People who know I’m religious might be surprised to learn that I sometimes doubt there is a God.
Then I think of events leading up to my mother’s death, I see great kindness of God toward us both, and I feel all better.
It began with something going wrong. God things often do, I’ve noticed. I had been caring for my mother, Dorothy Glidewell, for thirteen years, since she had a major stroke in 1988. The stroke took her ability to move her right side and to speak, except for “yes” and “no.”
During last five years of her life she never left her bed. And she never had a bedsore.
I was proud of that.
And then she got one, in her heel, and it wouldn’t heal. I propped it up, tried all sorts of ointments, and it just got worse. I had to ask for help from Visiting Nurse Association, whose nurses began coming by twice a week. I could never have made it heal, they said. Healing would take six weeks of special medication.
Oddly enough, this was first God thing. Because I was going to need calm reassurance of those visiting nurses in days to come.
Late in that April of 2003, my brother David drove from Montana to Virginia for what became his last visit. As soon as Mother heard he was on his way, she began to glow with happiness, and she kept that glow throughout his visit.
Only hours after he left, she apparently had a small stroke, which took her ability to feed herself with a spoon. She began sleeping ninety percent of time, as she had done after her stroke in 1988, one reason I decided she’d had another.
This began a series of events, which I believe were small strokes, each of which took something. Soon she forgot how to chew and could only have soft food. And, oddly enough, that was when I began to see most clearly hand of God orchestrating her departure.
By this time her world had narrowed. She no longer cared about TV, no longer tried to be a good citizen who kept up with world news. Even Andy Griffith lost his charm.
The signs were unmistakable: she was going. But I wasn’t ready. Our lives had been so intricately intertwined that it HURT to pull us apart. I walked hallway for days coming to terms with our coming separation. I was given that necessary time, and finally I came to terms with it.
No sooner had I done so than visiting nurse stepped in. I had told her I thought Mother was having small strokes. The nurse’s interpretation was that Mother needed to go into hospital for diagnostic tests. And doctor’s interpretation, when nurse called him, was that Mother needed to go into hospice program.
By then I was able to tell doctor that I felt ready for this, and he agreed to set it up. But afterwards I wondered: I was ready, but was Mother?
“Does it seem to you that pretty soon you’re going to go to heaven to be with Jesus?” I asked her.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!”
“Is it okay that I put you into hospice program?”
Oddly enough, that began a happy time for her. People brought her flowers. Her sister made reservations to fly out from Montana to see her. And Mother understood why these things were taking place. Even though strokes took much from her, she always understood important things. And nothing ever touched her loving heart.
Sunday afternoon brought her pastors, Father Jim and Brenda Brinson. With them was Joe Maio, who had so faithfully brought communion wafers and love to Mother’s bedside each week. This time he brought a guitar, and he came to say goodbye.
Father Jim conducted a full communion service, complete with music, just for Mother. But when time came for communion wine, I said, “She doesn’t know how to drink liquids anymore.”