Hi! If you’re new here, first and foremost … Welcome! Second of all, you may want to know that this post is actually the second in a two-part series.
To read the first post (which comes before this one, so I recommend it), click HERE!
After the first surgeon delivered the news, things just started happening.
You know those scenes on television where someone gets shocking news and they stand frozen and perfectly still while the scene around them speeds past them in a crazy blur? In an instant, that became my world.
Looking back, I can remember every single detail of that day in bizarrely intricate detail. I recall going to the washroom, and as I washed my hands I remember looking at my reflection in the mirror and not recognizing the person staring back. I remember thinking that this was ‘the’ moment. Without retrospect, I somehow still knew that it would be the one I would hold onto. I knew that it was exactly the moment when my whole world would change.
I was suddenly no longer the person I’d always known.
By then, my cellphone battery had died, and a kind nurse lent me her charger so that I could boot up my battery. The first thing I did was text Mac a simple message … My mom is dead.
Saying those words (or typing them in this case), put me into another realm. Until then, it hadn’t been real. But now, I’d vocalized it. There was no going back.
Mac’s reaction was beyond anything I could have imagined. With the help of his parents, he managed to switch his flight that was supposed to arrive the following day to the next one available. In the absolute agony of the very worst day of my life, knowing that he was on his way was everything.
As my world fell apart, most of the hospital staff were absolutely phenomenal. When they moved my mom up to the ICU where she would await final testing for those second & third opinions before organ harvesting for transplant began, they pulled me aside and walked me through what the entire process would be. They set my family up in a private room next door to where my mom was hooked up to the machines, and we made ourselves as comfortable as could be in the worn-out armchairs and sofas.
By this point, many of my aunts, uncles and cousins had arrived. I’d called my dad and told him what had happened, and even despite everything that had happened between them in the previous two years, I could hear the pain in his voice. His arrival at the hospital later, though slightly awkward given family dynamics, was also a great comfort.
As my family arrived, I spoke the unwilling words to each of them, one by one. I repeated what the doctors had said until the worlds felt hollow.
That is, until the arrival of my siblings.
I’d not been willing to tell my siblings the severity of Mom’s condition over the phone. I’d told them it was bad, and to get to the hospital right away. But I hadn’t been able to say the words. I knew that it had to be done in person.
That was a conversation that I’d spare my worst enemy of. Breaking the heart of your loved ones with the world’s very worst news is absolute hell. If you are reading this, I pray it’s not something you’ll ever have to experience.
I texted my best friends, beginning with Olivia and Jenny who both immediately became superheroines, jumping into action to be by my side as quickly as they could. I am forever grateful for the selfless love I was shown by them and so many others in the days following the accident.
The hospital had also gotten in touch with the minister from our church, who came to the hospital and led us in prayer by the bedside of my mom. He sat with our family, supporting us, talking us through everything. He helped me to figure out what the first steps even were in planning a funeral, because at that point, I literally had no idea that you had to call a funeral home and get started right away so that the hospital has somewhere to send the body. It was all so foreign to me. He became a lifeline to me and our entire family throughout the critical grieving process and beyond.
Throughout all of this, we’d begun with the process of preparing for organ donation. The first doctor had been very clear with me that the only reason they’d continue to keep her body alive on machines at this point was for the purpose of harvesting her organs. It sounded harsh, but looking back I realize his goal was to avoid giving me false hope. With that said, he asked me for my authorization to continue with life support for this purpose.
At the time, my siblings were not yet at the hospital, so I told him that while I was sure our answer would be yes, I needed to talk to them first.
Of course, upon their arrival, there was no question amongst the three of us. My mom was a mama by her highest calling. Giving us life was her legacy, and it made sense that giving life would be the way she left us too.
After the final declaration of brain death (which occurred somewhere around 2AM), a social worker helped me to fill out the final paperwork. Shortly beforehand, Mac had arrived from the airport, and I’d completely collapsed in his arms, truly crying for the very first time.
As I completed the process with the social worker, Mac held one hand, and Olivia held my other. They were my pillars of strength on the worst night of my life, and I still can’t believe how blessed I am.
As friends of my siblings and family came in and out of the hospital throughout the night, the fate of my mom was sealed. Phone calls were made, and the news began to spread.
Most of my family went home to try and sleep at this point, though none managed very well. Olivia, Mac and I all dozed on and off on the couches of the family room, and awakened only when the third and final doctor knocked on the door around 5AM to tell me he was leaving. Before he left though, he’d wanted to let me know he was sorry that there was nothing he could do.
His eyes were genuine and so honest, that it honestly felt like my heart physical broke in that moment. I know that doctors and nurses see tragedy every day. I’m sure it would be easier to harden your heart to it than to stay soft. I believe it takes a lot of bravery to show that level of compassion to patients and their families. The thoughtful and conscientious care we received at the hospital was absolutely astounding. Throughout my healing process, I’ve always been grateful for that.
Finally, the next morning, the hospital let me go up to another floor of the hospital where Kevin, my mom’s boyfriend was recovering. As we filled one another in on the details of our last 24 hours on either side of disaster, I was filled with so much gratitude that he was okay.
Accidents happen. Disasters strike. My mom did not make it out okay, but someone else did. Someone who loved her and upholds her legacy of kindness & supports me with so much love and generosity to this day. I know my mom would be so glad that Kevin is still such a valued part of our family, and a big part of my life to this day.
Later that morning, Mac and I went out to the courtyard of the hospital to sit on a bench and breathe in the fresh air. It was cold and damp. In the distance, I heard a toddler cooing, and as I turned my head I saw a mom pushing her baby in a stroller towards a nearby park.
I choked on my breath, realizing that one day, that might be me. And when I become a mother, my Mom wouldn’t be there to be a grandma. She’d wanted to be one for so very long, and had been talking about it since I was a kid myself. The idea that my kids will never know her has been the hardest part of my grief journey, and something that I’ve still not come to terms with.
I never would have known how hard that could be, until the day I became a Motherless Daughter.