The Light at the End of the Tunnel

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I thank God regularly for giving me the gift of discernment and being able to sense coming events.  When I was a young unmatured man, I sometimes hated this gift because I could foretell events like the death of my uncle and knowing the fact my best friend had been seriously injured in a car accident without even being there physically.  It was this same gift that during the period of November 29 through December 4 of 2015, I am very thankful for God granting me this gift.  Here is the story of why I was thankful.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My cellphone rang early on the evening of Sunday, November 29, 2015. I looked at the caller id and it read the name of the nursing home my mother was staying in at that time.   I answered the phone, it was my mother’s nurse, she called to let me know that my mother had fallen.  She assured me that my mother was ok. The nurse went on to say they have told her to not attempt to go to the bathroom by herself because of her strength.  I had to chuckle at the nurse thinking she was going to tell my mother not to do something.  My mother is just like I am, you tell me I am not able to or going to do something, we will die and do whatever it takes to attempt to prove you wrong. My family calls it the Richardson family’s stubborn gene making its obligatory appearance.

I thanked the nurse for calling me and assured her that I would address it with my mother.   I sat for a few minutes thinking of how to address the subject with mom.  I picked up the phone and called mom.  I told mom the nurse had called and told me she had fallen.  She said she was ok but she was not going to call anyone to help her to get to the bathroom.  She was also upset they called me. I reminded her she gave me medical power of attorney and by law they were required to call me.  I then told Mom she needed to call them or they were going to put a catheter in her (yes, I went there even though I was not told that by the nurse).  Mom agreed to call them and told me not to worry.  I then hung up the phone and made plans to drive the 2-hour one-way trip to Tennessee the next morning to go reiterate the message in person.

Monday, November 30, 2015

I arrived at Mom’s nursing facility in Dickson, TN around 10:00 AM.   I went into mom’s room.  I knew before I went in the greeting I was about to receive.  I walked in the room and mom looked at me and said “Why are you here and not at work? Did I not tell you that I was ok?”   I looked at Mom told her, “Well I thought I needed to come and remind you in person what I told you last night.  Remember, I am your son and you gave me the same stubbornness that got you here.” She huffed but knew I was right.

I started to have the feeling this was then beginning of the end.  This was solidified by the fact that my mother had to review her final requests and the steps I was to take upon her death.  It did not matter that we had done this at least 100 time within the last 2 years.  However, this time she was more emphatic.  I spent about 2 ½ hours with my mom that day. It was then she said son you need to get home to Melissa and the kids.  I will be fine.  I left her room and went to speak with her nurse to follow up with them.  I found out mom had a bladder infection and the doctor would be in later in the day to check on her.  I requested that they did not tell her they had informed me of this, so to make their jobs easier.  I thanked her and began the trip home to Kentucky.  Something was different about this trip though.  It was during this trip when God showed me in my thoughts as I drove this was then end of the road for mom.  I did not realize it at that time but that was going to be one of the last conversations mom and I had before she died.

The cellphone rang again around 5 PM that evening.  It was one of mom’s friends and personal assistants, Janice.  She told me that mom’s bladder infection had gotten worse and was very weak. Janice said the doctor was going to admit her to hospital.  I thanked her for the update and told her to tell mom everything would be ok.  I then said I wanted her to ask mom if I could go ahead and file my FMLA paperwork.  Mom up until this point had forbidden me to file the paperwork because she did not want to be a burden to me.   I fought her on several occasions. However, I had already planned to file it in the morning when I went back to work even without her permission but I wanted to at least ask mom for permission out of respect.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 to Friday, December 4, 2015

I called the hospital ICU nurses desk early that morning like I had just like the previous day (3 calls the day before for updates) around 6:30 am.  The nurse told me she was just getting ready to call me. I asked her is everything was ok.  She said “Yes. However, my mom had notified her she was wanting to take the pain medication but wanted to wait for me to be there.”  I told the nurse, I would be there within 2 hours. I quickly packed a bag with essentials, explaining what was going on to my wife and ran out the door.

I don’t believe I drove the speed limit that day.  However, I saw God’s handiwork at play when I got to Interstate 40.  It was up to that point I luckily had not seen a law enforcement officer.  However, as I merged onto I-40 what should appear right in front of me a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer going about 90 miles per hour without lights. I figured he must be heading to Nashville for a meeting.  I followed the officer (with some limited distance) from the Camden exit all the way to the Dickson exit for a total of 56 miles.  I called work to notify them I would not be in and would update them accordingly.  I called my cousin Richard to let him know.  I made it to the hospital in an hour and thirty-five minutes.

