My childhood was filled with so many fond memories. Family holidays, vacations, youth group, school activities.. But some of my favorite memories are the days I would spend with my mom at work. My mom was a LPN in long term care and her elderly patients provided more entertainment than any kid could hope for. If it wasn’t amazing stories of time periods I couldn’t imagine, it was hilarious antics. My favorite was a little lady who was in a wheelchair. She would sit at the end of the hall and wait for the food cart to come around.
Once it did, she would get ready. Most of the nurses saw this happening, but chose to let it slide. Once the orderly passing out the trays walked away, this sweet little lady would move her legs in high gear, flying down the hall towards the cart. Once she got there, she would make a quick grab for dessert, never stopping or slowing down. She knew right where they would be sitting and when to time her grab. It was fun to watch. These were my fondest memories and I couldn’t imagine them being missing from my life. Or my mom ever doing anything other than being a nurse.
As I was going to school, so was my mom. Her dream was to be a RN and finally, in 1994, she graduated from nursing school and immediately received a promotion to director of nursing which included an extensive commute. It was stressful and hard, but my mom loved her work. Her body though, apparently did not. In 1996 my mom suffered from a double heart attack. She had bypass surgery and a mechanical heart valve put into her heart to replace the one that was so badly damaged.
She recovered beautifully and returned to work. Though this time, she found a local nursing home to begin working in, again as director of nursing. For the next few years, life seemed to be going exactly how my mom had always dreamed. She was a RN, director of nursing, living in a small town, had this totally awesome kid (yeah, that’s me) and was buying her first home. Then something went wrong.
It was just before my senior year in high school in 1998. My mom kept her doctors in the Atlanta area, so she was out there that day with my aunt for an appointment. I was in Villa Rica going through my first day of band camp and kept getting a weird number on my beeper (remember those?!) and when I tried to call it back would just get another beeper. I thought it was weird and had a gut feeling it might be about my mom, but could not figure out a way to figure it out. Oh the days before cell phones..
Towards the end of the day, during a break from all the marching and counting and clapping going on, I looked up to see a car pulling in. I recognized it as my aunt’s car and when I saw her and another woman from our church who was close to our family get out, I immediately knew something was wrong. Blood clot. Blood too thick. Heart valve. Stroke. Coma. Brain damage. The words trickled in and I, only 17, wasn’t sure how to process everything.
For the next two weeks I spent my days at band camp, my evenings at the hospital and the time in between either sleeping or driving. I was numb. I didn’t understand what was going on. I remember one day, sitting in the bathroom at the hospital and finally crying for the first time. Sobbing and praying. Telling God that if it was time for her to go home to him, I understood. I could handle it. Our family began talking to doctors about if it was time to “pull the plug.” She was a nurse. She knew what life support was and never wanted to be on it. My aunt spoke to my dad, who had been avoiding the hospital because of his fear or grief or whatever was holding him back. At the time it made me angry. Now, I’m thankful. If my dad had come down and signed those papers, my mom would have never recovered. After two weeks in a coma, she suddenly woke up. And with minimal damage.
Over the next few months my mom recovered. Amazingly well at that. She began to walk and her speech was never affected. She never gained full control of her left hand again, but thankfully she was right handed. Sadly though, her career was over. She couldn’t work anymore. She put on a brave face and looked into different options to keep her busy but it crushed her. She made the decision to stay living with my aunt and her and my dad eventually divorced. I decided to move in with my mom and aunt and make the commute across Georgia to finish my senior year. And my proudest moment was when my mom was able to attend the last football game of the regular season. She had always been a huge supporter of the band. All of my friends were so happy to have Mama Benney back at the game. She may have never returned to work, but she fought and overcame so much to keep being the best mom she could be to me.
Watching my mom fight and recover from such a serious stroke is what has given me strength during the trials I’ve gone through in my adult life. Now, 33 years old, I realize that without her example of overcoming and fighting, I never would have made it through the abusive marriage I found myself in at a young age. Or fight through the depression and anxiety left over from it. My mom gave up her fight in July of last year and lives with our Heavenly Father, pain free and worry free. She’s reunited with all the family that I miss so much here on Earth. I miss her every day – more than I ever imagined. But I’m so grateful for the example she gave me while she was here with me.
Photo courtesy of Yayimages