In memory of my mother, who went to heaven on a July 20th, years ago.
She had always wanted a child. There were several miscarriages and a stroke while she was pregnant. The doctors told her not to get pregnant again – having a child could end her life. But her desire for a child was greater than her fear of death, so she had me. I don’t really know all the details – just what I gleaned here and there from what other people told me, from what I heard by eavesdropping when Daddy thought I was occupied and not paying attention to the grownup conversation. You see, one of the strokes Mama had took away her speech – she could say single words, but not sentences.
Daddy grew up Catholic and Mama Protestant. Both churches practiced infant baptism. I’m not sure why (one aunt told me I spent the first two years of my life with another aunt while Mama was recovering from another stroke), but they didn’t get around to baptizing me until I was four years old. It was the first time I ever went to church and what a church it was! Carved wood pews, stained glass windows and a pipe organ. I had never seen or heard anything so beautiful. We were up in front and during the service I fell in love with church and the things of God. I made my parents take me every Sunday after that.
I became the center of Daddy’s world. After all, I came at a high price – the near loss of his beloved wife. So he protected me – to the point of overprotecting me. One day, the boy I had loved since I was a little girl came calling. Daddy was worried. I told him he didn’t have to be – I wasn’t going to marry the man. But then he proposed and I said yes, and the war was on. It didn’t matter that Daddy had known him since we were children (and had always liked him). Now that he wanted to take his little girl away, he wasn’t good enough.
One Saturday afternoon, the argument had been intense – the list of apparent and imagined faults was long. Mama and I had to leave for the beauty shop and as soon as we were out of sight of the house, I stopped, faced her and asked point blank, “Do you want me to marry him?” With a look of determination and defiance I imagined her having when she was trying to have a baby, she simply replied “Yes!” That was enough for me, and from then on, it became a matter of gently convincing my dad I was indeed going to get married.
It was a month before the wedding and one morning we were making breakfast. Mama dropped the gallon of milk and just before she fell to the floor, a knowing look passed between us. A look from deep in our spirits that told each of us she wouldn’t be at the wedding. The doctor took my fiance and me aside that afternoon at the hospital and told us to go on with the wedding plans. “Don’t change anything, don’t postpone it”, he said. We were too overcome with emotion to say anything – we just nodded.
My fiance and I were standing in the kitchen later that night and I started to cry. We had led a sheltered life, my dad and mom and I. Handicapped people in public weren’t as common then as they are now, so we pretty much stayed home. Mama had picked out a beautiful dress for the wedding – I’d never seen her with anything so fancy. She was going to be queen for a day when she walked down the aisle and everyone knew I was wearing her wedding dress. I cried for the experience she would never have.
Mama was unresponsive, but every time I saw her, I brought her up to date on the wedding details and told her I expected her to come. When the wedding ceremony program was finished, I brought her a copy, read it to her and left it on her night stand. I had never prayed so hard in my life. At first I prayed that she would recover and come to the wedding. Then I prayed that she could participate in some way. While it seemed God was silent, I never got angry with Him or pouted – for the first time in my life, I simply trusted and waited. Somehow I just knew that God knew my heart and would do something special.
It was customary in those days for the bride and groom to present white roses to their mothers. Since Mama couldn’t come to the wedding, I made arrangements to bring the wedding to her. My father and husband-to-be in their tuxes and I in her wedding dress went to the hospital to give her her rose. The staff moved her to a private room for the occasion. As soon as I walked in the door, she knew exactly who I was and why I was there. She sat up in bed and reached for the nurse to try and tell her something. She pointed at me with joy and excitement. I don’t remember how long we stayed. I can’t tell you how anyone else reacted, but I think the nurses were crying. It was as if she and I were the only ones in the room. Whenever anyone asked about my mother that day, I told them that she had sat up and knew who I was and tried to talk.
During the two months Mama was in the hospital, that was the only time she was awake or aware of her surroundings, let alone interacting with them. She died a month later. It rained the day she died and we saw a double rainbow on the way home from the hospital. I believe it was God’s special way of welcoming her to heaven and letting me know she was free at last.
Mama’s illness and her miraculous awakening for my wedding day visit confirmed several things for me. While God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we would like, He cares very deeply about the people and events that are important to us. No matter what is going on in our life, He knows, He cares, and He wants to help us and touch us deeply. He can do anything; including awakening a loving mother from a coma long enough to bless her daughter with an unforgettable memory. I’m reminded of that every time I see a rainbow – especially a double one.