Lives should not be taken by sudden bullets to the head. And yet they are. I have such love for the mothers left to pick up the pieces.
Mother arrived to find her critically injured son had no hope of recovery. She heard about the brain death testing that was to take place. An hour later she listened to the results of the testing. It concluded that his brain had died and that his time of death had been established.
She was introduced to me and she cried when she heard he had chosen to be an organ donor on his license. Cried that he had thought of others. She was proud and relieved. Something good, she said. Later she remembered she had wanted grandchildren. He had not given her any grandchildren. She realized suddenly that she had lost his future children, too.
With that thought it all caught up with her.
“How do we know it is really him?” she suddenly asked. “It is not him. It can’t be him. This young man, we have to find his mother.” Her voice rose up an octave.
We walked to his bedside, and she powerfully gripped the rail of the bed. “It is not him. I am so glad it is not him. We have to find his mother.” She started to sob and her knee’s buckled and she ended up sitting on the floor. Her arms remained above her head, gripping the rail. The young mans helpless father stood behind us with his own deep and quiet sadness.
I squatted next to her. I stroked and patted her back. Stroked her arms. Repeated soothing noises. “I am so sorry Momma. So sad. Every mother’s heart is with you. So sad.” Over and over I stroked and comforted and repeated those words. My squatting position caused my legs to get numb and so I also eventually sat. I did not lose my awareness of everything that might be on a hospital floor.
She was the picture of grief. We stayed there until she raised her head, came back to us.
Within the hour we coaxed her to leave. All the while, she seemed to need gently suggested reasons… her daughter needed her in the waiting room…. they all should get home…. a storm was coming…. they needed to be safe. We walked slowly to the exit of the Intensive Care Unit, my arm around her. Encouraging words every few steps.
We made it to the waiting room and she hugged her lovely remaining child. We had momentum with her so we continued as a group toward the elevators. I kept my grip on her. Dad headed to the parking garage to get the car. I steered her to a bench in the lobby. We sat Momma in the middle, daughter on one side and me on the other.
She wished that she could have kept him safe. “We raise them up and then we cannot keep them safe, can we,” I said. “No mother can keep them safe. We raise them and we cannot keep them safe. He was lucky to have you, Momma. Look how tiny he had been and how big he grew. You kept him safe when it was your job. “
The cars pulled up. I opened the door of her husbands car and on autopilot she climbed in. She sat; the only motion her streaming tears. She stared straight ahead. I reached in for the seatbelt and pulled it across her chest. I buckled it. I wrapped her fingers around the small box of hospital tissues I had carried down. I kissed her on the cheek. I watched as they drove away.
The kiss was from me and all the other mothers of the world.