Some things in life one doesn’t ever want to repeat. The last month has been like that for me. This will be my longest blog to date, but allow me to share my story. Hopefully it will be a quick read . . .
On Friday night, April 13, I received a call telling me that my mother had a stroke. My first reaction was shock. MY MOTHER had a stroke? My mother has lots of interests. She gardens, knits, cooks, she belongs to a small group in church and helps with church projects, she keeps the books and manages hers and her husband’s business, and she was going to come to my house the last week of April in preparation for our spending a week together at a time share.
At first we tried to think of something else. Maybe she had been poisoned by some food she ate. Maybe it was cleaning fumes. Maybe it was . . . But no, at 4:30 a.m. when I called the hospital, I received the results of the MRI. She’d had a very serious stroke. I began praying in earnest.
My sister went to her first; I had to make some arrangements before I could go, as I wanted to be as open-ended as possible. Sister left the day I came. She and Mother’s husband were talking about putting Mother’s living will into effect. Apparently Mother was aware enough to let Husband know where she had put her living will! That didn’t sound like someone who was going to die! Sister warned me that Mother looked terrible, and that it would be a shock. So I prepared myself.
However, when I walked into Mother’s room, she looked far better than I expected. Having some chaplain training, I was more used to the scene than Sister was. Sister took a dim view of the situation, but I saw hope. After all, Mother had stroked. People do recover from strokes.
She was aware, even though she couldn’t speak, and could only nod and shake her head. So our communication was limited to “20 Questions.” I quickly realized that she was very cognizant, but Husband and Sister didn’t share my views. They maintained that she was confused.
Husband wanted to let her die because he’d been through this with one wife and couldn’t go through it with another one. Sister wanted to let her die because she feared Mother would have to stay in a nursing home the rest of her life and Sister would have to pay. Both were certain they were doing what Mother wanted, since there was a living will.
But I balked at first. However, I had no authority. Only Husband did, as he was the power of attorney. I’d been praying that God would show us what to do, and after a week of no improvement, I finally acquiesced. It wouldn’t have mattered. Husband was determined and Sister backed him up. Once he made the decision to let Mother die, he told her. She shook her head “no.” He paused, then told her again. Again she shook her head “no.” I looked at him, but all he said was, “Well, she doesn’t know what she’s saying.” She was put on palliative care that night. I spent that night and the next two in the hospital. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and was determined that Mother would not suffer any pain if I could help it. Not only that, but every time I awoke, I prayed for her. I placed her in God’s arms. It was the only – and strongest – weapon I could use.
The next morning I could tell that Mother wanted to know what happened. Finally I asked her if that’s what she was asking. “Yes.” So I told her. She burst into tears and as much as she could cried out, “No, no, no!” Thus began nearly two hours of intense emotion. Mother’s sister, my younger-than-I-am aunt, walked in early on. Mother, Aunt, and I were all in tears as we realized what had been done. I told Mother that I didn’t know if the thing could be reversed, but that we would do what we could. At one point I said to her, “Mother, we’ve made a terrible mistake. Can you forgive us?” She nodded, and reached her hand up to my face to pat me. I felt like a murderer to my own mother!
But now Aunt and I started talking to the palliative care nurse, the social worker, the medical staff, for the purpose of making them aware that Mother’s mind was intact. I also kept praying that God would raise her up and let her live.
During this time the amazing thing was that Mother’s double pneumonia started clearing up, after the antibiotics hadn’t helped. Her breathing was much less labored, even though they had removed the high flow oxygen and she was only receiving “comfort” oxygen. During the two days she was left to die she began waking up more, opening her eyes more, and asking for food and water! I’d placed Mother in God’s hands, and even though all medical trappings were taken away, He was not limited!
Aunt or I grabbed a medical staff every time Mother was awake to let them witness that she was intelligible, and found a communication board with pictures and the alphabet she could point to.
Finally after two days of this, the hospital doctor came in. He spent a lot of time, checking Mother out medically, then talking with her. Finally he looked her in the eyes and asked, “Do you want to live?” She nodded. He then told us that her word now superceded her living will AND the power of attorney. He would help her live! What relief!!!
From that time on, her condition improved. Family relationships did not. Husband was actually irate that I spent so much time at the hospital. He asked the nursing staff at least twice to restrict me from visiting. They didn’t. Sister told me by phone to stay away from the hospital. It felt to me like neither of them wanted her to live, wanted to believe she was not able to make her own decision, and both Aunt and I were confused by this.
Only when I finally came home did I realize that what happened there was a spiritual battle. Satan wanted me out of the hospital! He wanted Mother to die, but God wanted her to live. Many of my and Mother’s friends were praying for her, and my presence in the hospital apparently represented those prayers and stirred up things in the spiritual realm. God won!
Mother is now in a rehab center where she is learning to regain the use of abilities that the stroke took away from her. She has strength and courage to fight her way back, and I believe God will restore her.
As I pause to think about the events of the last month, a few things have stood out. First, God raised my mother up to live even after all medical helps were taken away. It was at that point that He began her healing process. He’s not finished with her yet! Prayer is far more powerful than anything medicine can do.
Second, God’s timing is amazing. Had Sister stayed longer she would have made things miserable for me by pushing me to stay away. Aunt entered Mother’s room at just the right time to witness and be part of the heaviest conversation we’d ever had, and then be willing to fight with me to give Mother a voice.
Third, God gave us amazing hospital staff. Once Aunt and I began fighting for Mother to be heard, they caught on fast that her mind was still there. The charge nurse was very supportive and both she and the palliative care nurse spent some time with Mother. Her nurses and aides also began asking her directly what she needed, and treating her as a competent person. The wonderful hospital doctor from Ghana, Africa, and whom I’ll never forget, finally declared her competent and made the decision to help her live. God directed a team effort!
While Sister paid a hefty monetary price to be with Mother for only a few days, God knew my financial situation and provided a way for me to be there for nearly two weeks with very minimal expense. I stayed with wonderful friends who lived near the hospital and gave me transportation. It was another indication of God’s plan that I be there!
Prayer cover is powerful, but Satan violently opposes it, even working through family members for the destruction of a human being. But even while pushed by family to get out of the hospital, God gave me a focus on Mother that transcended the outside pressure.
Through all of this I have seen God’s hand, even in the peace Mother and I felt at knowing that she was right with God. If this should result in her death, we both knew we would see each other again, that this wasn’t the ultimate end. Unless God heals her instantly, she will have a long haul in the healing process, but God is giving her courage and determination to face it and work hard. And both of us have peace. A miracle in itself!
We may never in this life understand why some things happen, but someday God will make it plain to us. Meanwhile, we can rejoice now because He has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). And in His presence, joy, peace, and love are found. Always.