The call came from my oldest sister, it was the night before Easter. My brother had found our Mom on the floor with what appeared to be symptoms of a stroke. She was ambulanced into the hospital and there was no real news yet. I headed to the hospital as soon as I could, knowing my kids would wake early for the Easter baskets I had yet to finish. Why do I leave things to the last minute, now I will need to stop at a store and put them together after the hospital. My life is often unpredictable, Teale often throws curves into the plans and I am often juggling to make things work out. There was the night at the hotel in Hershey years ago. We were in the hotel pool and it was the night before Easter. I had not gotten the kids Easter basket stuff then either, but this time was because we were traveling. Beau still believed in the Easter bunny so I needed to be careful about what he saw. Anyway, as I got out of the pool to go shop for the stuff to fill their baskets, Teale got out also. The plan was that I was going to go shopping alone while the kids were happy in the pool with Mark. Teale slipped as she walked on the pool deck, I'm not sure if she was just going to jump back in or was coming to see me as I was leaving? I must have turned away because next thing I knew she was on the ground, her head bleeding. Teale has cerebral palsy from a stroke at birth, her right arm practically useless, she couldn't break her fall and hit the pool deck hard. Next thing I know Mark and Teale are being ambulanced to the nearest hospital while I stay with Beau and Gwenn. Easter baskets still need filling and now I am unsure how I will get that done. There was a certain "deja vu" to the night my sister called with the news of my Mom. Hadn't I almost messed up Easter before? Hadn't I learned anything from that? But seriously, who predicts this stuff, my Mom had a stroke? It seemed just crazy as I drove to the hospital to find out more. I was sure she would be ok, she was only 74 years old, her Mom, my favorite grandparent had died at 92 years old. When I got there, an option was being presented to us, a new procedure for stroke victims that had not gotten medical treatment within a certain amount of time. My Mom fit this, my brother had been living with her, but as luck would have it, my Mom had tree guys at her house the day of the stroke. It was loud and my brother had been helping the guys. He wasn't sure where my Mom was, thinking they were missing each other amongst the noise and many levels of my Mom's lake front home. She had apparently been looking through the picture window, watching the guys work on her huge oak tree when the stroke took her over and she fell, behind the couch, only her feet sticking out. My brother started getting worried about where she was and searched, but between the chainsaw noise and the fact Mom had fallen behind the couch, it took him a while to find her. The hospital was a half hour away, so she lost time there also and so this "new" procedure was our best hope. Strangely it had been featured on ER the TV show just a week or so earlier. The "corkscrew" would be threaded through an artery in her leg up to her brain to break the clot and remove it. The MERCI Retrieval System was relatively new at the hospital my Mom was at, the doctors saw this as a long shot, but our only hope, so we agreed to their doing it. We then waited, excruciating was the wait, so when three "white coats" came for us I was relieved, until they started talking. The device went in fine, they broke and grabbed the clots, there had been three, but, why is there always that "but?" When they started the retraction part of the procedure the device broke and a part of it was still in her brain. It had been a long shot, they didn't see the piece in her brain as causing more harm, it just didn't give her the optimum situation to possibly have a full recovery. Only time would tell what would happen next. We were able to see her and I think she looked at me before I went home for the night. I stopped at an all night store to buy fillers for the kids baskets and went home to Mark asleep. We had talked on the phone as I left the hospital, me telling him I was going to stop at a store, as there was nothing more to do, but wait and see. After filling baskets and hiding them I caught a couple of hours sleep, waking to excited kids early would be tough. We somehow made it through the basket excitement and got us all to church, where I asked for prayers for my Mom. After brunch with my sister and her family several of us went to see Mom at the hospital. She was so fragile looking, the doctors had more information about her stroke by then and ironically it appeared her stroke was very similar to the one my daughter had had at birth. My daughter had much brain damage from her stroke and her recovery had been much better than expected, but in an adult the recovery would be much more difficult. By Tuesday my sister who lived out of town was here, by Wednesday we were meeting with doctors to discuss options for Mom. It was more and more apparent we were losing Mom and this was not the life she would want. I am the youngest of five, the "surprise child," five years younger than my next sibling. I have three sisters and one brother, so it also was a disappointment when I wasn't a boy. I would consider my life pretty stable compared to much about my siblings though, as in all families there is much "stuff!" We have had many tough times in our relationships with each other, but when it came to what was best for Mom, we all agreed wholeheartedly, she would want to be let go. So everything would be removed and she would be put in hospice. On Friday when I went to see her in hospice she looked the best she had all week, her color was good and she finally looked at peace. I had Teale with me, as I figured she would not be "bothered" by what she saw. I gave Teale my phone to occupy her while I talked to nurses, my sister and my niece. Months later I would discover a video Teale, only seven and severely challenged took of my Mom on what would be my Mom's second to last day of life. Saturday morning we all met to discuss Mom, her settling of affairs, even her obituary. She was just rooms away, still alive, but this was the best time to meet and there was much to discuss among five head strong siblings. Mark was shocked at how bad my Mom looked only a night after I had raved about how at peace she looked when I had visited with Teale. The end was near, we just didn't realize how near. The signs are universal, the hospice nurses explain things well, talking about all the physical signs that occur when death is near. Mark and I need a break from all the sadness and take the kids swimming at the YMCA after leaving the hospice, but when we get out of the pool we had missed many calls. All my siblings trying to reach me, as the nurses said the end was near. We quickly arranged care for our kids, Mark insisting on missing his first gig with a band he used to play with and was scheduled to play with that night. I was grateful for his insight, I thought I could "do this" alone and had told him to go to the gig and come to the hospice after. If he had he would not have been there when my Mom passed. We were just there a few hours when she took what seemed to be her last breath, but much to my sister and my surprise, she started breathing again. Within the next hour though, she really took her last breath, leaving behind five "kids" and seven grandchildren. As she left us, Mark who had lost his Dad at the very young age of two, said to my Mom "Say hi to my Dad for me." Every time I even think about that moment, tears fill my eyes. She was gone, one week to the hour of when I first went to see her at the hospital, she was gone. Easter will never be the same for me, she must have had a sixth sense about what was to come. She had brought over Easter Baskets for my kids to my house just two days before Easter. Why she did that, I did not understand at the time, as she was to be at my house for brunch on Easter Sunday. She never made it to brunch, she left this world the same way my daughter came into the world. A severe stroke took her from me, leaving me to ponder the irony of losing the person who supported my daughter Teale and our life with her the most.
P.S. Every year I put together Easter Baskets with the help of donations from friends and family to give to people who might not otherwise receive an Easter Basket. My Mom's last action to me, caries on her memory.