On September 7, my mom was headed on a trip with her sister to Philadelphia and New York and then on to Israel with her high school friend. I got a text from my aunt saying my mom had fallen in the Phoenix airport and they were heading to emergency to have her checked. (I figured they’d watch her overnight and then she’d be back on the road, so to speak, the next day.) Then I got a call from my aunt saying it didn’t look good and the neurosurgeon would be calling (I have the health power of attorney). Then I got a call from the neurosurgeon asking for consent to do brain surgery. Then I got on a plane to Arizona.
My mom is still 75 until the end of this month. She lived independently in Leisure World (my dad died last year) and was very active in her church and community. I had expected to have to step up at some point, but I was giving myself another decade.
My aunt lives 2 hours away. I live 6. My brother lives 16 or 20 or something like that (Northern Cal). My mom’s younger brothers live near me and near my brother.
I teach M/W, but I can cancel classes twice without having to find a sub, so I cancelled my classes and stayed for a week. I’ve been there two more end-of-weeks (Thursday-Saturday) since then. My brother and his wife, my aunt and uncles, one of my mom’s cousins, have all come as well. She has moved from the surgical ICU to an acute care hospital and is supposed to move today to a skilled nursing facility. Her brother and sister are there. I am home for a couple weeks because my 12-year-old is heading on a school trip to Chile and I want to be here to send her off and welcome her home. It’s also giving me a chance to catch up on grading papers and on life in general. But I am torn. I want to be in two places at once.
My mom is awake and responsive sometimes and sleeping sometimes. She has been able to walk some steps with a walker and the physical therapists on her side (her right side is not working well). She has a trach inserted, so talking has been tough. We’re not sure how much she is knowing or comprehending.
Life changes in an instant. I am still reeling, still trying to comprehend, still wondering what comes next.
But there are things for which I am grateful:
- The accident happened in Phoenix before the trip started.
- My aunt was with my mom.
- I was able to fly over immediately.
- My spouse and kids have stepped up to the challenge.
- My brother and his wife had a planned mini-break so already had days off work.
- My mom’s family has stepped up and been amazing.
- The EMTs took her straight to a trauma hospital with an excellent neurosurgeon.
- She had all her travel papers with her, including a copy of the Health Power of Attorney.
- People from church have been terrific support, especially the car pool family as they have worked out transportation with my spouse.
- My students have been kind and have not asked about when their papers will get graded (I am finally getting to them).
I am sure there is more, but that’s a start.
And here’s the other thing I keep thinking: My mom is a great believer in the the idea that all things are in God’s hands. When I think about all her plans, I know that her core belief is that it’s okay, that she would generally say with Paul, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” There is a subtle difference, at least in my mind, between this and “everything happen’s for a reason.” No one wants this to have happened, no one thinks it’s okay that it has happened, but God is still here, God is present in the situation, God Is.