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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Why did God let Mom die?

It is now almost six years since Mom died. I still remember it like it was yesterday. The last eighteen or twenty-four months of Mom's life had been almost rather "routine." She would be admitted to the hospital every six to eight weeks or so. She had suffered from not one, not two, or even three or four, diseases. She was diabetic. We found out that she was only ever born with one kidney when it failed. She was also diagnosed with high blood pressure and had angina. Then a few years later she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Poor Mom! She suffered so much for so many years. And in those seven or eight final years that she was on dialysis for her renal failure, and Dad had to care for her, I saw Dad aged twice as fast and saw Mom shrunk into just mere flesh and bones.

Those last few months were the hardest. Dad would call me to tell me that Mom was finding it hard to breathe or that she was shivering or some other complaint. The first couple of times, there was real panic in his voice. Later on, I would find out that she would have been complaining for several hours before they would even call. I had to urge them to call immediately in the future, but still they would be reluctant to "bother me."

Anyway, he would finally call me. I still remember that first time. It was past two o'clock in the morning. The phone rang and Dad's voice was trembling. "Son, Mom needs help." He said simply. I calmed him down, and said I will be there right away. When I hung up the phone, I rang for the ambulance. By the time I arrived (which was only a mere fifteen minutes away), the paramedics were already getting Mom into the ambulance and driving away. I would then help dad to pack a few things and drive him to the hospital. Mom would be admitted to the hospital for several weeks and then she would be discharged. Soon, this was going to repeat itself several times over the next two years. I don't know why Dad didn't dial for the ambulance, but perhaps he just wanted me to be around and wanted my involvement and I was happy to do so.

So, when on Christmas eve, 19991998, Dad called, I thought it was no different. In fact while Mom was still in the hospital I even went away on a business trip. I remember coming back and was surprised that she was still in the hospital. While I was away, my wife had to make the toughest decision because Dad was not able to make it. Her toes were gangrened because of diabetic complications. The doctor adviced that they would have to amputate the foot. Mom was in so much pain, so my wife had to agree that would be best. After the amputation Mom's condition took a dive.

Unlike before when they amputated her gangrened fingers, this time she did not recover as quickly. When the doctors arranged to meet with the family members, I did not realize how serious it was. The doctors told us that Mom was not going to get any better, that the dialysis drip was keeping her alive, and we need to make the decision whether or not to continue having her on the drip. Those words did not really register in my mind. Even when I read her medical report, with the words, "Final stage renal failure" written on top, it still did not really hit home. When finally the hospital assigned a social worker to talk to the family about loss, I still did not think it would happen so quickly.

The next couple of weeks were just a haze to me. She was also put on a morphine drip because of the pain. Sometimes when the family is around, they would reduce the morphine drip for Mom to regain consciousness and speak to us. Even then I was still assuming that Mom's condition would one day improve and she would be able to return home,
just like before. Finally, I realized that Mom was really going. By then she was already in a coma. Those last few days were the most difficult. We did not really have a chance to properly say goodbye. Her only sister managed to come over from Malaysia in the very last minute. But by then Mom was in a very deep morphine induced coma. A week before then, we could reduce the morphine drip and Mom could wake up enough to communicate briefly with the family. But by the time Auntie came over to see her own sister for the last time, there was just no way to bring mom back. When they reduced the morphine, Mom would regain consciousness slightly only enough to be moaning and groaning in so much pain and anguish that we had to ask the nurse to resume the drip. We were so distraught.

I had been praying all throughout the time for God to intervene. For God to give me "one more year." Please God. I called the church prayer team to pray along with us. However, within days, Mom's condition deteriorated. We kept a virgil over her. But some days we would be so tired, and a missionary nurse who is also a friend of the family would help us keep Mom company. During one of these days, Mom awoke briefly for her to talk to Mom. Apparently she was able to invite Mom to receive Christ into her heart. When she told us we were overjoyed. We asked a Cantonese speaking pastor to come and baptize Mom. But again by the time the pastor came, Mom did not awake from her coma. Although when we called to her and asked her to blink her eyes, she did, after that when the pastor spoke to Mom and asked if she would like to accept Christ and be baptized, she did not move her eyes. We don't really know whether she could hear us or she was just being unwilling and obstinate. And she can be so!

One of the most vivid memories I have was a few weeks prior to that, when Mom was drifting in and out of her morphine induced coma. I was at the bedside. Suddenly Mom drifted back to consciousness and she was as usualo in a lot of pain. I could see panic in her eyes. It was as if she knew that she was going to die and she was terrified. She reached out her hands to grab a hold of my forearm. She cried, "Son, please save me! Help! Save me!" I was in deep, desperate anguish. I wanted to tell Mom that Jesus will save her. I wanted to tell her that Jesus will wipe away her tears. I wanted to tell Mom not to be scared. But all I could manage was cry. I was speechless. I was not able to say anything. Nothing. The nurses intervened and increased Mom's morphine dosage and she drifted back to her coma.

As I drove from the hospital, I cried. Out loud. I screamed. On top of my voice. I hit the streeing wheel. I punched the dashboard. I asked God to take Mom's pain away. To spare her life. I even bargained with God.

"Cut my life short in exchange for an extension of Mom's life. Please!" I cried. I sobbed. I yelled. I screamed.

It seemed to no avail. For within two weeks, she slipped into eternity. I remember that we had kept a virgil for several days. We were all so tired. One night the entire family decided to just go back to sleep on our own beds. We were resigned, exhausted, and we have cried until there were no more tears any longer. We decided to go home to sleep to return again the next day to continue our virgil.

It was past midnight when we got home. The phone rang about six in the morning. Mom passed on shortly before then. It was as if she knew. I did not know how to feel, what to say, or even to cry. I felt disappointed and dejected that I wasn't there, but then I was also exhausted. I was resigned, defeated, and despondent. Mom was finally gone. She didn't even say goodbye. I wasn't really ready for that to happen. Not quite yet. I still feel the acute pain of the loss today.