After my first column last November, many of you wrote, called or stopped me while I was out and said, “Write more — we want more.” I wasn’t sure I had anything left to say until a miraculous thing happened to my mom, Barbara Jo King.
A few weeks ago, the nursing home where Mom is staying was on quarantine for the flu. I went to visit one day after work, and the nurse who answered the door asked if I really wanted to come in.
When I looked around, I saw that all the CNAs and nurses had face masks on. I backed away from the door and asked them to call me if she got sick.
Mom got through the quarantine period just fine, while a few of the other residents sadly died. However, on a recent Saturday when I went to feed Mom lunch, she was sound asleep. I kept trying to wake her up, and even tried to put a little liquid on her lips to wake her up, but she would not.
I made sure she was comfortable and went ahead and left to run my Saturday errands.
When I went back later in the day, mom was sweating, red faced and still sound asleep. As I put a cool, wet washcloth on her forehead, I spoke with the nurses about her condition.
All I heard was that she was declining.
With my son’s birthday party looming the next day, I had to get home to get presents wrapped and a cake decorated. I called my brother, Gary, who feeds Mom her lunch on Sundays, to let him know she was really sick.
A cloud of impending doom began forming over my head, putting a bit of a damper on the weekend activities I had planned.
Sunday arrived, and my brother texted me to say that mom was awake, ate all of her meal and was even talking a little. What? Mom doesn’t talk anymore, so how could this be? He assured me she was fine, so I went ahead with my plans.
I had been caring all weekend for a 6-year-old great-niece who never stops talking or eating, plus preparing a meal for my kids and the birthday party, of course. After all the activities were over, I took my great-niece home and returned to my house exhausted. Vegging on the couch, my phone rang at 8:30 p.m. It was the nursing home. Oh no, here it comes, I thought.
They said, “You need to get here right away; your mom is wide awake, talking and laughing.”
How could this be? I jumped in my car and took off.
Upon arrival, the nurses were all talking to me at the same time out of excitement. One of them told me that Mom had just looked into the corner of the room, where no one was, pointed her finger in that direction and said, “I see you people standing over there.” That’s seven words and a complete sentence — more than any of us had heard in a long time.
I went into Mom’s room and wide awake she was, lying in her bed looking comfortable. Before she spoke to me, I noticed something else. Her hands, which had been curled up into fists for more than two years, were open, fluid in her movements. My mother’s hands were released from their bondage, and she was using them again.
As I pulled up her wheelchair to sit beside her bed, Mom looked at me and with her open hand, reached up to touch my hair as she said, “Beautiful.” At this point my mind is reeling, wondering what in the world happened during her long period of sleep.
Mom continually looked around the room, pointing and quietly talking to the … angels? Relatives in heaven coming to take her home? Or, as some naysayers think, hallucinations?
A little later, mom took my hand, and I told her I had been on her journey with her and that I loved her so much. She looked right at me and sweetly said, “I know.” I began crying at this point, and I laid my head down on her chest and cried, to which she wrapped her arms around me to comfort me.
For those of you who have never experienced a parent not knowing who you are, this was huge. My mother had not acknowledged me for quite some time. She hasn’t responded to being called mom for quite some time either. Her memory was blank of ever being a mother.
After my little crying spell, as we sat in the quiet of the night, Mom again reached out for my hand, put it to her lips and kissed it. Oh my, would I ever stop crying this night? All I could do was sit in amazement and thank God for these moments of clarity.
After sitting with Mom for a couple of hours, I just had to get home and get to bed, as work the next morning was calling my name.
I returned the next day and although not quite as talkative as the evening before, Mom seemed happy to see me and her hands were still open and moving. I was able to give her a manicure without having to pry her fingers open. She enjoyed it and again looked up at me and casually said, “Thank you.”
More tears? Yes. It seems they are always near the surface and ready to fall at any given time.
I returned the next night after work, we took our regular stroll of five laps around the building, stopping to watch the birds and the fish. One hand open, one not so much anymore. However, she was still alert.
There was a singing group coming in and since I grew up with lots of music, we got comfortable, held hands and listened to the music. As I looked around the nursing home, people who rarely speak were singing the words to old gospel songs. Mom was not singing or mouthing the words but was keeping time with her open hand and thoroughly enjoying the music.
I don’t know if my mother received some sort of a miracle, or if because she had not been able to take her medicine for two days, she was no longer in a drug-induced state.
All I do know is that, for a little while, I had my mother back. A mother who told me I had beautiful hair, thanked me for giving her a manicure and held me while I cried.
A mother whose hands were not curled up into balls and maybe even a mother who saw loved ones from heaven, standing in waiting to bring her home.
All I know is that my last column was not the end of the story.
A few days later, I learned that one of my other brothers, Andy Robbins and his wife Donna, had gone in to see Mom on Sunday afternoon, where she had relapsed into her illness. Andy said she sounded like she was aspirating to death when they arrived, so he immediately went into prayer mode. Andy and Donna began praying for Mom’s lungs to be clear and her breathing to settle down, also for her speech to be loosed.
Andy told me that she started improving almost immediately, but not to the extent of what I experienced.
Little did Andy and Donna know that I had been praying for one more conversation with Mom before she let go of this life and moved on to heaven.
Isn’t it funny how my prayers were answered because of a direct prayer which my brother prayed?
Oh my, does God work in mysterious ways.
Trish Ward is the newsroom assistant at The Republic. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.