It was a cool, wet day in Atlanta 33 years ago. The rain was coming down in sheets and the sky was gray and gloomy. In spite of the weather, our spirits were flying high because just two days earlier, my wife, Debra, had given birth to our son, Blake. It was an exciting, glorious day when Blake said hello to the world.
The entire family gathered at Northside Hospital in Atlanta to celebrate his arrival. Joy filled the room like a breath of fresh air. Little did any of us know what would happen in only two days.
I can still remember it as if it was yesterday. Debra and I were in our hospital room with the nurses bringing in baby Blake every so often to be fed. It was the middle of the afternoon and we were looking forward to a steak dinner the hospital served to new parents.
The telephone in the hospital room rang. I picked it up thinking it was another one of our friends calling to congratulate us. But it wasn't. On the other end of the line was a sheriff's dispatcher calling with bad news. My mother had been involved in a wreck on her way to the hospital.
I could barely keep the phone from shaking as I listened to the dispatcher give me directions to another hospital in Atlanta where the ambulance took Mother. Debra told me to be careful as I gave her a kiss goodbye. Racing to the parking lot to find my car, I couldn't catch my breath. The sky was ominously dark and the rain refused to stop.
As the windshield wipers rapidly swished back and forth in front of me, I tried to stay focused on the interstate. It seemed like an eternity passed before I arrived at the other hospital. The dispatcher didn't reveal the severity of Mother's wreck. Looking back after all these years, I feel that this was somewhat of a blessing. I probably wouldn't have been able to drive had I known.
Telling myself it was probably just a broken arm or a scratch here and there, I tried to prepare myself as I entered the emergency room. I ran up to the desk and asked about Mother's condition. Someone quickly escorted me to a room where I saw Mother fighting for her life. It seemed surreal to me. "That couldn't be my mother lying there!" I tried to convince myself. Unfortunately, it was.
It wasn't long before the nurse handed me Mother's purse, coat, jewelry and one of her shoes and ordered me out of the room and into a small waiting room instead. I felt desperate, lonely and confused.
My whole world was falling apart. I was so stunned that I couldn't remember any of the telephone numbers of the family members I needed to call.
I was able to finally reach a telephone operator who was kind enough to stay on the line and help me. I explained what had happened and don't know what I would have done had she not been there for me. Somewhere in the process of calling my family, a doctor walked in the room to tell me Mother wouldn't make it through the night. I almost fainted. I refused to believe him! Obviously, he didn't know my mother and how strong she was -- but he was about to find out!
As I already knew, my beloved mother was a fighter and refused to succumb to all the injuries that plagued her entire body. She had always been there for me, but now it was my turn. It was well over a month before Mother left the hospital to come stay with us to continue her healing and therapy before returning home to Macon. She survived another 11 years after that horrific day before finally giving in to the unbearable pain she suffered as a result.
Looking back on this 33rd anniversary of Mother's wreck, I really don't know how we made it through those two days. On one day Blake's life began and a two days later Mother's almost ended.
Those two days changed me forever. Just writing about this takes my breath away. In a matter of two days, our family went from total joy to incredible sadness. Those two days taught me that in the flow of life we will all experience peaks and valleys. I also learned how everything can change in a split second.
Two days ago we celebrated Blake's 33rd birthday. It was as happy and joyous a celebration. I'm so grateful that Mother had 11 more years to spend with Blake and us. Now, more than ever, I realize just how precious the gift of life is.
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