It’s a New Year alright

ambulance

 

I went on a winter hike in the Shenandoah Mountains over New Year’s weekend with a few friends and Brock III. I’ll save sharing about the actual hike for another blog post and share instead that on New Year’s Day itself I received a text message from my sister Patti that Mom had fallen and hit her head and that they were at the hospital. After a few tests it was decided to admit Mom just to make sure she was actually doing alright. Good call.

On Monday, January 2 on my way back from the mountains while on my way to the hospital I phoned Mom to ask if she wanted or needed anything. True to form, Mom asked if I would stop at McDonald’s and bring her a chocolate shake. “Absolutely!” was my response. When I walked into Mom’s hospital room she was sporting two pretty big shiners where her nose had broken her fall. Ouch. Though Mom didn’t actually break her nose, she sure got shook up.

Mom shared that her fall was a bad omen to begin a new year in the hospital. I ignored that statement as any wise man would do. I mean, what the heck is a guy supposed to say to such a statement? Mom reminded me that she has a DNR and that we’d better remember that. Her exacts words were, “If something happens to me while I am in here and one of you tries to resuscitate me, I’m going to come back and kill you.” We laughed. Mom repeated her statement and said she wasn’t kidding, and then told me that she knew that dying of Parkinson’s disease was not pretty nor easy. We stared at each other. She was right and I wasn’t about to discredit her statement by dismissing it too quickly. I let it sort of hang there in the air as I grappled with what exactly to say to such a thing? I made a mental note to see if I could get my dear friend Erin, a therapist, to agree to stop by to see Mom to talk through some of her thoughts and justifiable fears. I felt largely out of my league. The night nurse and I tucked Mom into bed and when she looked calm and settled in she kicked me out of the room telling me to go home and get a good night’s sleep.

At 3:30 the next morning I received a phone call from Patti that she had just received a call from the hospital. The night nurse told Patti that Mom had taken a turn for the worse and that Mom had less than 24 hours to live, and we should get to the hospital as fast as possible. The hospital chaplain was called and Mom was anointed. After making arrangements for Brock I made it to the hospital within a half hour.

After seeing Mom lying in her bed, not so much sleeping as clearly unconscious, my youngest brother said to me that in my profession I see things like this all the time, what are we looking at here? I shared with Sean what I share with everyone, that Mom (in this instance) could be gone tomorrow or still be here six months from now. We just don’t know. It’s in God’s hands. I shared with my siblings as we gathered together what Mom had shared with me the night before. Everyone laughed quietly, and we all agreed that pretty much sounded just like our Mom.

We all agreed that while we were heartsick she was dying, none of us, with all Mom has been through and all of her various illnesses, that we wouldn’t dream to hold her here one second longer than she needed to be. That on the other side was Dad and our brothers Kevin and Brian to meet her.

At first I was numb. Sort of dumb struck that we were even in this situation. How does a person go from sassing me the night before to comatose in less than five hours time? I shifted from the horror of losing Mom to feeling down-right proud of her that she had most certainly taken the bull by the horns and she was going to ride that bull out on her own terms. Go Mom. And Go God!

I watched as various family members whispered into Mom’s ears telling her that they loved her. I sat at the foot of her bed and made mental notes in my mind about the shape of her mouth and the color of her cheeks. Mentally memorizing everything I could if in fact this time was fleeting.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because as I watched my family love my mother as only the Irish can do – stoically – it was so crystal clear to me what a beautiful job Mom had done in raising her brood. How we loved her. How we flew from the far corners of our country to be with her within six hours of receiving the news in Houston and Cheyenne. How one by one my nieces and nephews sat with Mom, were present to and with Mom and surrendered to their pride and let the tears of love flow. Mom was the glue. The matriarch. And in awe, and in profound respect, and yes, a good measure of shock, we gathered to be with the one who gave us all life in one form or another.

