Eleven years ago today, I drove to the hospital to visit my mom. For years, she had said, “When he goes, I go,” meaning she would kill herself when my brother died. July 6, 2007, a Lakewood Hospital doctor called my cubicle at a law firm to tell me she’d already started — by drinking while my brother spent two years there.
Angry that she hadn’t given me the chance to take her to Hawaii and other places she’d dreamed about visiting after a friend vacationed there and showed her pictures, I abandoned my mom as she’d abandoned me at age 4 to take care of my brother for the next 28 years. My July 15 visit was only my third. When I arrived, the receptionist told me she’d been transferred to Cleveland Clinic the night before, but they couldn’t get a hold of me.
By the time I got to the main campus, parked, and made it to ICU, she was “actively dying,” according to someone in white.
Sobbing, I used a payphone across from her room to call my boyfriend, who was vacationing with his daughter in Lakeside, Ohio.
Once he understood what I was trying to tell him, he said he was over an hour away, and he’d never make it in time.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll let you go then.”
A few times over the next several years, he would tell me that I’d immediately stopped crying and my voice had changed.
Of course, it did, I thought. I was used to men disappointing me — including him. As I’d begun cleaning out my mom’s home a week earlier, he’d been drinking Bloody Marys with a woman who’d recently asked him why they “never hooked up.” He only showed up to help because as they sat there drinking, he mentioned me so many times that she told him he should go be with me.
That night, his teenage daughter stole a golf cart to impress a boy.
Since he needed people to tell him the right thing to do and he couldn’t leave his daughter unattended again, I knew I was on my own.
I walked back to my mom’s room, sat down beside her, laid my head on her increasingly cold arm, and stroked the hair with my thumb.
With morphine coursing through her veins, she only came to as a doctor exposed her breast while he checked whatever it was the machine she was hooked up to wasn’t telling him.
After he left, she looked at me, and tears flooded her eyes.
“I forgive you,” I said.
She turned her head away from me, and tears streamed down her cheek.
The truth is, I didn’t forgive her. Not yet. But this is one of millions of reasons I know God exists. The holy spirit interceded on her behalf and told her what she needed to hear.
Here’s another: five minutes before she died at 4:20 p.m., my boyfriend showed up.
After she flatlined, I wrapped my arms around his neck, started crying, and said, “She knew you were coming. She waited for you to get here.”
I can’t help but think about that today for a few reasons.
First, the obvious: today’s the anniversary of her death.
Second: before walking to church this morning, I opened the right lid of my Dumpster and saw two little eyes staring at me from the back corner. A raccoon had ventured in when two bar stools sat beside the Dumpster, but now she couldn’t get out because the garbage wasn’t piled high enough. She may have been in there all night — or the past two nights — and if it was 87 degrees outside, I can only imagine how hot it was inside that metal tank.
Thinking they’d have a mini ladder of some sort, I flagged down two deeply tanned and ripped roofing guys who’d been walking to the truck they’d parked on a side street as I’d walked toward the Dumpster.
“You may not want to help, but could you please help me get a raccoon out of the Dumpster?” I asked, remembering that just about every guy I’ve dated has had a raccoon-that-nearly-killed-him story.
“Oh, yeah, we’ll get right on that,” one guy, who must’ve had one of his own, said and chuckled.
They looked behind my building for branches and propped one inside the Dumpster so she could scale it — but then she got to the top, glanced at the ground, and looked at us like, “Now what?”
I reassured her it would be okay as the roofers went in search of more branches.
Over the course of the next 15 minutes, they propped another branch, a metal pipe, and, finally, a two-by-four against the exterior, so the raccoon, who had a huge gash in her left arm, could descend safely.
Like all those videos of grateful animals and whales who’ve thanked their rescuers, the raccoon looked me in the eyes, making me tear up, before she walked down the board and headed home — possibly to hungry babies.
I’ve been kissing my own babies on the top of their head for days, telling them everything will be okay and, “We’re about to go on an adventure,” as I prepared to pack what I can in order to leave the apartment we’ve been evicted from tomorrow.
Although the magistrate gave me an extra week to find a place, I still don’t know where we’re going. But like July 15, 2007, and this morning for that raccoon who might’ve died from dehydration or heat exhaustion if “something” hadn’t nudged me to open the farthest lid instead of the closest, I know God often comes through at the 11th hour, or the fullness of time, as the Bible phrases it.
Those are the testimonies we’re supposed to share as Christians, so stay tuned for the next one.