Being ten months pregnant the first time around took all the patience I had. I was due for induction on Wednesday if my water didn’t break.
When Mom called on Sunday I had no idea about the purpose of her call. She said she had scheduled gall bladder surgery for a month after the baby was due and in the morning was time for her surgery and I hadn’t had that baby yet. She had to get checked in to the hospital that night so they could have her all ready for morning. I was surprised, this was all happening so quickly in my mind.
I asked her if she was worried about the surgery. She said no, that the doctor who would remove her gall bladder was the same doctor who had removed ovarian cysts from her when she was 3 months pregnant with me back in 1960. I said that if she wasn’t worried about it, then I wouldn’t worry about her. I told her I would keep her in my prayers and talk to her after she got out of recovery the next day. I told her I loved her and we said goodbye.
I had no idea that would be the last time I would talk to my mother. Monday came and went and I didn’t think that much about it. Being as pregnant as I was I had plenty of distraction. On Tuesday morning my husband took off to his ship for the last time before his paternity leave. Right after he left the phone rang. It was my sister Janice calling to tell me about Mom.
She was allergic to the anesthesia she’d been given. She was left alone, asphyxiated and went into cardiac arrest. She had been suffocating for five minutes before anyone realized there was a problem. Our mother was brain dead.
I didn’t have a way to process that, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the thought. I called my girlfriend who lived around the corner and asked if I could come over. I stayed there until lunch time when they would release my husband from his ship so he could come home. When I got back home I saw a package had been delivered to our steps. It was addressed to me from Mom.
The previous summer when we had visited New York, Mom showed me a project she was working on for our baby. It was a quilt with a forest scene and Bambi on it. It had a little pillow of his rabbit friend Thumper. She didn’t have it finished but wanted to show me what was coming. I had totally forgotten about it until I opened the box and found the quilt and pillow with a note of love and well wishes for our family.
If you’ve ever poured salt on a slug on the sidewalk you are familiar with how I felt, like I was turning inside out. I still had a baby to deliver. Jake was born the next day, right on schedule. That Saturday as I prepared to leave the hospital my father called. He said,”Honey, the Lord came and took your mother during the night. Can you come home for her funeral?” I hadn’t been able to let the thought into my head that my mother would actually die. I had four hours from hospital to airport to figure out what to pack for a funeral in the fall in Central New York from my balmy home in Virginia. I didn’t even know what size fit my son.
Life was a blur. I had become a wife and mother and lost my mother all in less than a year and four months later Dad was too broken hearted to stay. He followed her home to God that February. The next couple of years were consumed with the business of being a new mom with no mother to consult with. I was away from my family but didn’t have to face their grieving every day so in its way it was a blessing.
I always know how long Mom’s been gone by my son’s age. With his birth and her death being three days apart I always felt they met as they each passed, in and out. Three days after my son’s birthday I really hadn’t considered the date until one of the most profound experiences of my life brought my attention to it.
Jake thrived on his routine and didn’t usually give any resistance to the afternoon nap time. This day however, when I stood him in his crib and went to lay him down, he held on to the side rails and wouldn’t budge. It was like he was made of steel, absolutely immovable. I looked at him with wonder, not knowing what to think of this until I saw the look on his face. He looked right through my eyes and out the back of my head, it felt like. You know that look that your mother gives you when she’s pointing her finger at you and saying,”Now, you listen to me young lady!”? In retrospect I realized that was what I was seeing.
When Jake broke his hold on the crib rail his look softened. He reached up and stroked the peach fuzz on my cheek, with a feather light touch. As he ran his finger tips along the side of my face he whispered, “I miss you!” Before the second stroke his chin quivered as if holding back tears and with the second stroke he repeated, “I MISS you!” As if passed over by the hand of a mime the look on his face disappeared and my son, having returned, lay down happily in the crib for his nap.
As I gasped and stepped back from the crib, I realized the look on his face was my mother’s expression. The tone in his voice was her tone and the tremble of his chin was her fighting back the tears at being able to reach through and touch her youngest daughter. When I caught my breath I said,”I miss you too Mom!”
At two my son was a bruiser. He was more prone to hit you up side the head with a Tonka truck than he was to stroke your cheek. He knew nothing of what it was to “miss” someone and he had been with me all day so there would be no reason to say it, even if he knew what it meant. He was happy when I took him to the crib and happy to lay down for his nap so there was no reason for his chin to tremble with emotion. From that moment on I’ve had a peace in my heart with the knowledge that our loved ones don’t really leave us, they just leave the vehicle we recognize. That was possibly one of the greatest gifts my mother ever gave to me! Thanks Mom!
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I was born and raised a Central New Yorker but lived 18 yrs. in Va Bch, VA. I am the mother of two young men, who are 29 and 9 yrs. of age. I have been doing Reflexology since I was 11 yrs old, I have been a teaching Reiki Master for 12 yrs and have been Dr. Mom for my family using therapeutic grade essential oils as our medicine for 7 yrs. Having come from a functional family but living many years in a megalopolis combined with many years of being a catalyst for healing, gives me a varied point of view. Perspective is one of my favorite playgrounds! If you’d like a consultation for Reiki or aromatherapy or soul integration/inner child play please feel free to contact me at vaw4beacon *at* yahoo.com, Blessings for your highest and best, Vicki Willoughby.