Thank you Jesus. Not on my own volition, I saw my mother today. Last Thursday, she once again tried to take her own life.
I don’t venture far from home by myself. I never know when vertigo will rear its ugly head. Today I did.
My husband offered to drive me. My destination was about two and half hours from our house. I asked him to let me do it by myself. I needed the alone time to pray and go over what I needed to say. I knew I would need time on the way back to cry. He understood.
As I started my journey, I listened to AM Radio Talk Show “Czar” Michael Berry, hoping that I would get the signal for a good while. I had him with me as far as Buffalo. It was not a mistake that I was listening when a particular caller started talking. The story was heart wrenching but his advice is exactly what I needed to hear. Although not physically abused or molested, the anguish that my mothers mental illness has caused was harmful to my soul. The caller mentioned that you have to confront your abuser and take your power back. Again not the same circumstances but those words rang true.
A two and a half hour trip wound up taking me three and a half hours. I pulled over often doing everything in my power to ward off the vertigo. At one point, I got out of the car and walked into a convenient store. The floor and walls started spinning. All I could think was that I was going to have to call Stuart and tell him that I had failed. That I needed him to come get me. I stopped and prayed. I asked God to take the vertigo away. I had business to take care of. He knew that and I needed him to intervene. He did.
I made a few more pitstops and arrived at UT Tyler Medical Center. I loathe parking garages but I had no choice, I found my spot. I parked. I sat.
My heart was in my throat. My hands were shaking. I wanted to put my car in reverse and head back to the safety of my home. Back to Stuart. I did not.
I made note of where I was parked, even taking a picture or two of the surroundings. I get lost easier than most. Directionally challenged to say the least.
As I neared the entrance, my chest started to tighten up. I wanted to turn around and run to my car. I did not.
The minute I stepped through doors, my body started reacting to the fear that was in my heart. My lips started tingling. My hands started shaking. My chest started tightening with every step. The elevator ride to the third floor seemed like an eternity. I tried to smile to the four other people in the elevator with me. I couldn’t make small talk but I could at least give them a smile. I did.
The elevator stopped and I stepped out onto the third floor. The Trauma ICU floor.
I had to answer questions and give a security code due to the “nature of the situation.” A very business like nurse told me what room my mother was in. I wanted her to look at me and see the fear and hurt in my eyes and say “it’s going to be ok.” She did not.
I walked toward her room.
The door was open but the curtain was pulled. I could hear voices. I stood outside the door for a few seconds gathering my thoughts. The nurse told me I could come on in. I did not.
I stepped into the room and stood stock still three feet from my mother separated only by a pinstripped curtain. This stock still stance lasted a good fifteen minutes. My feet felt like they were in cement. I could not move.
After fifteen minutes of standing there, I turned around and walked back towards the elevators. I was weak. I couldn’t make myself walk to the other side of that curtain.
I stopped in front of the elevators and prayed. I thanked God for getting me this far and explained to Him I needed him to give me the strength to stay. He did.
I slowly walked back to her room. The curtain was still drawn. I stepped around the curtain. My strength wasn’t self derived, I assure you.
There in the bed, I saw a shell of the woman I once knew. I heard her voice while I was standing stuck in my nonexistent cement for those fifteen minutes. Simple yes or no answers when prompted by the nurses. Weak in nature, childlike if you will.
With empty eyes she said “hello?” It sounded more like a question than a salutation. She looked confused so I asked her if she knew who I was. She said “no.” I wasn’t expecting that. I hadn’t changed that much in two years.
I said, “I’m Julie.” She questioned, “My Julie? My Julie? My Julie?” “Yes, momma.” A single tear ran down her cheek.
I felt uneasy. We had mandated company due to the “nature of the situation.” She was on suicide watch. I realized what I needed to say would have to be uttered in front of a complete stranger. It had to be awkward for the young lady that was assigned to her room. She could only have been 20 at the most.
I began to cry. But I started my laundry list of things that I needed to get off my chest.
First I asked her if she knew why she was in the hospital. “Yes, someone did this to me.” “No momma. You did this to yourself. You took two full bottles of medication in an attempt to take your life again.” “No, I didn’t.” “Yes momma, you did.”
I proceeded to tell her how she was found. Who found her. And about the chest compressions that had to be performed to revive her. “Well, that’s not right.”
“Momma, I need you to know that I forgive you. Not for you but for me. It breaks my heart that you hurt and it isn’t fair to you. But as unfair as your illness is to you, it is that much unfair to me and Stacy. We have gone through our adult life not being able to depend on you. We needed you.” In a very weak voice she said, “I’m sorry.” “Momma, what are you sorry for?” “I don’t know.”
“Momma, your mother was a horrible woman and I am so sorry. Why didn’t you fight everyday to be everything for your daughters that she wasn’t for you? Why weren’t we enough?” In a child like voice she replied, “I don’t know.”
“What demons are you dealing with? What is it that makes you want to take your own life?” “I didn’t know that I wasn’t happy.” “Momma, you had to know.”
“Have you ever forgiven Mamaw?” “I don’t think about her anymore.” “Are you still angry at daddy?” No response.
“You have to take your medication.” She yelled, “I have been taking my medicine!” “No momma, you haven’t. Cheryl found your prescriptions for August still in the bag, stapled shut.” “No, that isn’t true!”
“Momma, are you saved? I thought you were.” “Yes.” “Where is your joy? Do you ask God to help you? ” “Not anymore.” “Momma, have you given up?” “Yes?” “Why? I need you to tell me.” “I just don’t know.”
“Momma, do you hear me when I say I forgive you?” “Yes, thank you.”
As she said “yes thank you” the room started spinning. I’m sure my sobs were the culprit. I sat down and prayed. After a few minutes I moved the chair next to her bed, rested my head on the bed rail and held her hand. We sat in silence.
I asked her if she wanted some mashed potatoes. I fed her.
I could tell that she was getting sleepy. I said all that I needed to say. I, however, didn’t hear what I needed. She wasn’t capable. She was just a shell of the mother I once knew.
I asked her if she wanted to lay her bed back. “Yes.” She had a towel around her neck acting as a bib. I took it off. I hadn’t touched my mother in years. I stroked her hair in an attempt to lay it down. She used to take such pride in her appearance. She didn’t anymore.
With shaking hands I straightened her gown. Her back was sweaty. I asked if she was hot. She didn’t answer.
She closed her eyes and I just looked at her. Her face, puffy. Her hands bruised. I wanted to pick her up and hold her in my lap like a child. I held her hand. I cried.
I knew that she was weary. I knew that she was tired. It was time for me to go.
Before she got too comfortable and fell asleep I squeezed her hand and said “Momma, I’m going to go now.” She yawned. “Ok, thanks for coming.” “Yes mam, I’ll be checking on you soon. Momma, I love you and I’m so sorry I can’t fix you.” “Julie, can I have a hug?” “Yes mam.” I hugged her frail, sweaty body, kissed her forehead, turned around and walked away.
Thank you Jesus. Not on my own volition I saw my mother today. Last Thursday, she once again tried to take her own life.
If you are thinking about taking your own life, I beg you, please, call the National Suicide Hotline. 1-800-273-8255