Today marks one year. One year since the day I was woken up by a phone call from a cousin I usually only speak to at family gatherings. One year since–for the second time in just over two years–I felt panic about the health and independence of one of my parents.
One year ago I walked into the hospital and took the elevator to the ICU. As I got off the elevator, there was no longer any question that what had happened to my mother that morning was gravely serious. A crowd of family members and a few of her friends were right there as I got off the elevator. (She had been assigned the room adjacent to the elevator.) I was once again in a holding pattern; anxiously awaiting the arrival of my brother and sister, with no one I felt close to by my side.
My mom used to watch ’60 Minutes’ religiously on Sunday evenings before going to bed. That Sunday though she went up to bed before it started, feeling light headed. I said goodnight, gave her a hug, and reminded her that I loved her. That would be the last time for at least a week, that she would be able to consciously react to hearing me tell her I loved her. It was just thirteen hours later my cousin phoned, telling me I needed to get to the ER immediately.
After my brother arrived with his family I started to feel more comfortable, though things would definitely never be the same again. My mom was on life support, a little more than two years after my father passed away, having himself been on life support for four days. Mom had had a stroke between approximately six and seven that morning after her workout. She had worked out at the same health club, with the same core group of people, for about 15 years.
Losing loved ones is always tough, but seeing them on life support is even harder because it puts their life quite literally in your hands until their organs start to fail, which sometimes can take months or even years. Luckily, mom’s stay on life support was short and she never lost function of any vital organs.
Dad, unlike when you passed away, Mom was breathing mostly on her own with vital organ function after a week and was able to breathe fully on her own again within only three weeks.
You always told us not to give up. You even carried around the picture–of the frog fighting for his life–in your wallet since before I was born. After Masood’s arrival when the doctors were done meeting with the family, I pulled Angie aside and asked her to please talk to him because I felt he might be on the verge of giving up, and she essentially guaranteed me that he would never even consider giving up unless Mom experienced vital organ failure.
Although there are times when I think we might have created less stress for ourselves by giving up and letting her go, I always stop and remind myself that we did the right thing. For proof I only have to look at the very image I remember you carrying, which is now and will forever remain my profile picture on Facebook.
Dad, in closing, you should know that even though Mom has not walked on her own since the stroke, we all continue to remind her that she can not give up on walking again. The encouragement from all of us pushes her in the right direction. She continues to describe various dreams she is having of walking again.
She surely has the will to walk again. About ten days ago she attempted to walk from her wheelchair to her bed, frustrated that her health aids were taking too long to come put her in bed. Thankfully, she did not hurt or break anything when she landed on her tush.
We will not give up and neither will she.