Today is July 10th, a day which will forever haunt me and remind me of how quickly life can change. I have written about this several times so I apologize for the redundancy of the story but it plays such a huge role in who I am today. The picture above is of my mama. It was taken not even a month before that terrible day. I look at it and I see the sadness in her eyes. I see all the years lived in grief and the longing to see my brother again, whom she had lost when he was only 23 years old. For a few weeks before this picture I had noticed a difference in her. She was sick both physically and emotionally and she was truly missing my dad who passed only a year before. I remember picking her up and taking her out to eat on Thursday and her telling me that she had a terrible feeling. She told me we really needed to start spending more time together because she wouldn’t be around long. I, of course, told her not to talk that way. I told her she was going to be around for a very long time and that I loved her. She climbed out of the car and as she walked in I felt a wave of panic come over me. I did not know what it was and I just shook it off. My daughter who was 8 at the time, had been spending every Saturday with my mom. I would take her and drop her off on Friday night and then on Saturday they would get up, go get groceries, go eat, and just spend the day together. She had done this every weekend since my dad passed away. She had become my mom’s sanity and only hope in life. Friday my daughter got sick during the day and I called my mom to let her know Jaylee wouldn’t be coming to stay with her. Her sickness saved her life. Saturday rolled around and I remember it as if it was yesterday. I was in the kitchen when the phone rang and once again I felt a twinge of fear as I answered it.
“Becky, this is Rita Tabor. Are you sitting down?
I felt the blood rush to my head and I became completely nauseous. I knew in that moment that something had happened to my mom.
Rita: “Becky? Are you there? Listen to me. You have to come to the hospital as quickly as possible. Your mom has been in an accident.
Me: Is she okay? Is she going to live? Please tell me she is okay?
Rita: You just need to find someone to drive you here now. She is not doing well. She was in a car accident and she is in critical condition.
Only a few seconds after hanging up the phone rang again and it was our local funeral director’s daughter. My daddy had worked for them and was very close to the entire family. I could hear the panic in her voice. She asked me if anyone had called me and then she told me to get to the hospital immediately. Well, all I can think is, if she is calling me then mom is either already gone or she is on her way out. I was a wreck, a complete sobbing mess. I remember calling my best friend Heather and just crying so hard I could barely speak. When I pulled up at the hospital there were police cars, the fire truck, the ambulance, and several of my mom’s family members standing around everywhere. As I walked in the door I could tell by the looks on their faces that I was about to walk into something that I may not be able to handle.
The nurses came and took me back to her room and there were so many people by her bedside. In our emergency room this does not happen. They don’t even let you go back and see your family until the doctor has been in so I knew they were allowing us in to say goodbye. I saw the doctor working frantically, yelling for this particular medicine or more blood NOW. There were two nurses who were pushing bags of blood into her as quickly as they could. She looked so frail lying there. She was beat up, bloody, and not responding. I reached over and took her hand into mine and I just sobbed as loudly as I could. The doctor came over and got me. He pulled me and my mom’s brother to the side. He told us that they had no idea what had happened but they suspected a heart attack or stroke. He told us that he had no idea of all the damage but she was losing blood as quickly as they could get it in. He said he had called in life flight but to be completely honest with us, he didn’t think she would survive the flight.
I walked out into the hallway and I collapsed. I had just lost my dad a year earlier and now I was going to have to go through losing my mom. I remember Heather coming over to me and wrapping her arms around me and telling me not to give up hope. The helicopter landed outside the doors in the field and flashbacks just overtook me. The last time I saw my daddy responsive he was being put onto this same helicopter which ended up being his last ride. He passed away the very next day. I had stood in the same spot holding my mom in my arms as we watched them carry him away and now there I stood watching them load my mom knowing that it would probably be the last time I saw her.
When I got to Vandy, after the hour drive, I was finally met by the head doctor of the trauma department. They had rushed my mom into surgery to stop the bleeding. He told us that her spleen had been ruptured and she was bleeding out. He told us they had pumped her full of 6 quarts already (which is what the body holds) to no avail. We learned that in addition to lacerating her spleen she had broken nearly every bone in her body, lacerated her colon, and had suffered a massive brain injury. She was in a coma and was given less than 24 hours to live. I remember just crumbling like a piece of paper. As I stood there thinking about all the hell I had put her through, tears streaming down my face, my aunt walked up behind me and just wrapped me up in her arms. She wiped my tears away and she said “No matter what happens you will be okay. I will make sure you are taken care of”. I had no idea that my aunt was suffering from lung cancer at that very moment. This was a secret she kept for the next year.