When I entered the ICU unit hallway, I was amazed at the sight I saw.  I was met by Janice and Dennis my mom’s personal assistants, my mom’s former boss Jimmy and his wife, several individuals that I did not know.  My cousin Richard and his wife Tina were in the room with Mom. I introduced myself to the nurse at the nursing station and got an update.  She told me what I already knew. However, I listed as she told me that once she gave mom the medication it would be about 2 to 3 hours before mom would go to sleep and more than likely would not awaken again until her kidneys failed.  I shook my head and told her I would like to speak with mom alone before she gave her the medication.

I then entered Mom’s room. I greeted Richard and Tina and spoke for a few seconds. They then left to give me time alone with Mom.  I spoke first and told Mom, “Mom, its ok, it’s time for you to go be with Grandpa, Grandma, and Dad.” Mom, told me she loved me and she was proud of the man I had become. She told me that she knew that she could die now knowing she had left me in good hands with Melissa and her family.  She told me not to cry but to be happy for her.  She once again and for the final time reviewed her final requests but added one new one which I agreed to wholeheartedly.  I then told me to trust in God and to live the life, I had so dreamed of and sought for many years but could not due to my circumstances.   I hugged her and told her to give one Grandpa, Grandma, and Dad for me. I then told her of the group outside and said I am going to get the nurse and then let them come in to say their goodbyes.

I stepped out to get the nurse.  The group was getting larger.  I went back in as the nurse gave mom the medication.  I called my Aunt Sissy and Uncle Gene (Mom’s siblings) to let them say their goodbyes to mom. After they were done, I stepped out and went to the vending area to decompress and process what was going on as more people continued to enter the ICU.   Looking back on it, you would have thought someone of great stature such as a Governor or President was in the ICU unit now.

People continued to go in and out until around 12:30 PM when mom gave in and went to sleep.  They moved mom to a private room since now she was in Hospice care.  I stayed with mom round the clock.  Family and friends continued to visit her and me over the next day and a half.  I still believe that though mom was asleep she was aware of what was going on around her and could see the light she brought into this World for so many people.

Going into the second night of being with mom and her condition worsening God granted my prayer to let me fall asleep so I did not have to listen to her “drown” from the fluid buildup in her lungs as it got worse.  I did not want that as my last memory of her.   I fell asleep and the nurses came in at 1:45 am on Friday, December 4, 2017 to tell me she just passed.  I thanked them for their kindness and waited on the doctor to come and legally declare her dead.  I prayed over her and continued to wait. While I waited a dear high school friend who was a nurse came by to give her condolences and to check on me.  Once the doctor was finished, I walked out of the room to head to Mom’s house knowing what I had to do later that morning.  Still to this day, I know it had to be the power of God and the years of crisis management I learned in my Higher Education career to keep me focused and not weeping knowing this was the end.

I got home and went to bed in the family heirloom brass bed looked at the antique Sacred Heart of Jesus knowing my mom was now with him.   I wrote a Facebook post as an obituary because of my genealogy work and as a tribute.  Yes, this was not in Mom’s final wishes but I found it necessary to help me grieve and remember her.  I then cried for about 5 minutes and went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning, called the funeral home to arrange the cremation, visited mom’s attorney to begin the estate, and began to clean out Mom’s house to prepare it for sale.

I went to Mom’s old office to visit with Jimmy her boss to cover details of mom’s retirement mutual funds and life insurance a few days later.  It was difficult because these people were just like family to me.  When I walked up I was greeted by a huge wreath on the door with the words “Miss Emma” on the sash. When I entered and greeted the receptionist she told me that many people had been calling wanting to know about arrangements and to give their condolences.  I explained Mom’s wishes which she knew prior to me telling her of no public obituaries, no services, no frills, just cremation.

When I left Jimmy’s office looked back at the door with the wreath and smiled. I once again thanked God for giving me 46 years with the most caring and loving individual on this planet who taught me to show others how much you care and have compassion for them by your actions and not words.  The only regret in my mind at that time was “I hope Mom was able to see how much of a difference she made in the small rural area and the World and how she was loved by the community she lived.

My mother gave up her life after my father died in 1974 to care for me and my grandparents. She rarely did anything for herself and gave to others without consideration for what was in it for her.  She truly was a living saint amongst us.  From that moment on, I realized that my best tribute and honor to my mother was to live my life giving to others and emulating the same actions and values she did for her 75 years on this Earth.

Mom, you may be gone physically, but you are with me every day spiritually.  I Love You and Thank You for helping me grow up to be the man I am today.

Love,
Terry

 

If you have a story of dealing with rediscovery and rebranding yourself after a mid-life crisis or career change or job loss due to termination/layoff, I would love to talk to you.   I would love to have your insight as I prepare to write my book and it would allow me to share other’s experiences.  Please feel free to contact me.

Terry is a Personal Leadership and Midlife Coach for Men with Upward MC in Benton, Kentucky.  He can be contacted via e-mail at Terry@upwardmc.com  or by phone at 270-493-0967. His website can be found at http://www.terrypburgess.com

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