Several years ago, my young daughter Kelly accompanied me on a business trip to San Francisco. Leaving San Diego on a Thursday morning, we planned to spend a long weekend with my parents who lived about two hours away from San Francisco. My mother met us at the airport, dropped me off at my meeting, and then spent the rest of the day spoiling her granddaughter. They picked me up after my meeting so we could head back to grandma’s house. Kelly was so excited to tell me all about the fun things she did with her grandmother in San Francisco.
“Hi mommy, we had so much fun! First, we went to the park to play. I went down the slide twelve times. Then later we went to Target and grandma bought me this pretty dress and this talking phone. Look mom!”
I looked in the back seat to see and hear one of those annoying talking toy cell phones. Kelly continued to push the buttons non-stop with an ear-to-ear grin.
I smiled at my mother, “Was that a mommy torture gift?”
“Sorry dear,” she replied guiltily. “When I told Kelly she could have any toy, that was the one she chose. She told me that she wanted to use it to call me every Saturday.”
“OK mom, I know you meant well. I’m sure she’ll get tired of it by the time we get back to San Diego,” I replied.
On Sunday evening, my mother and father drove us back to the airport. We hugged and kissed each other goodbye. As I walked away from the car with Kelly, I felt a twinge of sadness run through my body. I always missed my parents, especially my mother after these occasional weekend visits. Little did I know that this would be the last time I would see my mother awake.
One month later, as I was preparing dinner, I got a call from my brother. “Mom collapsed while playing golf in a tournament this afternoon. They rushed her to the hospital. It appears that she had a brain aneurysm. They are going to helicopter her to UC San Francisco where they have a special unit to treat brain aneurysm.”
How could this have happened? Mom seemed perfectly healthy when I saw her four weeks ago. I flew to San Francisco the next day to be with her.
I tried to talk to my mother when she was in the coma, never really knowing if she heard me. I told her that I loved her and wanted her to wake up, but she never did. Sometimes there were involuntary muscle movements in her hands so we thought that she might have understood what we were saying. I was very close to my mother and wasn’t ready for her to go. My only consolation was that she did not suffer on the day she collapsed, and she was doing something she loved…..playing golf.
She never regained consciousness. The brain damage caused by the aneurysm was so extensive that she eventually stopped breathing. On that day, my heart was heavy with sadness. Over time, the pain of her sudden departure went away, but without my mother, there would always be a small hole in my heart.
A few months later, I happened to be walking past my young daughter’s room. I heard her talking to someone, but there was no one visiting at the time. I peeked in her room without her noticing. She was playing with that silly talking cell phone her grandmother had given her on our last visit.
“Hi grandma, I miss you. When are you coming to visit? What do you mean, you come all the time? I‘ve never seen you. Oh, you mean the little white butterflies are you? I didn’t know that. There are always little white butterflies flying around our backyard. Sometimes you bring a friend don’t you? I know because sometimes I see two little white butterflies flying together. OK grandma, I’ll tell my mommy.”
My curiosity got the best of me. “Hi Kelly, who were you talking to?
Looking at me with your wide innocent eyes, she replied, “I was talking to grandma. She told me that she comes down to visit us all the time. You know those little white butterflies we see? Well that’s grandma. She wanted me to tell you not to be sad anymore because she is having so much fun flying around heaven and earth with all her friends. I think she just wanted to check up on us to make sure we’re OK”