This real-life coincidence indicates to me the love of Jesus in the days before my Mom's death, because we were provided exactly what we needed in a surprise way, even though she still died.
It was on the day that, looking back, was the first day of my Mom's one-week-long dying process. Things started happening very quickly and very unexpectedly. People normally describe a day like that as a day when 'All hell broke loose'. But above it all, it became clear to me that also on that same day, 'All heaven broke loose'.
It was Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. My Mom had revealed to us a week earlier, when she could no longer hide it, that she had developed breast cancer about nine months earlier, and wanted no doctor's involvement.
I was at work. At a pre-agreed time (11:20am), I called my Mom to see if she was OK. No answer. She told me not to worry if that were to happen, since she may be in the bathroom, and to call back in an hour. So I did. No answer. I started cancelling my afternoon appointments and called a third time to tell her on the answering machine I'd be there in 30 minutes. That 30 minute drive started out a mental maelstrom for me, imagining my mother crumpled at the bottom of her stairs, bleeding from a horrible fall, and other unpleasant possibilities.
I began to pray out loud to Jesus, saying, "Lord, help me be able to handle what I find." I did not receive a verbal reply, but I calmed down with the certain awareness that He was there with me, and that He would stay with me despite the very difficult situation that was to come. I no longer felt overwhelmed, but instead felt as if I did not need to carry the full weight of this. I only needed to put in my best, and the rest would be covered. It gave me confidence and peace.
When I arrived, I called for her and walked quickly from room to room until I found her in the living room in her favorite chair. She said, "This has been a long night and long day". She had been sitting in that chair since I visited her Sunday at 4pm. She had been not strong enough to get out of the chair to go to bed, get a drink, get food, or go to the bathroom. She said, "I really need to void." We talked about the various ways I could help her to void, and when she realized it meant having her son (a male and a relative after all) involved somehow in that process, she acquiesced to "get some medical professionals to take her to the hospital, let her void, and give her a report on her condition". It would be her first interaction with a medical professional since 1969. I thought, "That was an unexpectedly positive decision on her part."
Once at the hospital, she accepted a palpitation of her breast and ribs by a female physician's assistant and an x-ray. She also had a blood test done and put the brakes on all other tests. "I don't want to be poked and prodded". She stopped talking to me for about an hour because I allowed that to happen in the first place. Tough cookie, my Mom.
On the basis of these minor tests, the PA and a doctor consulted both said they strongly suspected my Mom's self-diagnosis of breast cancer that had spread to the bones was accurate. If that were true, her expected lifespan was about 6 more weeks, tops. But they would not be able to be sure without more tests. And that without tests, a doctor would not sign a document indicating that she should be admitted to hospice, if that became their conclusion. This would mean she'd have to simply suffer through the increasing pain and lack of function with only the help of family.
So I had my second dilemma. More prayer. More calmness. I spoke confidently with the PA. Felt no panic. The PA went off to consult with others. Within 45 minutes, they were willing to sign the necessary papers to get her the care of those wonderful people at hospice.
Third problem: Mom has not taken a prescription medication for more than 40 years. Doesn't trust them. Only takes nutritional supplements. I spoke calmly to the male hospice nurse assigned to the case, and asked what could be done to ease her pain given her aversion to medicines. After some consideration, he found three medicines that, while certainly prescription medicines, were derived from natural sources. He took the time to get to know Mom, get her to feel comfortable with him, and introduce the idea of the natural medicines for pain. Unbelievably, she went along.
Next problem: it was obvious that Mom would need round-the-clock care from this point forward. She absolutely did not want to stay more than a few hours more in the hospital. She wanted to go back to her beloved old cluttered dusty home right away. It came to me that all human beings need to 'void' every few hours or so, and she did not want me assisting her in that routine. How to get quality in-home care in a very short time? Panic knocked briefly, but prayer kept it at bay. I spoke to Mom to tell her I would start making calls to find in-home care, and that until we found a care-giver, she would need to stay here. She retorted not kindly, "Need to!? Who are you to tell me what I need to do?? I'm living this life, not you." I told her I'd work as fast as possible, but it might not be for a couple of days. She said I had until noon tomorrow.
The wireless laptop and cell phone are marvelous tools, and I found several care organizations quickly, but was not able to discern which would provide good quality. After 90 minutes of hearing pitches and being more confused, I prayed again. I told Mom I needed a break and walked into the hall. A woman was in the hall writing something for some other patient. I said something that she responded to, and we started chatting. It turned out she had a lot of personal and professional experience with in-home care organizations. She was not allowed to recommend any by name, but when I showed her my list, she pointed to one and smiled. I thanked the Lord for the assistance at just the right time. That organization turned out to be just the right one for my Mom. They provided good quality, had people lined up within 24 hours, and by total chance, all three caregivers spoke to my Mom freely about their love for God. After Dineria ("Dee") read from a book of God Stories to her, my Mom went to sleep. While asleep, she spoke these words, then went right back to sleep: "I am holding God's hand. I'm trusting God." Hearing this from Dineria made me tear up. I had been hoping for my Mother to express any kind of belief in God for years. What a blessing for this to happen while she was still on this earth!
Going back to the hospital stay: On Tuesday, I was again with Mom in her room, and several threads of conversations were occurring with various people: my brother, my sister, my wife, the potential in-home care organization, the hospice nurse, the nurses in the hospital, the PA, people at my workplace, and of course my Mom. By this time I had noticed the peace of the hand of my Lord in the middle of this very hard event. I had a confidence throughout that surprised me. I too found I was trusting God, and he was living up to the expectation at every turn.
I noticed that the eight conversational threads very rarely interfered with each other. What I mean is that one conversation would cleanly complete (for now) and within one or two minutes, another call came in. I seriously felt like there was an orchestra leader controlling the timing. It was too convenient.
Similarly, the order of the conversations built on each other. It was as if they were playing out from a pre-established project plan. For example, immediately after my mother got angry because it was after noon on the second day and she was still in the hospital, I called the care organization to get an update and the coordinator informed me that just two minutes earlier she had found somebody who could start providing care the very next day. It was exactly what Mom needed to hear.
Soon thereafter, when trying to arrange for what Mom would need the first day back at home, I needed to get in touch with the hospice nurse to talk about requesting the next-day delivery of a hospital bed, bedside commode, and pain killer prescriptions. About 30 minutes earlier he had said his shift was over and was leaving for the day. I thought that I'd have to repeat a very long conversation with whoever might be on call that night, and gain new agreements. I also remembered the help I had received so far from the Lord and leaned on that hope. In about 30 seconds, the hospice nurse came walking back down the hall, saying, "I forgot something and had to come back." (!)
Several other 'coincidences' occurred over those otherwise horrible days when my mother was dying. While the Lord didn't prevent her from dying, He was the salve that made it tolerable.
Am I mad that He didn't prevent her from dying? Do I think He let me down? No. My mother had told me "I know what's going to happen and I'm ready for it. I've lived a good long time and I've done what I wanted." So I accepted that if death was the outcome, I would convince myself to be fine with it.
I feel like Jesus' involvement in this day were not just for the benefit of my Mom and my family, but also for the benefit of whoever hears this story. It makes me feel more mature in my Christianity. If I had any remaining childish belief that God's role in our lives is to remove all difficulty and pain, I no longer do. I understand that difficulty and pain happen to us all, and it is not 'caused' by God. But God's role is to point us to the eternity that follows this earthly time. And He points us to it by reminding us of His love that exists at all times, whether good and bad.