This happened yesterday when Jimmy and I took his father and little sister, Alicia for a drive into Jackson Hole. It was an absolutely stunning day with a nice cool breeze and lots of gorgeous scenery. During the drive, I received a phone call from a sweet friend in California. Her daughter is gravely ill and Alicia heard parts of the conversation and became very quiet. Once the call had ended, she very quietly said, “She is dying.” We all turned and said, “What?” She repeated her words and then began to cry. At first we tried to console her, telling her that her friend would be alright, then we moved onto distraction. Neither attempts were successful. We just let her weep.
Only two years have passed since her mother had a massive heart attack and passed away. Mary Alice was the main person that cared for Alicia for 38 years. Not to say that Jimmy’s father, or the other siblings didn’t help; but Mary Alice knew her every need and cared for them with such grace. She made sure that Alicia had exceptional manners and that she knew how to perfectly groom herself. She saw to it that Alicia was dressed appropriately and never drew more attention to herself than necessary. She made sure that she was fed properly and lacked for nothing. She was irreplaceable.
So when Big Jim (Jimmy’s father) and Mary Alice came to Phoenix to visit and stay overnight, we were in a state of total shock when she collapsed at the Scottsdale Marriott, and died within minutes. We had breakfast with them that morning at their hotel, and were to meet up again at two o’clock. As we waited for them to meet us over at the Biltmore Shopping Center, Jimmy got the call from his father.
“Your mother has collapsed.” Those were the words that stopped my husband in his tracks. As I watched his face, I could tell that something horrific had happened. I listened to Jimmy tell his father that we would be there soon and he hung up and told me that, ‘she didn’t feel well and they were taking her to the hospital’. As we hurried to the car, I did the typical wife thing and started asking a million questions. “Where are they? How did she collapse? Do they think it was serious?” Every question was met with an “I don’t know.”
As we approached the Marriott, the ambulance was no where in sight, but the Fire Chief that had been called was escorting Big Jim from the hotel. We didn’t even have a chance to get out of the truck when the Chief told my husband, that he would drive Jimmy’s dad to the hospital. We followed the Fire Chief’s truck to the hospital and I told Jimmy that I would get out and go get information. I must have ran because I was able to get to the emergency room before anyone else. As I asked the attending nurse for information on my mother-in-law, she quickly called someone over and they asked if we would mind going into a private room. This was my dose of deja-vu.
As it turned out, Mary Alice had passed away on the floor of the Marriott hotel. The paramedics and doctors were doing all they could to revive her, but to no avail. She was gone.
“Oh, dear God! What do we tell Alicia?” Big Jim, Jimmy and I, all cried as we asked this question over and over, waiting for someone to answer.
Alicia has the mind of a small child and can’t comprehend most things that we take for granted. She doesn’t understand time and we were certain that she wouldn’t understand death. Her mother was her world and.. she. was. gone.
I called my brother-in-law, Nick and spoke to his wife, who is an anesthesiologist in Tucson and shared the horrible, horrible news. They in turn, called their sister, Kathy, who was attending to Alicia. I don’t know how they explained this devastating news to her, but she came to the hospital and had to go see her.
“Do we let her see her mother?” We all had our own opinions, yet Alicia won this one (as she wins most arguments) We all walked into the room where her mothers body lay, and agonized as Alicia held her hand and wailed. There were no words to offer her that would help matters. So we all cried with her as she spoke in her own broken language to her mothers shell, telling her that she loved her very much.
This all came back yesterday as she heard a phone call from the backseat of a vehicle. The feelings flooded back and she had to let them go. So, again, we sat and cried with her….waiting for tears to cease flowing.
God was with her in the backseat, just as He was with her in that hospital room. He held her close and told her He loved her. I believe it. Her crying stopped almost as abruptly as it had started and she became calm and contented before telling her brother that she wanted, “a hamburger for breakfast.”
Then tension in that vehicle was so dense until she made that statement and it was as if all her troubles had disappeared and she was onto the next subject. Food.
God is good. He holds us when we are hurting. He is the Comforter and He loves us all so very much.
So………today we are going to have hamburgers for breakfast. It’s just how we are going to roll …. today. And tomorrow we will deal with tomorrow. And the next day after that……and the next day after that…
FOOTNOTE: The picture was taken last year on Christmas Day, which is Mary Alice’s birthday, and we celebrated both Christmas and her birthday on the beach in Mazatlan.