In October, 4 years ago, my mom very suddenly got sick and nearly died on the operating table…She was hospitalized for abdominal pain on Oct 6 or 7 - I don’t remember when exactly. She was diagnosed with intestinal blockage, possibly due to scar tissue from 2 other abdominal surgeries done years earlier. After a week attempting to unblock her transit by non-invasive medical means, surgery became imperative, despite the risk due to her ongoing anti-clotting medication that was required to manage her aortic heart valve replacement (indeed my mom was a walking modern-day medical miracle!)
We said our goodbyes and our mutual love before she went into surgery - just in case...…
no, no, no, scratch that! in fact, I don't remember what we said, and I don't remember when was the last time we spoke - probably right before she went into surgery...and I have no idea what we did actually say to each other...probably reassuring stuff like ‘bon courage’ (she was French) & ‘see you soon’ & ‘I’ll be waiting for you right here’… stuff like that. That would be the last time in her life that she would be able to speak, but I didn’t know it at the time.
It was Saturday evening, October 11, the surgery took a few hours; one of the surgeons popped into the waiting room to say that they were "nearly done" - minutes passed, then hours... still no sign of her return from surgery. And then - the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), the physicians had asked right before surgery if she had signed a ‘do not ressuscitate’ statement - I had no idea….so I said that they should do all they can, although I knew that she didn't want to be "a vegetable" (her words).
She was back, but - unconscious, in the ICU, on dialysis...days, then weeks passed, still unconscious...a tube was placed in her trachea; the Doctors had explained why the tube was needed, but I don't remember the explanation. I only remember the compassionate tone of voice, the gaze that said "she's not going to be here much longer" - and me thinking "this is going WAY too fast, I'm so NOT ready for this, not ready not ready not ready!" I asked my daughter to "check in" to wherever her grandmother was right now (my daughter has the capacity to explore some of the non-physical dimensions of our existence) and Estelle said "she's not gone yet - I'm not sure she's decided what she's going to do. She could come back." That's when I made the drawing of Mom surrounded by animals watching over her, especially Bear - Bear was there to keep her safe, to help her heal, so that she could come back.
And she did regain consciousness. Thank you Bear! I think she "heard" my sister and I - we were not ready to mourn her death, so she gave us a few more months. She did not succeed in getting the tracheal tube removed, but she did recover completely mentally, if not physically - so that she could tell us now that yes, she really was ready to go, if a similar incident should arise again...my dad had passed 2 years earlier and she was very lonely.
"What's the point of getting better, if I'm going back to an empty house?" she said. My sister and I were on the other side of the Atlantic, in France, her own home country, while she was in the USA, where she had moved when she married my dad. I visited her every summer, with my 3 children, and she came to France for Christmas, but in between, she was on her own. Why an ocean ended up between my mother and us is the subject of a whole other blog post!
Thanks Mom, for all that you taught me, especially the teaching to treasure the present moment with your loved ones, because it's the ONLY moment that you're sure of, and to always say goodbye on good terms, because you may never see them again. Our lives are as fragile as the flame of a candle - one gust can put it out forever.
My parents on their boat on Lake Mohawk, NJ where they lived the end of their lives.