My story...my pain...my grief...
Updated: May 30, 2022
A young mother suddenly departs this life with her husband and two small children stunned!
Life from conception started in Denver, Colorado. Yet life at birth began in Duncan, Oklahoma. I am so blessed to say that I was born into a family with so much love, and two wonderful parents with such bright futures. Mother & Dad met at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. Mother had graduated from high school as Valedictorian and with her bachelor's degree in Business Education. She was working in the registrar's office when Dad finally met what he called in his later years "the first love of his life."
Both of my parents grew up on a farm, with my Sooner-loving grandparents. Coming from a family of four children, Mother lost her loving Daddy to asthma in the 1940's when she was ten and her twin siblings were only five. Dad came from a family of three children. And unlike today's time, both my maternal and paternal families loved one another. I never heard a sibling on either side of the family speak negatively about a brother or sister, or any family member for that matter. Yet the loss of my maternal grandfather began a journey for my grandmother that actually began when my oldest aunt passed away from appendicitis in 1930. So, by the early 1940's my sweet loving grandmother had faced grief in ways that were somewhat common back then, but less common with today's modern medicine.
Now flash forward to 1963. I am five. In kindergarten. We live in Oklahoma City. Mother works for Shell Oil Company, and Dad works for Oklahoma City Public Schools and is also working on his doctorate in education at the University of Oklahoma. All the while Mother had been struggling with kidney infections for several years. One after another. She had one surgery that was described as a "butcher job" in terms of the horrific and unsuccessful outcome.
Mother was devoted to being supportive of Dad while he worked day and night. But she was working day and night too, and she had two children to care for after being on the job from 8-5 Monday through Friday. Then add on the entire editing of Dad's dissertation, the typing of a 250-page plus document, and continued health problems. Mother's health problems were ongoing, and so much so that she went to an Oklahoma City kidney specialist who told her to have the kidney removed; that it was imperative to have surgery as soon as possible.
Mother did not drive a car. My dear uncle took her to the doctor, and I was in the back seat when she came out of the doctor's office to only let my uncle know what the doctor's recommendation was. I heard everything. I was a relatively bright child and could make sense of what I was hearing, yet I did not say anything. I held everything inside. I remember it to this very day as though it happened yesterday. After all, the sacred scriptures teach us that "a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day."
With everything that was occurring, both Mother and Dad were like "two ships passing in the night." Dad had passed his comprehensive exams and achieved what is referred to as "All but Dissertation (ABD)." So, he began searching for a university faculty position that would ultimately allow my mother to be a stay-at-home Mom when he graduated. And that he did. He found Waco, Texas. Baylor University. During all of this, what I do know is that I observed dedication, hard work, and yes, frustration at times. Dad always described the doctoral journey as "academic hell."
We moved to Waco in late summer 1964 as I began first grade. I so missed my maternal grandparents and extended family. But all the while, I was so very aware of the ultimate goal: finish that doctoral degree and make a way for Mother to stay home. We leased a home near Lake Waco which is gorgeous and winds around the outer edge of Waco for miles. I remember the backyard at our home. Never had I seen, nor have I since, as many trees of all heights, shapes, and types as were in our backyard. I recall Dad taking me outside near the fence to explain that it was not best that I play in the backyard as snakes might be crawling about since we lived so near the lake. Now where he got that thought I haven't the slightest notion. But let me tell you one thing...I never went outside. I became the proverbial hot-house plant never to enjoy the outdoor sunshine. Snakes to this day frighten me. I wonder why?
The first year in Waco was wonderful. First grade at Lake Waco Elementary provides great memories. Learning to read "Run Spot Run." Mother walking me to and from school every day. It was one mile, one way, for a total of four miles for her five days per week. I must mention that while on this long walk Mother was also either carrying my 2-year-old baby brother or helping him walk as fast as he could. I do not recall what we did if it was raining. Perhaps Dad took me to school on his way to the university. Perhaps.
