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Found: Goodbye to Mom January 24, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Family, Love, Parenting/Children.

June 23rd, 2000

On Thursday evening, my wife and I and our boys took Mom and Dad out to dinner to celebrate Father’s day. After we finished dinner and were ordering desert, Mom got up to go to the restroom. A few minutes passed, and about the time that I started thinking she’d been gone too long, someone from the restaurant came to the table and asked if an older lady was with our party, since there was someone who’d collapsed in the women’s restroom.

I hurried from the table, leaving Dad with the boys, and sure enough found Mom on the floor there. She took a gasping breath as I knelt beside her, but had no response from her eyes or movement of her hands or face. (Based on what the doctors told me later, she was almost certainly gone at that moment.) I held her hand and tried to get a response from her, but with a feeling I can’t quite describe, I started to feel a sense that she was already gone. It was almost as if I could sense that this wasn’t Mom, it was just her body.

I got up to go see Dad as two women who were there (one of them a nurse) performed CPR. I told Dad and the boys that it was mom, that it could be serious, but I wasn’t sure since she had taken a breath while I was there. The restaurant had already called EMS, and I told Dad I was going back to sit with her.

I made a couple of other trips back and forth, both to ask Dad about medication and drug allergies and give them updates. I also pulled my oldest son aside and told him, “I don’t know, but Mamaw may have just died. I know it’s serious, and you need to stay here and keep an eye on Papaw, and make sure he’s OK.” He nodded and sat back down. I wasn’t sure what he would say, but I felt relief knowing that he would be able to handle most anything that might happen, even though he’s just 12 years old.

Three volunteer firemen came to the scene first, and picked up the CPR duties. One of them gave me a pad of paper to fill out so they could get the necessary information. I don’t think he realized he’d given me a document designed for gathering information about a fire incident. As far as I knew, Mom hadn’t started a fire in the bathroom, so wasn’t able to complete the form in any reasonable way. I think the humor I found in this particular moment was lost on the firemen.

When EMS arrived, I went out to the ambulance with them, holding Mom’s hand as we went. An EMT named Brian was trying desperately to get her heart started again, and asked me to ride in the ambulance with him and help to ventilate her as volunteer fireman did compressions on her chest. I can remember Brian trying to keep my spirits up, and I suppose he was puzzled that I was calm and not crying or hysterical. He didn’t know that in years past, my Dad had taught me that there were times you have to push your emotions aside and deal with more pressing and important things. There will always be grieving time later.

Once we were at the hospital, I was able to relax a bit, but I still needed to tend to Dad and pass information back and forth with the Emergency Room staff. At this point, my sons still hadn’t seen me cry. The truth was, I had too many things I still needed to do, and couldn’t afford to let Dad see me upset unless I was certain she was gone.

About a half-hour after we arrived at the hospital, they pronounced Mom dead. They’d not been able to restart her heart, and there had been no significant blood flow in her body for almost 45 minutes. I came back out and told everyone the news we had all suspected.

The staff invited Dad, my sister and I to go back to the room where they’d worked on her body. We stood there, touched her hand briefly, and prayed together. The fluttering that her heart had done for the past twenty years (instead of beating), had finally stopped. Her pain was finally over.

Now I could cry.


1. Tre Pryor - February 12, 2011

Thanks for sharing this… it’s only with our hope in a future life (improved in every way) that times like this aren’t devastating.

2. Becky VanCleave - February 12, 2011

Tim I am so glad you published this because I didn’t know the details of Aunt Donna’s death and had not seen her a year or two before she died.

I am really glad you shared this.

3. Carrie - June 22, 2012

Painful memories often sear into us as if made by a branding iron. I’m ok with the ones that mark and identify who I am and what I’ve lived through because I might not otherwise have the deep well of empathy that I draw from.

Thank you, Tim, for sharing this day that marked you forever.

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