My Last Moments with Mama - Series
January 20, 2007
It was a cold morning, as the largest snowstorm of the decade gifted us with a wonderland of frost through the midnight hours. We were awakened with feet of snow ready to be shoveled, plowed, and played with. It felt like a truly normal Saturday morning full of happiness and winter joy. My family and I quickly got dressed in the most bundled attire and scurried outside to begin working.
As my daddy, grandpa, and I were shoveling away, I couldn’t stop thinking about my mama. She was on my mind more than I ever experienced before. I thought about how pretty she was, how sweet her smile is, and how much I wished that she didn’t have to be sick. I thought about what life would be like if she wasn’t sick anymore and I actually deeply entertained the hope in her getting better. For the first time, I imagined her being at my wedding, and possibly living with me as an adult. I imagined her being able to see me play at Ohio State on TV and then in the WNBA and yell my name when I score. I thought about her seeing me walk across the stage for middle school, high school, and then college, proudly in her wheelchair and right in the front row. I have never thought about her this extensively, yet it truly gave me a joyful hope that I’ve never experienced before. I smiled broadly as I aggressively shoveled more snow in the frigid weather. I could not stop smiling.
After finishing our work, I decided to invite my friend over from the basketball team. We watched movies, ate buttered popcorn with hot sauce, and belched bellowing laughs throughout the architecture of my house. We sat on the edge of the bed watching the sun go down as the snowstorm introduced its second round. We thought it would be best for my friend to be safe at home, so my daddy took her back to her house with a slow, cautious journey. After dropping my friend off and promising I would see her at school on Monday, my daddy made the rare decision that we would call my mama instead of taking the risk to drive to the nursing home and get stuck. We then drove home.
After a long-winded series of attempts to get our car up the hill of our street and up our driveway into the house, I hustled inside and took off my winter coat so that I could get ready to call mama. With the thoughts I had about her today, I was so anxious to tell her all of our future plans. My daddy said that he had to make a quick phone call and then we would call her, so I went to my room and watched TV. After a while, I noticed that it was getting past 8:30pm, and the cutoff time to call the nursing home was 9:00pm. I ran to my daddy’s closed door and reminded him of the time, but he could not hear me. I became frustrated and decided to shovel snow since that brought me so much joy earlier. I found it peculiar that I thought to shovel snow as it’s snowing, but that is just how frustrated I was.
After becoming a little too winded, I went inside to grab a swig of water. As I walked in the living room, my grandma frantically ran through the hallways for my attention. “Oh my goodness, where’s your father?” she asked. I replied, “he’s in his room on the PHONE”, ensuring that I add much haste. I then quickly walk back outside to finish shoveling my frustrations away. After a few minutes my daddy came outside, shuffling his feet and moving a slumped posture. He stood by the opening of the garage, silent. “Hey, April B...you know how mama has been going back and forth with the pneumonia? Well....she didn’t make it this time. But she’s gonna be ok.”
My heart stopped. I’m not sure how I even held the shovel so firmly in the trembling cold, slippery ground, and broken heart. My mother really died. And I didn’t get to say goodbye.
So many emotions flooded me but neither of us showed anything. We just walked in the house and prepared for the taxi to the nursing home. I was prepared for the longest ride I’ve EVER taken in a car.
I slowly put on my coat, my gloves, and a scarf. I looked at my iPod and thought to bring it with me to distract my mind during the drive. As I stuffed in the back seat of taxi between my daddy and grandpa, I decided to find a song. I made sure to choose a song that didn’t mean too much to me, but somehow made it on my iPod. The song of choice was “Push it to the Limit” from the high school musical soundtrack. I felt my body begin to numb as I embraced the truth of what I was preparing to witness. I wondered so many questions. Did she suffer? Was it a slow or long death? Was she scared? Did she cry? Did she call out anyone’s name? Me? My daddy? Did she feel alone? Was she upset at me? Am I the reason that she couldn’t survive?
The lumps, bumps, slides and glides through the snow on this taxi ride gave me nausea upon the uneasiness already created. As we arrived to nursing home, my heart began to pound out of my chest. A feeling of fear rushed over me and my flesh began to match the snow beneath me. I could barely feel my limbs.
We walked slowly through the hallways of the nursing home, and the staff watched us in grief. Looking at the purple and green stained glass around us, reality truly set in. I am about to see my mother’s body who was no longer living. When did this happen? Was she dead long? Is she going to look different?
We made it to the room and my daddy and grandpa decided to go in first. He immediately came out of the room as my grandpa briefly followed behind. My grandpa sat outside on the couch and I finally sat down next to him. We watched TV as I quietly trembled in fear. I made light conversation with my grandpa about whatever was on TV, hoping to distract from ever stepping in that room. Meanwhile, my daddy is vigorously pacing back and forth across the hallway floor outside her room with small tears trickling from his eyes. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my daddy so distraught, nor so isolated. He then walks down the hall back to the front of the nursing home. I continue my distractive conversation until there’s nothing left to say. Gently, my grandpa then says, “you should go in there.” My grandpa was handling this so well, which gave me an intimate and minute dose of confidence. As I slowly stood up, I felt my lungs begin to freeze in breath. Here I was, about to see the unimaginable.
I crept in the room as if there was danger to expect. I saw the distant silhouette of her still body and entertained turning around. But, I then looked down and noticed I was standing in the spot where I last saw her—the effortless scurry out of her room—and decided that I need to finally face the truth. I slightly increased my pace and began to see the light shining upon her face. There she was. Soft skinned. Caramel. Beautiful. With a smile engraved upon her face. The tears could not stop running as I grabbed her soft, limp hand and ran my hands through her luscious coils. I just stared, because I wasn’t sure on how often you can see an angel in person. I then made sure to tell her a few things that I skipped out on lately—
“I love you so much. I hope you know. I will take care of daddy, but please watch over us. And I’m so glad you don’t have to suffer through this anymore. Okay, I’m going to say bye for now, but I can’t wait to see you again soon.”
I then backed up slowly, took a breath, and began to walk out. I walked past the overflow of stuffed animals we have given her over the years and grabbed a blue bear. I don’t remember which this was, but it seemed like the best thing to use as comfort for the years to come. I looked back one last time, and allowed myself to crack the faintest smile, only because she was about to leave this earth in peace. Although my ideas of hope would not come in the way I dreamt earlier that day, I knew that it was my mission to make those dreams come true as if she were still there, cause she would be—front row, with no wheelchair.