MOM’S FATAL DIAGNOSISby Steve Timm on 06/28/17
MOM’S FATAL DIAGNOSIS
When my mother was seventy-one years of age, she received the medical diagnosis that most of us fear the most. She had an aneurysm of the aorta that descended deep into her heart.
The aneurysm was discovered during the course of her annual physical. The incredible part is that no doctor could tell her how long she’d lived with the aneurism; she was told that she might easily have been born with it. Or the “balloon” might have popped up a week before her exam … nobody knew.
When Mom asked her heart specialist about her life expectancy, Doctor Payne said, “You’ll live until it bursts. You might live to be one-hundred years of age or you might die in the next two minutes.”
The year was 1990 and cardiovascular surgery was not as advanced as it is today. She was informed that two large surgical centers, Mayo and Stanford Medical, operated on descending aortal aneurysms, but the results were less than ideal. About fifty percent of the patients died on the operating table. And of the fifty percent who lived, fewer than half every returned to a normal life.
In the end, Mom decided to leave the aneurism alone and live out the days that God gave her. I remember Mom saying, “God is in control and I’m just going to let Him sort it out.”
A Change In Attitude
I can honestly say that receiving the “death diagnosis” changed my mother’s attitude about life. During the next couple of years, Mom told me many times that having the aneurism had made her free. She adopted the attitude of living each and every day as if it was the last day of her life.
Mom accepted the fate God gave her with grace and even a bit of joy.
During that time, my mother was more generous than she’d ever been. She seemed to value possessions less and she treasured friendships more.
On the negative side, she often said things that were hurtful to those around her … I always equated that to the fact each day on earth absolutely could be her last and she didn’t want anything left unsaid. That would not have been the way I would have handled the situation, but it was Mom’s way … perhaps of coping, maybe of mourning for herself.
One thing that changed was the importance of keeping gifts wrapped until the precise day of an occasion. Mom had always been a stickler for opening birthday gifts on the exact day and no sooner. After the “death diagnosis,” once she bought a gift, she was likely to give it instantly. Suddenly, giving the gift and seeing the joy on the face of the recipient was much more important than waiting for a date … a date that she might not live to see.
My birthday is June 18th. On June 10th, 1992, Mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I’d recently built a deck off of our kitchen and I really wanted a patio set of a table and chairs.
That evening, we went shopping and my mother bought the patio set that Karen and I absolutely loved. Rather than have it delivered to our home, Mom insisted that we load it up in my pickup truck and take it with us. Further, she really wanted me to assemble the set that evening and to call her when it was finished … no matter what the time.
It was about nine o’clock when we got home and after midnight when I finally had the last chair put together. I really hesitated to call the old gal, but I did. Mom answered on the first ring and said, “Well, it took you long enough. I’ll be right over and see what it looks like.”
She greatly approved. She sat down in one of the chairs and said, “This is really, really nice; may you and Karen enjoy this patio set for many years.”
By that time, it was almost one o’clock in the morning, but Mom was not in any hurry to go home. We’d recently signed the paperwork to hire a closeout firm liquidate our jewelry store. In addition to that, Karen and I were planning to retire and move to Joseph or Enterprise after the store was gone.
At that early hour, when all of us should have been asleep, Karen and I asked a very heartfelt question, “Mom, would you think about moving to northeastern Oregon with us?”
She answered in a split second, “Well, I do not have to think about it … I absolutely WILL move with you.”
Mom was absolutely willing to move and give up everything she’d known for the last forty years, just to be with her son and daughter-in-law. It would be a new life, but sometimes love requires change. But, it was not to be …
Two evenings later, my mother died as she was preparing for bed. Karen and I found her body the following morning; she was apparently undressing when the aneurysm burst. My Mom died in just a few heartbeats.
On Mom’s kitchen counter, we found a fully filled-out Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes form. My mother had even put a stamp on it so, just for kicks, we mailed the envelope. We never heard back from Publisher’s Clearinghouse, so I assume that Mom lost that one, too … just like the previous 500 Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes she’d entered.
Things To Ponder
My mother was from Protestant stock and I’m not sure that she ever set foot in a Catholic church. Having said that, she was fully in favor of my initial interest in becoming Catholic over five decades ago.
Mom had a firm and unshakable belief in God and His son, Jesus Christ but, like many Protestants, she almost never went to church.
Do I worry about my Mom not going to Heaven? Nope, not a bit; God understands, He knows about her background and how much she loved Him. And that’s all that really counts.
I learned a lot by watching Mom’s changing attitude about life and death after she received her diagnosis. In those last two years, Mom tried to make every single day special in its own particular way. Indeed, she was the personification of the saying, “Live every day as if it is your last.”
I found it interesting that she did not make an attempt to reconnect with a Protestant church of some kind. Looking back on it, however, a sudden “run to Jesus” would have been hypocritical. Basically, Polly Timm loved God and Jesus all of her life and, according to her Protestant upbringing, that was enough. In a very real way, Mom was incredibly honest with God.
Even when under a death sentence, my mother truly LIVED those last two years. I’ve often wondered if I would have had the courage to face each day under such circumstances. For a fact, none of us really knows how we would react to such a medical diagnosis.
Mom has been dead for twenty-five years and, in my mind’s eye, I can still see that plucky little lady. I didn’t always agree with her, but I loved her with all of my heart … and I always will.
May God Bless You,