It was about 2:00 pm on Wednesday afternoon. Steve's voice was solemn and broken on the other end of the phone. "Mom's gone."
"What? What did you just say?"
"My mom died last night in her sleep". He was choking up as he told me the news. I knew he was serious. Apparently she was was having some problems with her heart and sometime in the night she lost her life -- most likely a heart attack.
Like Steve, I was in shock. How could this happen? We had just talked to her recently and she sounded fine. She never told us she was having health issues. True to her nature, she would never complained or indicated that she was having heart complications. Since Steve's diagnosis in September, she was only concerned with his health. She took the news of Steve's cancer really hard. She was having difficulty eating and even appeared to be somewhat depressed. Family members who were closest to her thought that it may have been because of Steve's diagnosis. Her son had cancer and she was thousands of miles away -- unable to be with him to comfort, care for, and spend time with him. It made sense. But perhaps her loss of appetite and mood changes were not all together due to Steve's cancer. I wonder if she was silently suffering with some sort of heart condition but was not wanting to draw attention to herself, so she didn't. Or maybe her rapid and irregular heart rhythms and loss of appetite were direct results of the pain she was suffering because of Steve's condition. I guess we will never know, but I cannot help to think that somehow, someway we could have done more to help keep her alive.
Today is Christmas Eve and we have been spending time shopping and preparing for Christmas celebrations. On Monday our family will be flying out to New Orleans for mom's funeral. Steve had a Neupogen injection on Thursday because his white blood cell count was 3.4. (Normal range is between 5 and 10.). He shouldn't need another injection before his next Chemo unless he develops an infection that would compromise his health. Ordinarily cancer patients are cautioned not to fly on airplanes because of the risk of contracting communicable diseases like colds or the flu. In this case, Dr. Liao wanted Steve to spend time with family and even encouraged us to extend our trip so we didn't have to come back right away. We will be staying until the New Year.
So now we are packing our bags and preparing for our pilgrimage to the South to say goodbye to a wonderful mother and grandma. We hope the airlines will allow Steve preferential seating. He will wear a surgical mask to help protect him from the germ-filled recirculated air. Since Dr. Liao's offices are closed on Monday, Steve's Chemo will be delayed several days. It is now scheduled for Tuesday, January 3rd.
Frances' sudden passing has reinforced the sober reality of life's fragility. Each and every embrace, smile, and kiss has the potential of being the last. I pray my presence will always bring life, hope and love to all those I encounter..for we never know when it will be our time to breathe our last breath.
This Christmas I pray you too will approach the season with a spirit of love, hope, and faith. May you enjoy each day and the blessing of all of the people God has placed in your lives. Those closest to you: may you hold them, cherish them, caress them, and never forget to tell them how much you love them. Life is fragile and must be handled with care. Merry Christmas everyone!