This post is dedicated to my mom. A great loss that taught me about God’s love…
Patricia Elizabeth Rodman-Edwards
Born June 21, 1945 – Died November 4, 1995
My mom absolutely loved Halloween. She enjoyed seeing the little kids in their costumes, giving out the candy…everything that had to do with Halloween. She didn’t dress up every year, but when she did she gave it her all. I’ll never forget the year that she dressed up really scary when I was in high school. It wasn’t something that she normally did and I so wish I had a picture of her. She wore one of her old gowns that she wore on New’s Year’s Eve from back in the day. It was long and silver. She teased her hair and wore dark eye makeup. Then she put on really red lipstick and made it so that it looked like she had blood dripping down her chin. She turned all the lights off in the house. My sister and I were the look-outs because she didn’t want to scare the little kids. But when one of the big kids came to the door…you know the ones that really shouldn’t be trick or treating any more…she would be the one to answer the door. We had a storm door so we left our main door open. The bigger kids would knock on the door and there my mom would come – around the corner of our living room with a votive candle lit and held under her chin that made her whole face glow. The kids would jump and take a few steps back…it was so much fun! One kid actually jumped over the railing of our porch and ran away. Good times!
My mom was a secretary for an executive and had to wear a suit to work every day. The only exception was Halloween. Every year she would carefully plan her costume. I think she really enjoyed being able to show a different side of herself and her last Halloween it was a bit of a wild side. She decided she was going to dress up like a “biker chick”. I think she really got a kick out of it because everyone at work knew she was a Sunday school teacher and she knew they would never expect it from her. She got my sister to spike her hair, she wore my old leather jacket, she got some fake tattoos and put them on her arms…she was really done up. The week before Halloween she drove in her car with a hand-held tape recorder and would record motorcycles on the road as she drove by them. The funniest part was her “motorcycle” was Kyle’s big wheel. It had a seat with a compartment where she put the tape recorder and it played motorcycle sounds while she rode it around the office. This picture doesn’t do the costume justice, but you can certainly see the joy on her face. She passed away four days later.
It was a Friday night. The kids and I went to my parents house like we did a lot of weekends. This particular weekend my parents were going to watch the kids for us because we were getting new carpet installed the next day. It was also my chance to show my mom the costumes the kids wore that year. I don’t like Halloween, but since my mom enjoyed it so much I would dress the kids in costumes for her. It was the first year that I didn’t make it over on Halloween night (we lived an hour away and for some reason I didn’t make it over that year). Mike was still at work, but we were all hungry so my dad went out to get us dinner. While he was gone, my mom and I played with the kids. Before my dad got back with the food, my mom complained that she was getting a headache. That wasn’t unusual…she got headaches a lot. But I could tell this one was really bad. She took some medicine and I made her lay down on the sofa (it was always hard to drag her away from the kids). When my dad got home with our dinner, we both knew that this was not her typical headache. He decided that he was going to take her to the hospital (this wasn’t the first time she went to the hospital with a bad headache, but it had been a long time). He was helping with her shoes, but it quickly became clear that she was in distress. I ran for the phone and dialed 911. I talked to the operator and they told us what to do and that they were sending help. I quickly went and fixed the kids plates for dinner to try to keep them occupied and out of the way. Kyle had just turned 3 and McKensie was 22 months old. Just as I finished getting them settled, my mom lost consciousness. I sent my sister outside to flag down the emergency vehicles since my parents lived on a flagged lot and it was hard to find… especially at night. The paramedics came and she and my dad were off to the hospital. I waited for Mike to get home to my parents house, called my cousin to come and sit with the kids, and then we were off to the hospital.
When we got there, they were still running tests so we had no idea what was happening. I don’t remember how long it took before they came out, but it seemed like a lifetime. The doctor said that she either had a catastrophic stroke or a brain aneurysm. Either way it didn’t look good and if there was any family that would like to see her…we should call them in tonight. Wait…what do you mean…call the family in? That usually means the person isn’t going to make it. That can’t be what he means….right? But it turned out that her brain had a lot of blood around it and if she did survive she would probably be a vegetable. How do you make that phone call?? She had 3 sisters, and 2 brothers. I decided to call her middle sister because they were pretty close at the time. I’ll never forget my aunt’s reaction. She said “get out of here” like I was kidding. I know she knew I would never kid about something like this, but I also knew she was in shock just like me. I asked if she would mind calling the others. About an hour later, the whole family was there saying their goodbyes. My grandfather wasn’t quite grasping what was happening and he kept asking us why the doctors weren’t helping her. It was heart breaking. I was still holding out hope that somehow the doctor was wrong. Somehow she was going to make it. She was only 50 years old…that was too young. What was I going to tell the kids?
