this month i'm celebrating motherhood with some sweet words from a few of my favorite people. today my friend laura is here, sharing a precious lesson from mothering.
Hello! I’m Laura…. Some of you might know me better as “Sugar Mama” from my blog Daily Dose of Sugar Mama. I recently transitioned out of that blog and you can now find me at Daily Dose of Laura – I don’t blog as regularly, but I still drop in from time to time and I’m frequently on Instagram (DailyDoseofLaura) sharing bits about life.
I’ve been a mom for over 16 years, when a “surprise” shook up my 16 year old self and my life changed forever. The “surprise” was my first child and an amazing blessing! My kids are 16, 14, and 10… so, yes, my husband and I have entered the “teenage” phase of parenting which includes fun stuff like adding a teen boy to our auto insurance, entertaining my sons’ girlfriends, and praying extra hard and extra long for their safety and life choices.
When Hannah asked me to write about motherhood I had all sorts of stories, bits of advice, etc running through my mind. I kept coming back to a mothering moment that taught me a great life lesson and brought me closer to my youngest child: my only daughter. It’s the unexpected moments that have taught me the most, and stood out as some of the very best memories.
Sometimes it’s the moments we least expect that teach us the most about our children. I’ve always said that my children have taught me incredible and humbling lessons. And these lessons sometimes come about in unfortunate and painful experiences.
Last February I received a phone call from my mother: my grandmother had fallen again and was in the hospital. Hundreds of miles away I was feeling helpless, holding to prayer while impatiently waiting by the phone for updates. My Grandmother still had many years left in her mind which was sharp, funny, and smart. We all knew that like her mother, she’d live to see past 100 years of age.
She was expected to go home within a few weeks.
But her health declined, and the phone calls were coming more frequently, each day bringing a new struggle with her health; including her mind. My mother described to me how my grandmother was talking to people that were not in the room, seeing objects that were invisible to others, and mumbling to herself. This wasn’t like Grandma. And to hear it broke my heart. I continued waiting by the phone; having no idea what God’s plan would be, I was still hopeful she would pull through.
Two weeks went by.
At this point we all were coming to terms with the fact that Grandma would need a live in caretaker once she was able to go home. Because she would be going home. I was confident that over spring break when my family would get to drive down from Nebraska to Oklahoma to see her, she would be back to her good ole’ self.
The Tuesday before spring break I received the phone call that I had dreaded. My mother, barely able to form the words, explained to me that Grandma would be taken off all machines that were currently hooked up to her body; which included a device that helped her breath. The doctors explained that once unhooked, she could pass within 24 hours. I didn’t hesitate. Immediately I began throwing clothes for me and my daughter in a suitcase and making arrangements for my husband to run my in-home daycare while I was away. My sons had to stay in school with tests going on all week, but I planned to take our youngest, my 9 year old daughter, with me. My mother promised that they’d wait to unhook the machines until my daughter and I could say good-bye.
I drove for 7 hours with the thoughts of my Grandma never leaving my mind. My 9 year old daughter sat in the car with me, quietly listening to music, reading, and writing. We would talk, but both of us were content to be silent in our thoughts. She understood what was about to happen, but could never understand the gravity of emotions that would be thrust on her. I wasn’t prepared either.
Arriving at the hospital, late at night, I went straight to my Grandmother’s room in the ICU. My daughter wasn’t ready, so she sat with my mother, her Grandmother. Four generations of females in the hospital, gathered during a time when strength was critical. I will not go into detail of how my grandmother looked lying in that hospital bed, because it’s her life when she was alive and vibrant that I choose to keep in my mind. I spoke to her, brushing her crippled arthritic hand and running my fingers through her unruly hair; she always had her hair fixed nicely, so I tried to restore it the best I could.
My daughter entered the room and broke down. She had tried so hard to remain strong, but I explained to her that she WAS strong. The tears were her love for her great-grandmother, and her standing by the hospital bed, with a letter in hand to read, was her strength. The four of us gathered together; 4 incredibly strong females. I believed my grandmother knew of our presence; the device monitoring her brain activity peaked when I spoke to her.
The machines were unplugged. And the 24 hours that the doctors said she would not surpass turned into 6 days. We took turns day and night waiting by her bedside; talking with her, reading to her, praying, crying, and doing whatever we could to get through the hours. Every time we left her hospital room we knew it could be the last time. Saying “good-bye” getting more and more difficult every time. My daughter sat in the room and listened to her Great-Grandma breath with the “death gurgle”; the sound someone makes as their lungs are filling with fluid. It marks that death is very near. It’s a terrible sound, and one I wished she never had to hear, but she chose to stay and spent her time learning to knit with her grandma, my mother. She helped in the room by cleaning up unused items, getting drinks and snacks for us, and occasionally I would catch her taking quick glimpses at her great-grandmother. She liked telling funny stories about great-grandma, with no need to dwell on the imminent death.
Three mothers in that small room.
It was an experience as a mother that I didn’t plan. It wasn’t the trip to Disney World, the camping trip to Colorado, the planned Girl Day of shopping and lunch that taught me the most about my daughter; it was sitting in a hospital room with a dying grandmother. It was watching my mother as she watched her mother die. It was watching my daughter be strong, independent, brave, loving, helpful, and so patient. Never once did she complain in all of the hours spent sitting and waiting and driving.
I knew in that moment that my daughter would find her way in this world and be just fine. She has taught me how to care for others in a way that didn’t come naturally to me, and that tears aren’t a sign of weakness, but can be the showings of a truly courageous woman.