Her Christmas gift list was made, and she had picked out her nephew’s anniversary card to mail after the first of the year. She had a stack of stamps ready to go, envelopes addressed and boxes set aside for wrapping. She had her home health care nurse stopping by Thursday morning and was looking forward to a hair appointment set for Friday.
But God had other plans for my mom. He called her home Wednesday, December 5, and, in doing so, made her whole and well once more.
My mother had been sick for years; about 20 years in fact. It all started with a ruptured appendix in 1993, physical damage that was exacerbated by her long time physician’s misdiagnosis of what was happening, and the fact it was about eight hours before someone caught the mistake and they were finally able to open her up. It was a good six months before she was able to work and take care of herself again. (Ironically the doctor in question died himself not too long after this happened.)
Years later the scar tissue from that event resulted in an intestinal blockage that required immediate emergency surgery to save her life, and about a month in ICU to recover. Mom would have related ailments that would keep her going back to the hospital for years, with recovery always complicated and compromised by the 50-plus-year smoking habit that destroyed her body’s natural ability to heal.
Last summer, Mom fell at home, breaking her jaw and doing extensive damage to her mouth that required surgery to repair. Following that surgery and the usual complicated recovery period, she was not the same. Her short-term memory was practically non-existent, depending on what day it was, and for the first time in her life we were seeing improvements in her physical well being, outpacing her comprehension and cognitive abilities. While her medical team was not able to give us a concrete answer for her condition, it was clear that oxygen depravation due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was likely the culprit.
After weeks in the hospital, she was moved to nursing home for physical rehabilitation, to build up her strength and coordination. No doubt the rigorous therapeutic routine and aggressive nutrition plan put her on the path to regain her physical abilities, but her mind was much slower coming around. She would have flashes of her wonderful personality that would shine through clouds of confusion and anger, but often she struggled and was lost in frustration.
This was not a good time for me and Mom.
As her only adult son living close, dealing with all of her medical issues and “plans of action” came down to me. Her cherished big brother and sister were incredible rocks for me during these months, but at this point in her life, Mom’s struggles were putting us all in the sad position of having to make decisions for her, decisions that she did not like, and decisions she fought at every turn. More often than not, I had to be “the bad guy” in this process. While she was bound and determined to return to work and her independence, I had to plan in a different direction.
It was the opinion of her physician, and virtually everyone who loved her, that Mom needed to accept that she was going to have to move permanently into an assisted care facility. We were close to getting all that squared away in September, but then her miracle arrived. In about two weeks time, thanks to an almost non-stop flow of oxygen via nose tube, most of her cognitive abilities returned. For the rest of her life, the Beverly Bentley, and the mother and sister and aunt, we all knew so well, seemed to be with us once more. At least as far as her personality and spirit goes.
I did my level best to try and convince Mom that her apartment, and the three flights of stairs it took to get to her front door from the street, was too much for her frail body to handle, but she was going to do what she wanted to do, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
For two months she managed the stairs, and led a reasonably normal (at least for her) life. She was not able to return to work, but she was honored and humbled by an incredible retirement party her crew at the Augusta Country Club threw in her honor. As the office manager for the golf course maintenance department, she interacted with dozens of co-workers and vendors over the years, who came to embrace her like a “den mother.” While she only had two sons in real life, she adopted her boss Greg as a “son” in her heart, and I am pretty sure her devotion to him and her job gave her more positive energy and determination in the last few years than anything else.
On that last Wednesday of her life, she was busy and she had plans. But as she relaxed in her own home, watching her own TV, laid back in the comfort of her beloved couch… God had a better plan for her. And she just went to sleep.
In coming weeks and months I hope you folks will allow me the privilege of sharing Mom’s greatest adventures with you. Every now and then when a certain political issue, or anniversary will come up, I will have the chance to share her legacy with you, and her example. But right now let me just say to her, “Thanks Mom”:
Your passion for politics and communication, your demands for justice and equality, your desire to make a difference, and to “fix what ain’t working,” shine through in me every single day.
Some days I don’t want to care as much as you did, and often I am tempted to take the easy road and opt out of the fight, but you never did that, and you wouldn’t want me to do that either.
So I won’t.
Thank you Mom, thank you for that. Thank you for everything.