In an instant, I’m back in that two-bedroom
apartment on Monte Park Ave, in old town Fair Oaks. Where family photos and live plants cluttered the already small space. It was a Monday night, February 13,2012, the day before Valentines Day, doing a routine visit to see my mama. The woman, who had birthed and loved me, as best as she could, with the tools life had equipped her with. This visit was different I could sense it. The moment I stepped foot onto that beige carpet and looked into her sunken green eyes. The cancer, cirrhosis and hepatitis C that had eaten at her liver the last two and a half years was coming to an end. My mother was a hardened woman, hardened by life. Crimes that had been committed against her and crimes she’d committed against herself continually ate at her. She was still able to shower an immense, unconditional love on us kids; in the days she was able to function, without the inevitable numbing. Those days didn’t last long, until she’d check out again.
As an adult the childhood ghosts of her past, were relived through her. So much to the point she allowed the destruction and pain to take ahold of her thoughts and entire being. The darkened corners of her life would begin to suffocate her.
As kids we’d often wake to her drunken blackouts after the town bars closed. She’d destroy the furniture in my home, demolishing anything within arms reach. Police would come often, we would hide…fearful…always fearful. She would sober up and check herself into rehab and do well for a while. We always hoped it would just one day end and she would be okay. The cycle just seemed to continue, for years, then decades. We would see fragments of her amazing personality, deep gentle heart and willingness to love hard and stay tough. Then it would be wiped away and knocked out of her when she’d run. Slowly, we lost pieces of her throughout the years.
My mom came to know a relationship with God in the last years of her life. I could sense a peace within her, but it was plain to see, she still carried regrets. Alcohol and drugs were her numbing medicine of choice to drown out the pain of the past. Even in her last days, she’d attempt to drink away the pain. I’d hold her feeble hands, sitting on her couch and pray with her. Pray for peace to finally consume her mind. Ever since I was a child, I had always felt like her mother. I wanted to save her, protect her, help her to see her worth in God.
It was just three months prior to her diagnosis, and I had found her cold and almost lifeless on her apartment floor. She had attempted suicide. It was late at night. I hadn’t heard from her in two days. I had that motherly gut wrenching feeling that something wasn’t right. Remembering the key I had to her apartment, I rushed out the door in only a bathrobe to check on her. I unlocked her front door; my heart hit the ground as I carefully turned the living room corner, to see her body, still, by the foot of her bed. In a numb haze, I checked her pulse and lifting her off the floor, I wailed and called on the name of Jesus, Jehovah Rapha – the God who heals, El – Shaddai – an almighty God. Peace flooded the room as I claimed this womans broken life and soul in his name. I laid her on her bed and held her, waiting for the ambulance to come. Those next four days in the hospital were torturous. As her body fought to rid itself of the toxins she’d consumed in an attempt to end the misery. Handcuffed to the hospital bed, I watched her sweat, cry and wail. I would pray. He’s here. He’s the healer. Even in that state God loved my mother, she was his child, even when she was most unlovable, he held her.
It is now, less than three years later, that I am watching her life slowly drain.
I can distinctly remember the aroma that I woke to, on Tuesday, February 14th, 2012. Having slept a horrid nights sleep, on my mothers’ living room floor the night before. I knew the end was near.
I would wake hourly to check on her, while she was asleep on her couch. Normally, she would take her meds every three hours. This night, she had slept more than ten straight hours. Drenched in sweat, she awoke. She called to me to help her to the bathroom. Her husband and I each held her arms and pulled her to her feet. Halfway to standing she began to hemorrhage blood. Gallons, literally gallons of blood spilled out of her. Her husband began to scream. We were never prepared for this. Never was hemorrhaging mentioned in all of the hospice nurse and doctors visits. Unable to call 911 due to the DNR (do not resuscitate) forms my mom signed. We slowly walked her to the bathroom. Blood poured out of her body in what seemed to be the longest walk ever, leaving a trail of what was left of her life down that hallway.
