A year ago tomorrow, I was awakened by a phone call that was the beginning of a chapter in my life that would rip me to the core, challenge my faith, teach me how strong I was and how weak I was at the same time, show me who loved me, and finally, confirm my faith, in stone for the rest of my life.
It was approximately 7:30am when I got the call that my mother had had a heart attack at work and had been ambulanced to another hospital. I needed to go there immediately. There was no further information. I don’t know how many of my readers work in the medical field, but I’ve done my share of receptionist work in various hospitals, and I know what it means when someone tells you on the phone, “I don’t know anything else.” This was bad. Really bad. They don’t tell you the really bad stuff over the phone, I guess for fear that you’ll panic and be unsafe on the way to the hospital. But I knew the code. Panic set in. My mother was either already dead, or not far from it. I knew.
I think that’s the worst feeling in the world, outside of the orphan feeling that comes immediately after you see the monitor hit 0, which means your mom won’t be back. Ever. I got to the hospital with the impeccable (insane) driving skills of my husband. Thank God for him. After being told twice that they did not have her, they finally found her in their computer and we rushed to (unit I can’t remember. Some of this day is foggy). Mom’s boss met us in the hallway. “Is she okay?” I asked. With tears in her eyes, she responded, “Come with me.” Not good. Really bad. I remember whispering to James, “She’s dead.” To this day, I’m not sure he heard me. I think I was telling myself more than him.
When we got to where my family was gathered in “that room,” the room they put you when things are bad, I realized we were last to arrive. My brother was there, my stepdad, his pastor, mom’s best friend from work, and the pastor from the hospital where mom worked. Mom’s friend and I had already had a bunch of time to pray together and get to know each other before that day. As soon as I saw her crying, I ran over and fell in her arms. I love that woman. She gave up her chair for me and I sat, not speaking. There aren’t words for this type of thing. After 6 hours of silence and tears (real time, 2 or 3 minutes) the pastor from mom’s hospital asked me, “Misty, has anyone told you what’s going on?”
“No. No one will tell me anything.”
“The doctor is saying they don’t expect her to make it through the day.”
“Okay.” More tears. Hugging my stepdad. Gibberish from across the room. World spinning. Sick. Scared. Breathing in and out. Not breathing at all. Sick. More tears. Look to my husband, whose eyes are also wet. This is bad. He doesn’t cry. I don’t remember much else in the room. More fog. Thank God for fog.
I remember them saying we could see her before they took her to…more fog…for…more fog. I remember not wanting to get out of the chair. I remember wondering if my legs would carry me. I remember mom’s friend getting me out of the chair. How? More fog.
I remember going to a hallway. My mother’s body was being wheeled down the hall. She wasn’t there. Sick. Not breathing. More tears. Dizzy. Can’t stand up. Mom’s friend held me up.
“Say something to her. She can hear you.” I don’t know who said that. I remember my stepdad telling her he was “right here, baby.” My words stuck in my throat and choked me. Can’t breathe. They wheeled her away to do whatever in wherever. Mom’s friend held me. I’m not sure where we went after that. I remember being in a chair outside “that room,” in public. I remember thinking, “I want back in that room.” More fog.
We went to another room, and church friends that I’d called, and some that I hadn’t, started showing up. Thank God for those who gather in His name. We prayed for “more time.” Well, they prayed. I was non verbal…and anorexic (who brings sandwiches to these things anyway???).
My mother did not die that day, at least not permanently. Over the past year, what happened in “that room” has become less important to me, and what she was doing in that time has become my lifeline.
You see, she was not crying. She was actually pretty happy. The difference between what we were doing and what she was doing is what keeps me going today.
My mom spent the next 20 something days in a medically induced coma, having surgery after surgery, to try and bring her back to us. She had so many machines around her that I could barely get in to talk to her. They told us she could hear us, so when I found my voice, I talked. I remember telling her before a major surgery, that if things got too hard she could go Home. We would figure it out. I have never said anything with less conviction in my entire life.
If she went Home, I would not figure things out. I would die.
She survived surgery after surgery, procedure after procedure, crossed bridge after bridge, and on day 20ish or so, she opened her eyes.
By this time, she had a tracheotomy. She could not speak, but she acknowledged to the nurse that she knew who I was. When we were “alone,” she mouthed, “unplug it.” Can’t breathe. Dizzy. What do I say? “No. The doctor says you’re going to make it. I’ll unplug it when he says otherwise.” She looked at me, stunned. I think this was the first time in my life that I basically told my mother to “shove it.” Even on the ventilator, I braced for her to knock the doodoo out of me. She never had hit me, but I would never have put it past her. She smiled, and said, “Okay. I died.”
We knew she died. They lost her for 20 minutes after the heart attack, but were able to revive her. How did SHE know?
“Yes. You died. We lost you for 20 minutes, but you’re back. I’m not unplugging anything.”
She smiled again.
“I have to know. Did you see Jesus?”
Silence. What do you say after that?
Word got around, because when your mom sits in the presence of Tha Man, you tell everyone.
She told everyone too. Anyone who came to see her, “I died. I saw Jesus!”
The inner part of me that used to fight my belief and ask me, ” Are you sure?” would come out once in awhile and tell me, “It’s the drugs,” but the drugs went away, and the story only became more elaborate. For most of the days we had left with her, she told more of her Encounter from a See n Say toy.
“I died. I saw Jesus. Took my hand. Temple. Angels ugly. God is blue, white, shiny, clear. Jesus is light. He’s not white. Warm. I’ve seen Jesus. New perspective. Laugh at devil.”
Over the last days, watching her type on her See n Say, and confirming her words back to her, just to be sure, we learned what she was doing for that 20 minutes.
Jesus led her by the hand (the right one, I asked) to the temple where God hangs out. He pulled back a curtain so she could see inside. She saw God from the back. What she could see of Him was blue, white, shiny and clear <—I know! Weird!
The angels (five of them) never knew she was there, because they were too busy worshiping God. They’re ugly, and they have ostrich feet. Completely weird!
Jesus invited her into the temple, but it was so Holy she couldn’t bring herself to go in. Jesus went in without her. I guess that’s when she came back to us. I’m not sure. That seemed to be the end of her story, or at least what we could gather and confirm from See n Say conversations. That’s enough for me.
I’ve heard a lot of stories of people who have died and come back, and for some reason I’ve always held onto my skepticism. There’s something different about it when your mom is the storyteller. There’s no reason to doubt her.
I think God sent her back to tell us so I wouldn’t worry so much. I’m not saying I didn’t hurt, or that I don’t still hurt. I know where she is though. She promised to meet me by the second pole of the temple. My faith is unbreakable now. No matter what this life brings me, I have a new perspective. I know where I’m going. I know how it ends. Things might beat me up pretty bad on this side, but God is good. In fact, I think Good is a drastic understatement. There’s something “over there,” and it’s amazing! Sign up to come with me, and we’ll all meet up at the temple!