And then she woke up. And in slow motion Mom greeted everyone. Told a funny story about meeting one of my brother-in-law’s parents. And with a smile on her face said, “Oh, and there’s my great grandmother” as I looked to see if I could see what and who she could see. And then Mom shared that she was hungry and if it was alright with everyone she’d like a bowl of cream of wheat cereal.

The 14 or so of us in Mom’s room all sort of moved in slow motion, smiling, nervous, watching Mom’s every move as if the other other foot was going to drop and she would slip away from us … again. And that just never happened.

Mom after triple by-pass heart surgery ( June 2013)

Mom after triple by-pass heart surgery ( June 2013)

 Mom had cheated death … again.

For … the … eighth … time.

Mom’s companion care aid, Marta, came to see Mom and along with all of us went from crying tears of sadness to weeping tears of joy. Mom motioned for Marta to come closer so Mom could give her a hug and I heard Mom whisper into Marta’s ears, “Tell your children to live their dreams.” Marta nodded her head as if she and Mom were having an ongoing conversation.

As I write this I expect Mom will be discharged from the hospital soon and will then return home for rehabilitation with visiting occupational and physical therapists. We’ll see what God has planned. In the meantime, thank you for your thoughts and prayers for Mom and for all of us who love Mom (her name is Barbara.)

It’s a New Year alright! So love God first. Love your family second. And love everyone else around you somewhere after that. See those God has placed specifically around you. See them. Hear them. Be with them. Be present to them. Love them. We never know when we’ll get that call that there’s less than 24 hours left, so hurry. Hurry. Time’s a ticking.

You are all in my thoughts and prayers. Happy New Year everyone. And thank You God, for the gift of Mom for at least a little while longer.

Peace friends, 

Chuck

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18 Comments

  • Christine Reilly says:

    Dear Chuck,
    Thank you so much for sharing this – what a beautiful story. Your mom is such an amazing woman – I want to be just like her when I grow up! Praying for you and your family, and I know the love you all share and God’s grace will guide you through this journey. Give her a hug from us!

  • Roberta Jennings says:

    Chuck, I’m just now rreaing this, thanks to Sean for sharing. SO happy that your Mom is still with you. She and my sister, Jackie Colangelo, were a great support to each other when you all were growing up. She thought of the McCoart kids as her kids too, and your Dad was a part of their family also. I was with my Dad when he passed away, and immediately before he did, he was waving to a blank wall. I asked him who he was waving to, and he said, “Well, ALL of them! You know all of them too!!” I’m satisfied that when we pass, those who have passed before us will be there to greet us. It comforted me to know that my Dad saw his greeters and smiled. Take care, and tell your Mom that she is in our prayers.

  • Janet Rife says:

    Just got around to reading this, Chuck, very moving post. Blessings to you and your family and your beloved Mom.

  • Sue says:

    Chuck- happy New Year! Just reading this now … What a beautiful story. Glad your mom is still with you. We certainly do need to cherish each minute. Love your message all the way through this. Hugs and cheers to a blesse new year!

  • terry says:

    This is such a wonderful story to read Chuck. Your mom Barbara sounds amazing and actually a lot like you … LOVE THE PICTURE xo. Those straightforward conversations ARE THE BEST. Loved your private conversation when you were tucking MOM in bed .. treasured time !! Man .. this life is a journey .. Glad your mom is a tough Irish woman .. no sissie in her :)
    She has FILLED HER LIFE WITH LOVE. She is so very lucky xo

    Hugging you from AFAR :)
    Stay STRONG and TRUSTING xo

  • Austin Acocella says:

    Dear Chuck – Thank you for sharing this story of love. I know how important your mother is to you and your family, so, while I know you will let her go when the time comes, I am glad you will have her with you a while longer. Happy New Year! Austin Acocella

  • Lisa Beck Jones says:

    Your mom is an amazing woman. What a blessing. I feel like parts of this blog was written about my dad. He signed his DNR, we had our family priest at the hospital and 26 of us all at his bed. Sitting up in his bed he looked at us all and said I know where I’m going and I’m not afraid. We prayed, held hands, told stories, laughed and prayed some more. Dad died the next day – my heart still aches. I still can see his face and feel him holding my hand and hear him saying I Love You. Know that God still has a plan for your wonderful family…. a plan that still includes your mom to be here on earth for. Enjoy. Prayers and Peace to you my friend.