Expecting her to collapse, doing my doggone best to act calm as her husband cried and screamed frantically. We laid towels over the toilet and sat her down hoping to stop the hemorrhaging and call the hospice nurses to come to her home. Once I let go of the grip I had on my moms arm, I grabbed Drews face and ordered him to breathe and quit screaming. My mother sat, silent, she looked up at us, our hands and feet covered in blood, both frantically searching for the nurses numbers in our cell phones in a shaky mess. She quietly said, “please calm down”. I wrapped my arms around her, sitting there looking faint, expecting for her to hit the floor at any moment.
No child should ever have to see their mother bleed to death. I felt as though I was in a dream. Everything was hazy. Yet, God was there. I could only rely on his strength to keep me calm, to handle the situation, as Drew lost his mind and my mom was quickly losing life.
This couldn’t possibly be the end, I said to myself. Gently lifting her to her feet, we guided her down the remainder of the hall, to her bedroom; to the hospital bed she would spend her remaining days on. I stripped my mom of her blood-drenched clothing. Bathed and diapered her, as she had to me for many years as an infant. Those last days felt like an eternity. Going home to shower and take a short break from the death unfolding in front of my eyes, I was fearful she would slip away in my one-hour absence. I went to the store to buy my momma the last bouquet of roses I would ever give to her. I lit the candle next to her flowers. I played music, read and sang to her in those last hours. Massaged her hands and feet with lotion, as I’m sure she did to me as a baby. I prayed for her and over her. Watched her husbands’ heart break into a billion pieces, as he would walk around their apartment and cry. Still then, God was there.
“ With all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love”.
Amidst the pain, the known regrets, fear and sadness, he’s the comforter. Not understanding why my eyes and heart had to burned with such tragic memories in watching her suffer, Gods peace lied there and he strengthens when we have none.
“ I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me”.
That final night, I had known. Sitting in the living room with one of my dearest friends Shawna and Drew,
I stood up “ we need to go check on her “ I said, as I stepped in her room, she was struggling to take her last breaths. Her husband ran to the far side of the bed and held onto her, wailing. I grabbed her hand and my friend grabbed mine.
She was fighting to breathe, her arms flailing.
I told her it was ok to go. To finally let go.
I fought to speak those words to her and to make them sound believable. Wishing she could just climb up off of that bed, healthy and smiling and hold me.
When she took her last breath. I watched her body lose its vibrancy. Shaken and strangled with anxiety, I threw up on the floor next to her bed. Having known the struggles and regrets this precious woman bore in her lifetime…and how at that moment…she’d have given anything to redo it.
“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
Do I know if my mother truly believed an all-consuming savior that died for us wholly loved her?
Do I have complete contentment that she passed with all the peace that God intended for us to have?
Which has led me to this. When the fateful day of my existence here on earth, ceases to watch another sunrise…what will my precious babies have to say of me?
I have nurtured every one of them; kissed chubby piggy toes and sang silly songs.
I, like many, have made heart-wrenching mistakes despite knowing Gods love for me.
All in an attempt to fill a God shaped whole in my heart.
“Those who rest in the shelter of the most high will find rest in the shadow of the almighty.”
What will my beautiful daughters and handsome son be able to reflect upon, after my passing?
Perhaps this was his plan after all.
“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes”
He is in fact the author.
“O Lord, thou hast searched me and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off”
Every intricate detail of my life, from the gory to treacherous to beautiful and serene was written.
God gives first, second, third, fourth, fifth , sixth and beyond chances, just waiting for me to see who I am…in him.
In this short 30 years of my life, I’ve fallen short.
What matters, is the here, the now and the tomorrow.
Can I actually attain all of the attributes of the woman in Proverbs 31?
“Her children arise up and call her blessed; her husband also praiseth her”
Will my children be able to say this of me?
Will my sleepy eyed babies awake to drunken rages, as I did as a child…or a woman on her knees in prayer at suns rising?
I will strive daily, hourly, minute by minute to fight back the rising of my flesh, any hateful words that might ******* and distractions from what life is really created for…all on my knees before a God whose love consumes.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
Copyright © Natasha Ivory Evans 2012