Good-Bye Mom!

October 27, 2011

I didn’t make it to my mother’s bedside in time to say good-bye the night she died.  I’d told my sister to tell her  I was on my way, but she didn’t need to wait for me … a decision I regretted once I finally arrived at the hospital and found she’d actually done just that.

As it turned out, Mom had taken her final flight at about the same time my plane was landing in Ohio that dreary, October evening.

Even though we knew her disease was terminal, we didn’t expect her to pass when, or in the manner she chose to go.  And well, the truth is, no matter how prepared you think you are, you’re never really prepared to lose your mother.

On the long ride from the airport to the hospital, I reminded myself of how sick Mom looked just the day before when I left her.  Even as sick as she was,I was optimistic that I’d be seeing her again in less than a month. Otherwise, I never would have left.  I kissed her on the forehead and told her I’d be back at Thanksgiving.  She smiled her million dollar smile and told me to have a safe trip.

I left her room and started down the cold corridor to the lobby, but something made me turn around and go back one more time.  Mom was sitting propped up in her bed, staring out the window at the courtyard beyond.

“Mom!”  I called to her from the doorway, “I love you!”

She turned to smile at me again, and said, “I love you too.”

I say I had no idea, but something in me had to have known it would be the last time I’d  see her, because I cried like a baby for an hour after I left. Less than 12 hours after my arrival back home in Georgia that night, I got “the call” from my sister.  Mom had taken a sudden turn for the worse and I needed to head back to Ohio as soon as I was able.

So I caught the first flight available out of Atlanta …

I was shocked by how awful Mom looked when I finally found my way to her hospital room.  My first thought was that she wouldn’t have wanted us to see her that way. I know from my experience in the medical field that the hospital staff normally “dresses” deceased patients for their families.  They disconnect IV’s and tubes, brush their hair,smooth the covers around them,  and do whatever else they can to make them look as if they’re only sleeping.

None of that had been done for my mother.  She looked terrible.  My sister explained that the nursing unit had been especially busy that night and they’d not had time to prepare Mom’s body for her family to see.

That horrible image of her haunted me constantly in the  weeks that followed. Every time I closed my eyes to sleep at night, I’d see her lying on her death-bed, looking as if she were in anguish. It was so bad, I found myself not wanting to think about her at all.

I couldn’t stand it.

I begged God to wipe that image from my mind.

After about a month of restless nights and those terrible haunting images, I had a wonderful dream.  In that dream, I was looking out the window and I saw my mother … not as I’d ever known her, but as a young, beautiful, healthy woman standing in a lush, green, field.  I excitedly pecked on the window in an attempt to get her attention.

It took her a moment to acknowledge me, but she finally turned and looked my way As her eyes met mine, her face lit up with that beautiful trademark smile of hers.

And she waved at me …

Then turned and walked away, disappearing into the distance.

Never again have I been tormented by the awful image of my mother as she looked on her death bed.  Rarely, do I even remember her as she was in the latter years of her life.  The image that is now permanently engraved in my memory is her  as I know she truly is for eternity..  young, healthy, vibrant, smiling, happy, beautiful … FREE!

I thank God for the gift of allowing me to see my mother one more time.  I am blessed, knowing that not only was I able to say my proper good-bye to her, but that He also allowed her to say her last good-bye to me.

I love you, Mom … and I’ll see you, on the other side!














In memory of Juanita Fairchild Sheets

9/2/1925 – 10/27/20o4

Forever in the presence of her Lord!


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