  • Cassie says:

    Dear Fr. Chuck,

    Your mom sounds like most Irish Women! Warm, funny, strong willed, and has her Beautiful Trust in the Lord and she was surrounded by her family. So happy to hear she rallied. May God continue to Bless and protect her. Have a Blessed and Happy New Year.

  • Barbara Cockrell says:

    Blessings on you and your mother. I can relate to this on so many levels. As caregiver to my mother, husband and grandmother in their final days, as a widowed mother beginning to notice her own signs of aging, …. Prayers and blessings to you and your family!

  • Michele says:

    Chuck,

    Thanks for sharing your story with us. Your mom is an amazing woman and I have always admired what a strong example she is to all of us. She continues to show that strength. Clearly, God has more messages and lessons for everyone to glean from her. Enjoy the time he has given to each of you and enjoy her! There are many times when I think about having one more day with my dad and all of the things I could say to him face to face. I love that woman and am proud to call her children my friends.

    Prayers and love to you and your family,
    Michele

  • Helaire says:

    Oh, Chuck! I was so happy to read the good news at the bottom of your post. Just received a Christmas card from her and will treasure it! She and Jackie were such good friends, and the Colangelo/McCoart kids were always a hoot when they got together – always a laugh. Give your Mom a hug for me as I say prayers for her.

  • Tom says:

    Happy New Year. Obviously if your Mom can cheat death it is going to be a great year. Every day is a present.

  • Barbara says:

    My Grandfather died in 1955. my Grandmother lived until 1977, living alone at first, then with family, then with grown children, moving every few months. She’d have heart trouble and everyone would come, forturnately most lived no further than Cumberland from D.C. Two of her chiildren died during that time and no one told her at first, then they finally had to tell her and she said “I knew it anyway”. She lived until Age 94.It was amazing to be able to watch her life with my Grandfather and then without.
    The Peaks and Valleys of life come to us thru God’s will.

    So glad you Mom is around for another while, God is Good and is with us always, we just have to learn to appreciate God’s will for each of us.

  • Jim and Roni Wright (and Callie) says:

    WOW! My mom passed away on January 5th, so your story really struck home with us. But, the rebound is so real … so much like our parents. And to wake up and act like – “where’s my McDonald’s?” is so perfect! May God bless you and your family abundantly!!! Happy New Year!!

    Love,

    Jim & Roni

  • Rose says:

    Oh my was expecting the worst. Very glad she is surrounded by so much love.

  • Mary Jane says:

    Dear Chuck,
    As I read your blog I anticipated, with a bit of sorrow, the sentence that would say ….that her end had come. I literally smiled to myself when you wrote how she just woke up to all of her loved ones and asked for something
    to eat. What a wonderfully beautiful experience. Your Mom has more to do so enjoy and celebrate the life that she has …and has given all of you. She’s a wonder…God love her!!!! And you. Have a good one….

  • Kathy says:

    What a beautiful post! I was crying as I was reading this and so relieved when I got to the end. Your mom is an amazing person who I have always looked up to. She has raised the most amazing children and I’m sure their children must be pretty amazing too. Your mother’s strength and faith are admirable.

    Best wishes and blessings in the new year!

    Kathy

  • Katie says:

    What can I say after that? Tears in my eyes and thankful with you and your family that your Mom is all right right now and recognizing with you how little control we have over what happens. Thank you, as always for another thoughtful message.

    Peace,
    Katie

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