Sunday, April 20, 2014

She Has Risen

My Mom almost died a few weeks ago. She’s 74. I know I have a knack for being overly dramatic, but not this time. She fell out behind her house and broke her hip. Over the course of three hours, she managed to crawl about fifteen feet to her back door, but could not drag herself up the steps. It was raining and about 45 degrees. She was out there for about five hours.

My sister typically calls her every day, but our Mom did not answer the phone. (She and I live two hours away from Mom.) So my sister called my brother, who lives a few miles from our Mom, and asked if he would drive to her home to check on her. He did, and found her in back of the house lying in the mud, delirious, knees bloody from dragging herself along the rocks. He called 911 and the paramedics arrived and took her to the hospital.
Photo of Wilkes-Barre General Hospital from Hollenback Cemetery, across River Street

It took over 24 hours to get her hypothermia under control and her broken hip was replaced a couple days later. She’s doing fine in a rehab facility now, a week later, and should be home in another week or so. We’re going to get her one of those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” devices. My brother and sister saved her life.

Its brushes with death like this that get you thinking about, well, death. And how to prevent it. And what you would do if it were to happen. Knowing that we’re all going to die doesn’t make it any easier to accept; just like knowing that you must pay the IRS a large portion of your salary doesn’t make it any easier to do. 

Sunrise on the Pennsylvania Turnpike
I made the early morning trip from Philadelphia to Wilkes-Barre, PA (where my Mom was taken to the hospital) the day after her fall. All the while I was driving, I heard death-related news on the radio: Microsoft announced on this day (April 8, 2014) that its XP operating system was being “laid to rest” after twelve years. I also heard that Archie Andrews (b. 1941), of Archie comic book fame, was being killed off this coming July, 2014. It didn’t help when Dylan’s song, “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” came on. 

Addition on back of hospital, facing Hollenback Cemetery
I knew my Mom was in the Critical Care Unit, but wasn’t sure of her condition. All this external input was playing on my mind. Better that, though, than being left with my own, much more morbid, thoughts. This next trip was supposed to be where we both went to visit the recently located grave of her long lost uncle (read about that here); here I am now thinking about her own mortality.

Wilkes-Barre General Hospital is where my father worked as a laborer with a construction company doing building expansion, back in maybe 1990. He died here in 2004, from black lung he got while coal mining. While he was working there on that construction project, a patient jumped to her death off a roof. Death all around. It’s weird how the large Hollenback Cemetery is clearly visible out the hospital’s front windows. You wonder what the patients and their visitors are thinking.

Hollenback Cemetery, seen from inside Wilkes-Barre General Hospital

Beverly Snyder, post-hip replacement
My first visit to see my Mom the day after her accident, was scary. She had lots of other problems like borderline kidney function and high blood pressure that delayed her surgery, so those first couple days were an uneasy time. Her doctor, though, told her in front of me that she is a “tough old broad” and she’d do fine. She did, and is well on her way to recovery. It wasn’t until my second visit a few days later, post-surgery, that I ventured into Hollenback Cemetery.

It may seem morbid that I would be walking around in there with my Mom right across the street in a hospital bed. But it was a way of – believe it or not – getting my mind off things! I needed that distraction! I just wanted an hour to myself without someone throwing lingo like “power of attorney” or “life alert” at me. The photos you see throughout this article are from that visit. As I drove out of the cemetery and headed back to Philadelphia, Neil Young’s song “Long May You Run” came on the radio. You GO, Mom!