Below are some of the hardest words I will ever write. I’ve written much of those words before writing this part at the top and I have cried — no, I have wept. I have had to stop and walk away for a bit. But I need to write this, I need to preserve it, and I need to tell it.
Sunday afternoon, all eight Draper siblings, the two spouses of the siblings, and all 5 grandchildren (well six technically with one in my sister’s womb) gathered together in my parents’ home to belatedly celebrate their 32nd anniversary. My dad is a semi-truck driver — owner operator — and he got a well paying load that he needed to take to feed the family, but it would have him out of town over the anniversary. So we decided to celebrate later. And that’s what we did.
It wasn’t anything special. We talked trucks, politics, life, other mundane things, nothing too exciting. The young grandchildren ran around playing, grandma (my mom) would coax one of them to let her hold them or sit on her lap occasionally.
We gathered around the table and ate food, had brownies and ice cream, gave my parents gifts, etc. Mundane, and normal celebration. As usual, my dad would rib and tease my mom about silly things. Sometimes she fell for it, not knowing (as always) if he was serious, other times, she knew better and didn’t fall for it. Occasionally, she would punch dad on the shoulder for some particularly funny tease. And at one point, my parents had a kiss in honor of their anniversary that had us children begging them to get a room. My parents loved each other more than any other couple I have ever known. Yes, I love my wife passionately, but I’m not even sure I know how to love that much yet. It will take me many more years to achieve that kind of love.
As usual, a little while after the meal, and after some more small talk, my sister, her husband, and their kiddo cleared out. And my family also began to clear out. As usual, my three kids old enough to make the rounds on their little feet ran around giving hugs and kisses to aunts and uncles, and especially to grandpa and grandma. And Kaylee was passed around. As usual my mom lingered over the precious little infant bundle.
And then we left with words I don’t exactly remember, but were along the lines of, “see you soon.” And why wouldn’t I say that? As far as any of us knew, my mother was healthy and vibrant. And she was only 56 years old. It turns out, “see you soon,” was presumptuous.
My wife and I went home and at bedtime put the kids to bed. As is my habit, I was watching a little TV (I’m re-watching Stargate SG-1 if you must know) when I received a phone call. The caller ID read Charlotte Draper. I answered with something like, “Hi Mom, what’s up.” It was my sister — the oldest sister still living at home. She explained in an unsteady voice that mom had a heart attack and was not breathing. Dad was trying desperately to revive her with CPR and chest compressions.
I fumbled around the house looking for my keys, a shirt, shoes and who knows what else. I had a hard time finding them all through the tears.
I drove pretty fast. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was afraid an officer of the law would see me and delay me by pulling me over for such outrageous speed. Any time I saw headlights I would slow down to something a little more reasonable. It was the most helpless thing I have ever felt.
After what seemed like an eternity, I arrived at my parents’ home where an ambulance had arrived and the medics were trying desperately to revive my mother. My dad was looking on helplessly and praying, standing on the back bumper of the ambulance. Not long after that the ambulance took off.
My dad took off after the ambulance in the car, my sister Johanna jumped in with him. The rest of us didn’t quite know what to do. My sister’s husband Gabriel was there. Johanna (I believe) had called him to come help and he had been with my dad trying to revive my mom. We prayed, then I wondered around the living room a bit while my siblings sat around bleary eyed and crying. Then I took Gabriel back to their house only a minute away so he could talk to my sister Elise.
I don’t remember exactly how, but we figured out we should get in the family van and get ourselves to the emergency room to be with dad.
On the way I got a phone call. We were probably five minutes away. Somehow my dad choked out to me that mom was gone. The doctor had declared death. I was unable to get all the words out to my siblings, but they knew. We all frankly knew that despite CPR and chest compressions, she had not been breathing for far too long. But the finality of it was too much.
There’s much more to tell, but it’s too much of a blur to untangle at the moment. We were surrounded by friends at the hospital. We made phone calls, we comforted dad, we comforted each other, we cried with friends, we hugged a lot. But nothing helped. My dear mother was gone.
My mom loved her children and grandchildren. She poured her life and soul into us. There was nothing more important to her. There was never a question in my mind that my mom was there. She was a constant in my life. She saw me born into the world, she saw me grow up and learn to ride a bike, she saw me fumble with schemes and plans to elevate myself in the world, to make money, to make a life for myself. She was with me when I hugged her, she was with me when I had a bad attitude from time to time as a teenager. She was with me when I was married. She would wait anxiously for news of her grandchildren’s birth. She was there for birthdays, rainy days, thick, and thin.
And finally, my mother was a Godly women who loved the Lord and desired nothing more than that her children should walk in His ways. I know with assurance where my mother is, and that one day I shall see her again.
My mother, in many ways, may have been an ordinary women, caring for an ordinary (more or less) family. But she was one of the most extraordinary women I have ever, or will ever know.