We took turns going in to see her…a few of us at a time. While in the waiting room with everyone, I felt like God was telling me I needed to tell her it was ok to go. Have you ever had an argument with God in your head? Well I was having one heck of an argument. “I can’t tell her that…I don’t really mean it. She’s too young. I’m not ready to not have a mom. My kids need their Mom Mom.” But He was very persistent. “You have to tell her it’s ok to go.” “Well how am I supposed to do that with all these people here?” “Spend the night” He prompted. So, as everyone was getting ready to leave…I have no idea what time it was…I know it was late. I told Mike and my dad that I was going to stay with her. I don’t remember if they fought me on that, but if they did I won and stayed.
I remember sitting with her and praying. There were a few times that I would have to leave the room so the nurses could work on her. I would go out in the waiting room. I was the only one there and nurse after nurse would come out and talk to me. “What happened?” they would ask. And as I explained to them what happened tears would fill their eyes. I heard a lot of “she is so pretty”and “my mom is older…I can’t imagine losing her like this.” I think my mom was a different patient for them because she hadn’t been sick, she wasn’t in an accident, she looked perfectly fine…like she was asleep. But the time came to accomplish what God had asked me to do. I really didn’t understand why He wanted me to do it. He’s God…He can take her any time He wants right? So, I simply said the following:
“Mom we all love you. You mean the world to us. But if you see Jesus…go to him. We will miss you terribly, but we will be ok. The doctors are saying that you aren’t going to be the same. And I know that if you can’t play with Kyle and McKensie the way you want to it will be hell on Earth for you. I will take good care of them. We will all see you again. It’s ok to stay with Him mom. We will understand.”
And that was it. I prayed over her the rest of the night…what was left of it, and in the morning my dad and Mike came to the hospital. Mike took me to my parent’s house and my dad stayed at the hospital. I took a shower and got something to eat…checked in on the kids who were there at my parent’s house with relatives and then went back to the hospital. When we got there, my mom was gone.
Next came the funeral arrangements. I went with my dad to the funeral home. As we were leaving, Kyle started to cry hysterically. When I asked him what was wrong, he asked me not to go with Poppy. Mom Mom went with Poppy and didn’t come home. He was afraid that would happen to me. Broke my heart. My dad couldn’t even remember the names of my moms siblings he was in such shock. People he had known most of his life.
Then came the viewings. Two days and nights with a full house each time. And then the funeral. I remember the panic of that day…knowing that I would never see my mom’s physical body ever again. Seeing her just made me feel better…like somehow she wasn’t gone. But this day was really the end. I remember sitting in the front row as the pastor was speaking during the service. I didn’t know what it was then, but now I know that I was in the middle of an anxiety attack. I felt like I was going to go crazy. I just wanted to jump up and scream, “I can’t do this!” The term “heart-break” is a good one because that is exactly what I felt like was happening to me. I could feel the pain in my chest. I really didn’t think I could sit there through the service. I started praying…chanting in my head, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” I asked God to please help me and then I told Him that I couldn’t do it on my own. If I was to sit there, He was going to have to do something. And He did. At that precise moment, I felt like all of the pain and anxiety was literally being sucked out of my chest. It was such a powerful feeling that I looked down to see if I could see anything. I don’t know what I was expecting to see, but it was such a weird feeling that I just wondered what was happening. And then it stopped, and all the pain and anxiety were gone. I had such an amazing feeling of peace and comfort, and I was able to sit through the service and even laugh at some of the funny stories that were told about my mom. I had always believed in God, and I was about 4 years into understanding that I could have a personal relationship with Him. But on that day I knew for sure that He was real and that He loved me, and that if you let Him…He is there to help you. A huge blessing among a huge tragedy.
The following year on Halloween I dressed the kids up as Mickey and Minnie…for my mom.
Shortly after we got to the hospital, one of the nurses brought this out to us. I had to laugh wondering what they must have been thinking. When my mom was playing with the kids, Kyle was taking magnets and putting them in the neck of her shirt and laughing as they came tumbling out the bottom of her shirt. This was in her bra when she got to the hospital (smile). I guess this little magnet got stuck on the way down. I still have it on my refrigerator all these years later.
When I hear that someone has lost a parent, it breaks my heart. I truly feel for them. I guess you could say it’s one of my life’s passions to reach out to people with that kind of loss. If you’ve lost a parent, and don’t have anyone to share your grief with, I would love to chat with you about that. You can reach me via the contact section of my blog. Here is a song that helped me along the way. I will leave you with this last thought:
Hug your loved ones. Tell them that you love them…because love matters.