I had time, all the time on my hands to just sit and watch Momma die minute by minute in her hospital bed. You see, she had cancer for 3 years. I must admit that I had watched her die a little bit every time I saw her since she was first diagnosed. She had her good days and her bad days…and honestly days I just don’t want to remember at all. I hated seeing her with cancer… I didn’t recognize Momma at all. Before cancer got a hold of her she had a way about her; you not only got to know her, but you had to almost experience her to appreciate all about who she was. The cancer took all of her excitement and passion for life away.
But, anyway, the day came where I chose to sit and cuddle at her feet, praying and hoping maybe she would know it was me and respond to me somehow. It wasn’t like when I was little where Momma would just spoon me and hold me. Those days I just wanted to get down and play. Ironically, I would give anything to have those days back and crawl into the warmth of her arms.
As I lay at her feet in the hospital bed, I just lay there listening to her breathe and an occasional groan. Was she trying to say something? Was she trying to say her last wish? What was she trying to convey? I so desperately wanted to hear her, and for her to come back to us…back to me! I wanted so badly to hear her voice tell me that she loved me just this one more time. Everyone came by to say good-bye. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. How do you say good-bye to your Momma? Your best friend? I just couldn’t…I wouldn’t.
Daddy said it was time to let her go. She was tired of fighting, but I was not ready to give up this fight. I wanted her to stay! How dare you take Momma off the meds to keep her alive? I had no control over anything! When I heard her start to choke on her phlegm that night, I ran down to the nurses’ station begging them to come save her. They placed a tube in her to clean her out. I think for the first time it was really coming true. These were Momma’s last days here on earth. Once again, I crawled up in bed with Momma…this time I got as close as I could to her face so I could just talk, pray and sing to her. I was hoping that if she heard my voice she would wake up and talk to me, although I knew deep down inside that wasn’t going to happen. I recited all the Bible verses that came to my mind. Morning came and she was still with us, but let’s be honest, she wasn’t. Her body was getting more swollen by the minute, and as I held my Momma’s hands I started to realize that I didn’t recognize them either. A part of me just wanted to run away as fast as I could, but another day passed with more people coming and going. I remember Neil whispering things in her ear. My brother always had the special touch of giving Momma the strength to come home from previous hospital stays. Could he possibly have that magic touch now and say something to bring her back to us?
Eventually, it was time for my flight to come back home to Cincinnati. I asked the doctor how much longer does she have with us. He had no answers… he said it could be hours, days, weeks, months. So, on that Sunday afternoon, I started to leave for my flight home. I knew I had to get home, for Caleb’s first day of Kindergarten was coming up and I had to meet his teacher. That gave me the reason I needed to leave the hospital and the reason to leave watching Momma slowly leave me on this earth. In the back of my mind I was still in denial, even though I had spent the last 3 days just watching her slowly die right in front of my very own eyes.
I started to leave the room and head home. My Aunt Martha asked me if I was going to say good-bye to Momma and give her a hug and kiss. I eventually did, but the kind of goodbye you do when you know you are just going away and will be back for another visit. But, the truth is I never did get another visit with Momma. She died that Tuesday afternoon and I wasn’t there. I was so very hurt by this, since I wanted to be the one that held Momma when she took her last breaths. God says He only gives us what we can bear. Apparently, He knew I couldn’t bear it. I must go on blind faith on this one. I spoke at her funeral about how she is now at peace with God and no longer fighting cancer. People always speak of memories, but those memories were mine to keep in my heart. As the days turned into months and months turned into years, I look back at my days with Momma, some good, some bad, but they are mine. I will share certain memories with those who I trust. Although it seems like yesterday she left and went to Heaven, there is a part of me that seems like it has been forever. Some days I can’t even remember her voice at all, and all I can remember is her singing “Kumbaya” while wrapped up in her arms both as a child and as an adult. Time does heal all wounds, but as with all wounds lies a scar. That scar of Momma’s last few days will always be a part of who I am.