Over the next few hours we all sat there talking about so many things in life. I tried to make sense of it all but just couldn’t. I could not imagine a life without my dad and my mom. Before we knew it morning had come and she was still with us. There was a new doctor on and came out to get me to let me see mom. He told me he was completely blown away by the fact that she was still alive considering all of her injuries and the fact that she has suffered a heart attack at the scene of the accident and one on the flight to the hospital. He told me she was a fighter and even though she wasn’t responding to us her body was. He stood there, looked me in the eyes, and told me as long as she showed signs of fighting he would fight with her.
That was the beginning of a marathon. That was the beginning of a different life that I had no plans on living. I sent my kids home with family members and I began a journey that would teach me what I was made of. I spent my days and nights roaming the halls of Vanderbilt hospital. The trauma unit became my home and I slept wherever there was an empty I didn’t shower for days at a time and when I did it was in whatever bathroom I could find in the hospital. I made every single visit with my mama. I would sing to her, talk to her, rub her head, hold her hand. Of course I shed many tears over her and I prayed like I had never prayed in my life. 30 days after being there I finally got put on a list to get a room in one of the surrounding motels that offered families discounted stays or free stays. In the three months we were in Nashville I only left her twice and that was just long enough to go home and pick up more clothes.
Over the next several weeks I watched my mom fight for her life. I saw her go through endless hours of pain and the fear on her face when she would have a scare. If the machine started beeping she thought something was wrong and it was like comforting a child. The days of bathing her, feeding her, changing her colostomy, moving her from bed to chair, and watching her learn to walk again and talk again. The days they tried to wean her off of the ventilator were the worst because learning to breathe on your own again after having a machine do it for you can be a daunting task. The day she suffered another heart attack and I was told to choose whether or not she should be a “do not resuscitate”. Having certain people tell you her life may not have any quality to it so I should just let “nature” take its course. Those days nearly killed me.
After all of those long days and nights and the ups and downs the day I finally got to bring her home was the best day of my life. I had no idea what I was in store for but I didn’t care. She was ALIVE and I was given a second chance to have a relationship with her. I’m not going to say it was easy by any means whatsoever. Caring for a another person 24/7 is a hard task especially when they cannot do anything for themselves. I don’t think people realize it isn’t just the person who suffers but it is the caretakers as well. I was confined to my home unable to leave my mom unattended. I had no help other than my aunt who was fighting terminal cancer unbeknownst to me or anyone else. Without her I would have been lost. She helped me get mom to her doctor appointments and she would come no matter what hour it was if I needed her. Where was everyone else? Well, when you have a tragedy you learn who cares and do really doesn’t. You learn that in hard times those people who you call family and friends may not be as loyal as you thought.
During this time I lost my job which landed me in a huge mess. Over the next few months I ended up losing my home and my car. We had to find another place to live and it had to be suitable for a wheel chair, hospital bed, and all of mom’s necessities for living. It was a struggle and not a pleasant one however every minute was worth it. I learned about strengths I didn’t even know I had. I learned how much a person’s body can endure during times of hardship. I learned that I can do whatever I put my mind to. I also learned that the love I have for my mama is unmeasurable. I was able to view her in a totally different light as well. After seeing a weak woman who had secluded herself away from the world to grief the loss of her son, I was now seeing a strong-willed woman who had fought through hell and back and she had won. She had overcome all odds and she was alive.
No it wasn’t the best days of my life and even today my mom is not the same. The brain injury she suffered wiped out her short term memory and that is something that will never return. Some days are better than others but it’s so sad to see her in this shape. I would give anything to go back to that day. I would go get her and not let her drive. I would keep her safe. I miss my mom so much and the way life used to be. I miss being able to go “home”. I don’t have that safety net anymore. There is just something so special about home and once you lose it life isn’t the same.
I lost my aunt last year as well. That nearly killed my mom and it threw her into a deep depression. It seems the older we get the more sadness we have to overcome. We lose those close to us and the realization that we are going to pass at some point becomes very strong. Yes, July 10th has become to be known to me as “the day that stood still”. That day my life, my mom’s life, and even my children’s lives stood completely still and they weighed in the balance. Thank goodness we all went on living but everything we had known changed in the blink of an eye. All I can say is don’t take anything for granted. Enjoy your family, friends, your life. Appreciate the things you do have because they can be taken away all in one day.
I was blessed to have had such strong people in my life. My brother, my dad, and my mom. I had excellent role models and they taught me to fight for what I believe in. They taught me to be driven and determined. I’m not saying they didn’t make mistakes and even make the wrong choices because they did but even in those mistakes I was able to learn. That’s what life is about, right? Learning, loving, and LIVING.
I love you mom.
You are amazing.