The disturbing call came while I was at work on that cold, clear, sunny Saturday afternoon. “Your mother has been in a bad car accident, is comatose, suffering from severe head injuries, and her survival is uncertain.” My safe little world came crashing down around me. These are not the words an 18-year old daughter ever hopes to hear, even if your rancorous relationship is far from ideal. Mothers are supposed to be there for loving guidance, needed counsel and profound wisdom. They should fearlessly maneuver you through the frightening obstacles of serious illness and give their unwavering assurance that things will turn out just fine. In shock and disbelief, I called my dad who was also at work and we raced up the beach heading north into Virginia for the two-hour ride to the hospital. This life-altering occurrence affected me in several ways; I grieved, I grew up, and learned to rely on a power greater than myself.
Initially I experienced all the normal stages of grief—the denial, the anger, and finally acceptance. The intense grief was overwhelming, and the sense of loss unbearable. Then the anger and outrage reared its ugly head. How dare this have happened to my mother? How could that bus have obliviously been unaware of their presence and plowed right into them? Why couldn’t she have been wearing her protective seatbelt like my sister? I thought the lump in my throat would never dissolve. She remained comatose for a month and when she slowly emerged from her dreamlike cocoon, she was severely brain-damaged needing skilled, professional care.
After the grieving, anger, and passage of time, I got my act together. Before the accident, had you looked up "rebellious" in the dictionary, you would have seen my picture. But this 18-year old rebel was forced to grow up, face reality, and see life in a new, harsh light. I was no longer the carefree teenager just a few months out of graduation. I was no longer the defiant firstborn who placed her self-centered needs ahead of all others. I no longer champed at the bit to leave home and be out on my own. I quit my job to take care of things and my sister returned to high school. My family needed cohesiveness and we pulled together to return to a semblance of normalcy. Probably the most profound change was drawing closer to God. I had prayed off and on before, but it now became a regular daily habit. I poured my heart out to my heavenly Father, begging him to make her well again. I tried to bargain and made a lot of promises, and while my prayers weren’t answered as I hoped, His loving care and critical comfort sustained me through this dark period so long ago.
Life has thrown a lot of obstacles in my path since that December day and I’ve had to learn lessons without an experienced maternal presence. She languished in a distant nursing home for about a year before pneumonia ended her existence. She missed the good and bad times in my life; however, all was not lost. Positive changes occurred as I grew as a person and I gained a close relationship with the best friend a mortal could ever have: our loving heavenly Father. Out of the broken shards of my shattered life rose a deep, abiding, and forever renewing living faith that has continued to console and comfort through these past decades. I love you, mom.