciating pain.
By Thursday the doctors had diagnosed a progressive stroke.
On that long drive home, I struggled with the decision whether or not to book a flight. My brother said Mom wouldn’t know I was there if I did come, so maybe I should wait.
Then two of my nieces phoned my wife at work to say they thought I should come. I wanted to remember her the way she was last summer, and yet…
The phone rang one more time around 10:00 p.m. My sister Doris spoke first.
“Bill, it is so wonderful. She just keeps staring at the ceiling with a peaceful look on her face. I asked her if she can see the angels, and her eyes just sparkled.”
Then I spoke with my older brother, Bob. He said the family were all staying the night in a room at the hospital.
They had left Dad alone with Mom. Bob had just peeked I and seen Dad asleep in a chair beside the bed, his head on the pillow beside Mom’s, and his arm on hers.
He told me that I should be prepared for her to slip away during the night. That was the opinion of the doctors and nurses as well.
I wept as I hung up the phone.
My wife and I went through the motions of preparing for some company that would arrive from Ontario the next day, then tumbled into bed exhausted.
During the night, we learned, Mom’s skin had grown pale and cold to the touch. Her breathing slowed to a breath every ten seconds. Her kidneys had shut down.
Early Friday morning two calls came in quick succession, first from niece Cindy, then from brother Bob. As I answered the phone, I could hear my wife begin to sob in the background.
“Bill, you won’t believe it,” Bob reported. “I spent the latter part of the night in Mom’s room. I felt sure she would be gone by morning. At 5:30 a.m. she yawned, opened her eyes and looked around the room!”
Family members stood dumbfounded as she greeted them with, “Good morning!” followed by, “Oh what a night!” Immediately her kidneys began to function.
As the family recovered from the shock of it all, Doris asked, “Mom, is heaven as great as they say it is?” “Oh, yes!” she replied.
Dr. Mackey told the nurses, “I think we have a Christmas miracle!” A neurologist came in later and said that she might have partial paralysis in her right cheek. At that, Mom gave a big smile from ear to ear. “Well, I might be wrong,” he added.
Mom’s appetite picked up. When someone tried to feed her, she took the spoon and fed herself. She began to remember names.
It seemed that she had acquired a peculiar sense of humour, giggling at the smallest things. She looked at sister Laurene on her crutches and said, “You don’t look so good.” Laurene put Mom’s glasses on her and asked, “Does that look better?” “No, you look worse,” Mom said with a giggle.
On Saturday she looked at Dad and said, “Can I wear that outfit?” She told sister Sue (who has a few freckles), “I can get rid of those spots on your face for you!”
On Sunday afternoon I spoke with Mom by phone. She talked slowly, but recognized my voice. The next day the nurses found her out of bed and sitting in a chair.
On the Thursday night it occurred to me that we eleven children had enjoyed our Mother’s love and godly example for so long. Now God seemed to be tapping us on the shoulder asking, “May I cut in? I’d like to have her now.”
But He surprised us. It was almost thirteen years later when God did take my Mother home. Our family counts as a blessing this extra time added to her life. We will always remember with gratitude our “Christmas miracle”.