So I have been missing in action for a few weeks. My sincerest apologies. I know you all missed me. You did miss me right? A little? No? Tough blog, tough blog.
The reason I haven’t written anything in over a month. Sadly, we had a death in the family, my sweetheart of a Mother-in-law, Elaine. I had a great relationship with my MIL, or “Ma” as I called her. She treated me like I was her son and not a son-in-law and in return I gave her the love and respect as a son would give to his mother.
The story I am telling here is not about her, those stories are for my heart. This story is a about some of our experiences in her last day, experiences made with the other families we met in the 10 foot by 8 foot waiting room. Friendships were made and lessons were learned.
After a frantic call from my wife, telling me things were going downhill and we needed to get to the hospital as quick as we can, I left work and broke about a half dozen traffic laws getting to the hospital. I met my wife at the hospital and we visited her Mom. She was awake, but out of it. We stayed in her room for awhile and then proceeded to clear our heads and she and I walked to the waiting room so she could bring me up to date on what exactly was happening. We sat there after she told me everything and she managed to tell me it was a matter of days or as long as a week or two before the inevitable happened. We sat silently and within a few minutes an Indian woman and her daughter entered the room. Two other young Indian men in their twenties walked in as well. They sat and we exchanged the obligatory smiles that normally occur in waiting rooms and elevators. In about ten minutes the room filled up with more of their family members, bringing the room way past capacity. An entire Indian family, immediate and extended, my wife Stephanie and myself. Cozy. Cue they praying. They prayed, loud and vibrant. We discovered they were Christian. We are Catholic, well, let me explain that. We were raised Catholic, but after two recent and what we feel unfair deaths in our family, it is safe to say that our faith has wavered and faltered. Well, let me explain that. My faith is almost gone, yes I am bitter, yes I am angry and confused, and yes every good Catholic questions his or her faith from time to time, so I think I am okay. My wife’s faith, that’s her story to tell, not mine.
So they start praying. After about thirty seconds, my wife quietly excuses herself. I remain and sit quietly as they pray. From the years of it being drilled into me by the nuns, I start to mouth Amen and do the sign of the Cross. Not realizing I am doing it until I realize I am doing it. It gets noticed, so now I am committed out of respect for this family. Another five minutes of praying go by and did I mention it was loud, because it was LOUD. Southern Baptist Church loud. Oh Lawdy!! I leave a few minutes later and meet my wife and we go eat. She asks me why I stayed in there and I just answered that I didn’t know, I just felt like I did.
About my new Indian family, as my wife’s family quickly dubbed them. The mother was actually the mother of the person admitted into the hospital and the daughter was actually his wife. His name is John and he is 38. He came back from a jog, had a heart attack and passed out hitting his head on the ground, which made things worse. They had to drill into his head to relieve some of the major swelling.
So the next day, we spend the whole day at the hospital and I see one of the young guys who turns out to be John’s nephew. I ask how it’s going with his Uncle. We exchange a few words, he asks me who I am here for, we kind of do the whole bro-hug thing and walk our separate ways. My wife, who stayed the whole night at the hospital tells me she spoke with John’s mom and wife and even fell asleep next to each other in the waiting room. I smile at her and tell her to stop trying to muscle in on my new family. She smiles and laughs. Mission accomplished. I have to keep her spirits up. I find out through the course of the day, John’s heart surgery went well, but there was some major complications and the head injury wasn’t helping, yet the doctors were still optimistic. Sadly, my mother-in-law was not doing well. Our choices were limited and the doctors were conversing and weighing options, it was a whirlwind of medical jargon and I saw the toll it was taking on my wife and it killed me hurt me that I couldn’t make her pain go away. I lost my Dad in 2009 and losing a parent is one of the most horrible things a person can go through. I knew how she felt, and it hurt me that she was feeling it. That night it was decided there wasn’t much more we could do for my mother in law and pain management and comfort was the way forward. A hard and rough road to travel full of emotion and anger.
The next day, Saturday was a blur. We sat quietly in her room, waiting. We waited and waited and that woman fought. That morning, the person in the room next to her, had passed and was now empty. We called it the Death Floor, because we watched families come and go, new arrivals and some people passed away. It sucked. Royally.
I saw John’s nephew in the elevator at one point during the day, we hugged. he was improving slowly and we were happy. He asked about my mother in law and we told him things weren’t good and he frowned and we bro-hugged again. Later that day, I found myself exhausted and overcome with anger and sadness and had to leave my mother-in-laws room. I once again found myself in the waiting room. John’s entire family was there, plus more that traveled from out of state and Canada. My wife had no idea where I went and texted me, I knew I was a wreck and she was worse and she needed a laugh. Here is the text that transpired.
We needed the laugh and I was glad to provide one for her. And yes, I had to poop. I eventually pooped, for those who are worried.
Saturday came and went and no changes. My mother in law fought like a prizefighter. That was her nature, she fought whatever ailed her and kicked butt doing it. Sadly, this was one fight she wasn’t going to win, she didn’t do it. Family and friends came and went, saying there goodbye’s. A new family arrived on the floor, we called them the Blonde Family. We watched them go through the same emotions we did. The crying, the hugging, the arguing with the doctors and nurses, even though they knew the doctors were right. It is a humbling experience, watching others go through what you just went through. We exchanged the elevator smiles as we passed in the hallway. Whenever I walked past John’s room, I looked in nodding at him, even though he was unconscious. A hand on the shoulder to one of the guys, an outreached hand to one of the woman. No words were needed, it was done. Very weird experience, strangers 48 hours ago and now joined together now because of this common experience.
Sunday was a repeat of Saturday, mulling about, tons of quiet time in Mom’s room. All of us holding her, the occasional break to clear our heads or bladder. At about 8:45 pm she passed away, quietly, peacefully surrounded by her loved ones. We stayed with her for another hour, saying our goodbyes and recounted some memories. Then it was the final kiss goodbye, we left my wife’s father in the room, so he could say goodbye to his wonderful wife. After awhile we gather our stuff and through out the empty water bottles, tissue boxes and random snacks, thanked the nurses and doctors for everything. Grabbed my mother in laws belongings and did the final hallway walk. Passed the Blonde Family, who were looking at us as we looked at other families, eyes filled with tears carrying the big green hospital bag with belongings that said, “Hey, look they must have lost a loved one.” We passed John’s room, he was alone, still unconscious and I nodded to him. We walked toward the waiting room and saw some of his family. We entered and said our goodbye’s, they saw the green bag and knew. We gave them words of encouragement. Hugs were exchanged and some tears and we walked out of the hospital.
So the lesson learned here, at least for me was a simple one. We are all different. White, black, Asian, man or woman, straight or homosexual. In the end, we are all the same, praying to whatever God or belief we believe in and begging them by making promises for that miracle to save that loved one. Somehow this restored some of my faith. I have a long way to go, I think we all do.
As always, I end with a quote:
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey.” –Elaine