June 5, 1965, finally arrived. Dad was graduating with his Doctorate in Education from the University of Oklahoma. My Dad, the eternal 'boomer-sooner' fan. Family from near and far traveled to Norman. Outlaws. In-laws. Colleagues. Friends. It was an exciting day. Mother and Dad had achieved their dream. Now Mother would be a stay-at-home mom, and no more daycares. Thank goodness. We looked like the "Leave It to Beaver" family. We now moved to a new home near a great elementary school only three blocks away. No more long walks for Mother as she would be able to stand at the corner and watch me walk inside the front door of my school. Back then school started the day after Labor Day, so we were free for a while to just enjoy life as a family. All was great until late in the middle of the night I woke up hearing Mother cry out in excruciating pain. Suddenly my thoughts went straight to "mother's sick again." I was frightened as I heard her and Dad talk. Life was about to change, and seriously change for both me and my baby brother.
Dad contacted our general practitioner, the kind of doctor most families used back in those days. You know, the "jack of all medicine, but the master of none." Dr. S. made a house visit. Yes, those still occurred in the mid 1960's. He prescribed a sulfa drug, and Mother continued to take the meds until it was obvious that nothing was working. She laid on the sofa and did as much as she could with my younger brother and me. All the while I knew she was very sick. And I mean very sick.
After about ten days, Dad left for a brief time one August afternoon to play tennis with a faculty member. After all, anyone employed by a university knows that the political dynamic for new college professors is somewhat stressful; to include the 'publish or perish' syndrome as well. Yet I was at home with Mother alone. My brother was there, but where I just can't recall even to this day. I needed Mother for some reason and so I headed down our long shot-gun hall where the main bathroom was, to only find her laying on the blue-tiled floor totally collapsed and nonresponsive. I said "Mommie are you okay?" She barely shook her head with her eyes closed and her face red with what I later understood to be fever and infection.
Dad finally returned. I immediately told him that Mother was in the bathroom floor. He called her doctor, and he came to our home soon thereafter. I vividly recall him coming through our front door, with me stating to him without any reservation "my mother is dying." He recommended that Dad immediately transport Mother to Hillcrest Hospital. Dad carried Mother out to the car and made sure that my brother and I were in the backseat of the car. No seatbelts then. So, we just sat quietly as Dad drove fast, but Dad was known for driving fast anyways. I was so frightened. Frightened for the entire ride to the hospital.
Upon arrival to the emergency room, Dad contacted our Pastor and asked if my brother and I could stay with them. The answer was yes, and there we stayed for days upon days. Or at least it seemed that way to a little girl. The consolation was that I passionately loved going to church, and that we did; after all, I was staying with our Pastor. Dad was Assembly of God. Mother was Southern Baptist. We attended a Baptist church one Sunday, and the next Sunday the Assembly of God church; I preferred the Assembly of God. The music was what Dad loved, and I loved it too. Even to this day I love Southern gospel music.
Details during this time are vivid. Fear was real. Sleepless night endless. Prayer ongoing. And Mother never returned home. I now know the very thing I "feared the most had come upon me," just like Job. Yet I was a child. Only 7 years old. My brother 3. No. No. No. But yes, even after Mother was transported via emergency ambulance to Parkland Hospital Dallas, Texas, major surgery could not save her. She passed away with all family present from Oklahoma on Friday, August 13, 1965.
I'll stop for now and share more later. I'll just reflect on the blessings of having such wonderful parents. My Mother was only thirty-three, but what a wonderful legacy she left me and my dear baby brother. A legacy filled with memories that I still cherish to this very day. She sewed my clothes. Cooked wonderful meals. Made the old fashion popcorn and watched television with me; even soap-operas. Read to me. Went to all my 'meet-the-teacher' visits. Both Mother & Daddy wanted me to have the best education available. They even agreed to purchasing a gorgeous piano during the two weeks she was so sick. It was delivered before she collapsed, so she saw it. That piano is now my youngest granddaughters fifty-seven years later. Did I grieve? Did I suffer from such profound loss at the age of 7?
What was life moving forward from August the 13th, 1965? Let's share that together very soon. In the meantime, do you have a similar journey? Please share if you do. Yes, I'm closing out these memories with lots of questions. Life just does that to the human mind. Life creates questions, doesn't it? What I will say and must say is this. Without my Lord Jesus Christ and His grace, I would not be where I am today, actually writing this blog and reaching out to make a difference...from grief to healing to hope through active mourning, or to put it another way, mourning in action. I will share why soon. God bless!