When someone you love is in a life or death situation, your life stops. Everything stops. Simultaneously, the world around you spins faster than a tornado. Time is slow, like you’re swimming through the thickest, most all consuming mire. Yet, it’s racing faster than you’ve ever experienced and you can’t quite catch hold of anything around you. If you have experienced something similar, you understand this confusing dynamic.
If you almost lost someone who your heart beats for, let’s first stop, before you read further, and praise our glorious God. You almost lost that person. And while the trauma of experiencing such an event takes time to recover from, the miracle of that person still walking this earth as we speak, that is a true act of God. I firmly believe that God’s hand is grasping each and every encounter we experience here on earth. Sometimes we see that clearly, and other times it feels as if He isn’t here at all. I’ve learned that His plan is infinitely better than ours. And I learned that through the modeling of my mother.
My mother is my best friend. She is slow to anger, abounding in love. She is peace, gentleness, patience, and stability. She is beautifully broken and gracefully redeemed. She has permitted God the opportunity of ransoming her soul completely, changing her life fully, and then influencing the lives of those around her in a similar manner. My mother is everything I aim to be. She is who I strive to become. She is the inspiration that guides me every day; the muse that ignites my desire to better myself as a woman of God.
On March 14, 2019 my mother had a TIA, a Transient Ischemic Attack. This is an event that mimics stroke-like symptoms. It does not cause brain damage, but is a blaring alert that a stroke is on the horizon if medical attention is not sought immediately. Following the TIA, my mother had plenty of invasive tests performed in the hospital. She was poked, prodded, questioned, and scanned. Thankfully, each of these tests revealed that she was indeed, healthy. The TIA was unexplained and she was set to come home the following morning after one night of observation.
The next morning, things changed. Her words would not form; her lips would not articulate her thoughts. Flustered, infuriated, and confused, she looked at the doctor who held new test results in hand. A scan of her brain revealed a blood clot blocking her carotid artery. Upon her inability to speak, paired with the new-found results of the scan, they decided to take drastic action. She was to be airlifted to a more equipped hospital where emergency brain surgery would be performed. While she still felt weak and confused, her words began to come back to her. At this time I, not knowing any of this was happening, called her after my half day of teaching. “Hey mama! How are you doing? Want me to come visit or are they sending you home soon?” She responded in a weary voice, “Honey, they are going to take me for some emergency surgery. It will be okay. Call your daddy, okay? I love you.”
This is when life speeds up and slows down all at once. After briefly speaking with my dad, it was decided I would meet him at the hospital where mom’s surgery would be performed. Now, while God’s hand was undoubtedly all over this entire event, His presence was overwhelming in the hours to come. By the time my mother was brought to the University of Pennsylvania, her speech returned along with her strength. It made no sense. But she was…okay. After further review by the team of neurologists on the stroke floor of the ICU, they decided against the emergency brain surgery, as the placement of the blood clot made the surgery incredibly dangerous, the risk for paralysis and loss of speech too high for comfort. They decided to “challenge” her brain. Should she stroke again, the surgery would be performed. Should she remain stable, they would discuss further options and treatments.
I arrived at the hospital, of course, in a complete panic. I rushed to my moms side, eyes wide and mouth probably wider. She smiled at me. She LAUGHED at me! “Calm down, honey. I’m fine! Look! I’m feeling so much better!” The woman who just laid on a stretcher in a helicopter intended to bring her to the emergency brain surgery she required, was telling ME to calm down. Consoling me. Comforting me. That’s mom.
The next 48 hours, we held our breath. Well, we all held our breath, but mom. Mom didn’t. She explained the peace she was feeling. She knew God had a plan, and she trusted that. Be it His plan entailed a world with her in it for years to come, or her arrival in heaven, she had peace. That’s mom.
I held it together quite well all day. I’m a mama myself after all, and while it FEELS like the world has to stop when these things happen, it simply doesn’t. I still had my babies to care for, love, feed, and tend to. I did just that. I cared for my family the best I could amidst the emotional roller coaster my soul was riding. I hid the emotions and uncertainty for the sake of my girls, ensuring that their little worlds were as minimally affected as possible. I put them to sleep that night with extra kisses and longer hugs. And then I fell apart.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the words I spoke in the shower that night. For some reason, that shower was my safe space. Can you relate? It’s that one place where you can just fold into yourself and break. And goodness did I break. Over and over again I cried out to God saying, “We need her here more than You need her. We need her here. We need her here. I need her here. Don’t take her from us.” I imagined a life without her. I imagined life without her peace, gentleness, grace, and empathetic soul. It crippled me. I could not lose my best friend.
I imagine that in that time of distress God was looking down on me, His heart heavy feeling the pain of my family. I imagine that in that time He thought, “Child, trust me.” How frustrating it must be for our almighty King to look down at so many of His children walking lives without their full trust in Him.
My mom is here. She is well. She is getting stronger every single day. She is laughing, loving, praying, and praising. She is the embodiment of a miracle; the sweet reminder of God’s glory.
As I write, I’m reminded that there are many women reading this who have lost their mother’s; their best friend. And mama, if that is you, I love you. My heart aches for you. It aches and breaks and sinks. I can imagine your anger, your rage. Why would God choose to spare my mom and not yours? I wish I had that answer. And I wish, almost as much as you do, that she could be brought back to you. I don’t have answers. But I do know our God. I know that when pain sends waves through our souls, He can use it. He can use it to strengthen us, shape us, mold us, empower us, and radically change our lives.
If you have turned from God as a result of the trauma you have experienced through loss, I beg you to slowly invite Him back into your life. Allow Him to seal the cracks of your soul; fill the holes left in your heart. Allow Him to fill you, complete you, embrace you. Allow yourself to break, solely for the purpose of being rebuilt with a foundation made on the solid rock of our God.
My life will never be the same after that day. I will never end a day without praising God for saving my mother’s life. I refuse to take for granted the privilege of having my mother here on this earth with me. My girls will know the beautiful soul my mother is. They will live their lives blessed to be loved and influenced by a women they will one day want to become; just as I have.
Here comes the hardest part to write. That blood clot in my mother’s brain remains. While her team of neurologists are confident that with a cocktail of medication, she will be able to live a long life, the risk remains. The possibility of a life-threatening stroke, or life-altering brain surgery is something she will live with for the rest of her life. It’s something we all will live with. Here come the tears….but, I have to type it, say it, own it: I trust my God with whatever His plan is for my mama. While I have begged and pleaded with him for that plan to involve my sweet mama living for decades to come, I have to trust that His plan, regardless of what that looks like, is best. That is hard. It’s heavy. It takes a level of trust I have never had to have. But if my mom has taught me one thing, it’s to trust in Him. No matter what. Trust him when the sun is shining and when the storms are raging so powerfully that your only choice is to grasp something that can not be shaken. That’s our God.
My prayer for anyone reading this is that they allow God to hold them in their deepest, darkest seasons of life. I pray that you allow God to take hold of your soul in a way that you’ve never experienced. I pray that God consumes you like a fire; He ransoms your life and completely breaks you in order to be remade in His name. Permit Him. It’s okay to break. He can rebuild you in His love; a love so pure it is indescribable. If we allow Him, God can change our lives.