It has been almost two years since that Wednesday night when I received the message on my answering machine from my mother, telling me that she didn't know what to do anymore, so she was jumping off the bridge. She left me detailed instructions to take care of the cat, look after my brother, and get her affairs in order.
At that moment that my life changed forever. The message was stamped 5:36 p.m. I received the message, shortly after 6:00. I panicked. I lived an hour away, the nearest relative or friend to my mother was at least thirty minutes away from the bridge she was on.
The police thought I was crazy when I tried to call and have someone check the bridge. I gave up on them and decided to call mom's best friend. In the meantime, my husband and I broke every speed limit in the Bi-State area, reaching the bridge in a record 40 minutes. We found my mother's car exactly where she said it would be. A police officer kindly told me that she'd been taken to the hospital already.
When I finally saw my mother, the first words out of her mouth were, "Not again". (She had attempted suicide 45 days earlier, overdosing on pills.) She was heavily sedated.
The doctors escorted us into a private room so the top neurosurgeon could evaluate her. The Dr. finally spoke to us, saying that it was a miracle she had survived the 20 story jump but her injuries were severe. She had fractured her back, crushed vertebrae, bruised organs, and a great deal of swelling. They wouldn't really be able to do much more than keep her comfortable until the swelling went down in a few days.
I was able to visit with my mother over the next few days, as I kept watch, (like we had switched roles, she was the child, and I was the responsible adult.) She filled me in on some of her reasons for trying to end her life, coming to the conclusion that "I can't even kill myself right." She definitely needed more help that I could give her.
On Monday, my mother underwent eight hours of back surgery to fuse her spine. I saw her the next day, she said that it was the worst pain she had ever experienced in her entire life. Mom was sore, but her spirits seemed better. She even managed to laugh while trying to eat orange Jell-O with her fingers. Mom was instructing me on how to handle her affairs until she got "back on her feet".
When I left that afternoon, mom told me she loved me, to keep an eye on my brother, and do well in school. All normal things for a mother to say. Never dreaming that those would be the last words she would ever say to me, I told her I loved her, and would call her on Wednesday, and would be back out to see her on Thursday. About 3:00 Wednesday afternoon, I called Mom to tell her that her new glasses were finally in (She lost her glasses in the river, and was wearing sunglasses indoors. The nurse who answered the phone said that she couldn't connect me, call back later. Before I could leave a message, the nurse hung up. A minute later the phone rang. It was the hospital, calling to tell me my mother had stopped breathing and I needed to get to the hospital right away.
I called my husband in a hysterical fit. I finally calmed down enough to drive the two miles to his work, and gratefully let him take over the wheel.
Walking into the ER was like a scene from the movies, crash carts, doctors, oxygen, machines beeping, and nurses scurrying around, it was unreal. All I could say was "That's my mom." A nurse rushed us into a private room and said the Dr. would be with us shortly.
The Dr. entered and said it did not look good, mom had not regained consciousness. He wanted to try one last experimental drug to restart her heart and break down the blood clot. They would have results in about twenty minutes. I don't know how we got through those twenty minutes. We tried calling my dad, and brother, no one was home. The Dr. returned, and before he said a word, I knew that my mother was gone. I burst into tears, trying to hold them back long enough to hear the Dr.'s diagnosis. "She died from a pulmonary embolism." "She was in no pain, because she never regained consciousness, it was just like going to sleep." That was some comfort, but not much.
They said they could clean her up if we wanted to see her, so we agreed. We didn't know what to do next. Mom had no burial plans, and we still couldn't reach anyone. The hospital chaplain arrived and was a lifesaver in our time of chaos. He provided guidance on funeral homes, and told us what would happen to the body until we decided what to do.
I have never felt so helpless or out of control. For twenty three years my mom was there for every major event, and most of the minor ones too. That Wednesday, I lost my mom and my best friend.
I am thankful that I got to see my mom one last time, even though I didn't get to say good-bye. But that is only a small comfort. There are still too many unanswered questions. I often wonder if I could have done more, or if I had been home to take her call if I could have stopped her, but I can't. And I live with that everyday.
You can send email to Jante' at: [email protected]
anniversary date 8-21-96
date of post 3-15-98