Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time. Or does it? To a woman, saying she will be ready in five minutes really means about an hour or so (and we are sorry not sorry about it!) To a kid, five minutes in time-out can feel like a life sentence, but if it’s five more minutes to play then it’s not nearly long enough. It’s funny how time can be so insignificant at times and monumental at others.
A Glimpse of What Could Have Been
When my youngest son Memphis was born he was a seemingly healthy baby weighing in at 9 lbs 6 oz, (he was a whopper!). I hate hospitals so was overjoyed when they told me we could leave the next morning. Unfortunately, that next morning Memphis failed his heart test. They initially told me to not worry, (yeah right. Me WORRY? Never.), sometimes it happens, and they would immediately run another heart test. Much to my dismay, a while later they told me he once again failed it, and would require an echocardiogram. I was starting to get nervous, and joined the heart specialist over the course of an hour as they did a full ultrasound of my newborn son’s heart. That hour seemed to stretch out forever. Memphis was quite uncomfortable and was tired of being poked and prodded and was crying uncontrollably. The nurse kept giving him little syringes full of sugar water but it would only make him happy for a few minutes and he would start yowling again. I wanted so badly to hold him but was not able to. I kept wishing and hoping for the ultrasound to be over, but time would not yield to my pleas. Soon enough though, my baby was once again in my arms. The doctors told me that there was nothing wrong with his heart, which was great news, but he had started to labor in his breathing and was turning blue. Before I knew it, they were whisking my baby off to the NICU to be monitored, and four hours later, they determined he was born with pneumonia. We were so thankful that he had something that would be easily fixed, but so heartbroken to leave our baby in the NICU for a week. One of the worst feelings ever was leaving the hospital with no baby. I was heavily sedated to even be able to do so.
For the next 8 days I went back to the hospital as many times a day as I could to be with my sweet baby. When I was at home I was constantly pumping and also bringing as much bottled breast milk with me as I could for Memphis. I had never visited a NICU before so it was all very foreign to me. Every time one enters, they must first go through a washing station that consisted of large metal sinks. Above each sink was a digital timer which when you pushed the foot pedal underneath would start at five minutes and countdown. That was how long you were required to scrub your hands before being able to enter.
Five minutes never felt so long in my entire life. Those red digital numbers seemed to go slower and slower as if mocking me. I would go through this process so many times a day and by the time I was even able to come back to the hospital I was aching so badly to see Memphis that those five minutes were torture.
I’ll be honest, I did some very deep soul searching during those five minute scrubs. It forced me to stand still and painfully revisit the events that had occurred with our family and our brand new baby. The importance of minutes and just how valuable and precious they are became very clear to me. Jess and I for a frightening time thought we were going to lose our son, and it’s a feeling I won’t ever forget. We were lucky enough to be able to still have him, and it helped me to start appreciating every moment I had with all of my children, and all of my family for that matter.
Frozen in Time
Not two days ago I was vacuuming out my minivan at the local car wash. As I was picking up garbage I looked inside the pocket on the backside of the driver seat and saw the back of a Kodak photo. I pulled it out and to my surprise it was a snapshot of my parents that I don’t think I have ever seen before. The weirdest thing is I have no idea how this photo came to be in my van, but I know I was meant to see it when I did.
Instantly, I was taken back in time. Judging by the outfits, I would say this was from the early 90’s. This was before my mom was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. She was so beautiful in this picture, and so happy. The cancer changed her physically and emotionally over her 18 year battle. She was never really the same person.
I found myself wishing so badly to go back in time to this. I would even take five minutes with her before she got sick, and taken some mental pictures of her when she was her healthy self because those fragile memories that I have of her are fading. I mean, we had no way to know what was going to happen, but when she was diagnosed the cancer forced us all to take a step back and treasure the moments we had left.
Cancer is a thief. It steals time. It made the years that were supposed to be my mom’s best painful 24 hours a day. She fought to stay alive, and she fought hard. My mother was an extremely stubborn woman, and she refused to die until she was good and ready. Initially when she was diagnosed in 1997, she was terminal with stage 4 multiple myeloma (bone marrow) cancer. For almost an entire year she stayed in a hospital. The doctors did not expect her to live, but she surprised them all and did. She told us that she was determined to see Aly and I graduate high school. She entered her first of several remissions in 2000, which lasted until after we graduated and went to our freshman year of college.
She then told us she was determined to see all her children married. My brother was married in 2001, I was married in 2005, and my sister was married in 2013. Despite have her second bone marrow transplant and nearly dying in 2008, Mom lived to see all her children married like she said. She was so stubborn, that woman. It’s one of the things I loved most about her.
Her health dramatically decreased from 2013-2015. In October of 2014 they told us once again that she was terminal. But after 18 years of the constant pain, and the long list of health issues that arose from the chemo treatments, radiation, and cancer itself, Mom decided she would stop treatments. None of us could blame her at that point, but that does not mean it wasn’t heartbreaking knowing the end was near.
On Tuesday February 17, 2015 around 6:00 PM we gathered around a hospital bed where she lay dying. They had turned off her pace maker and we were watching the monitors as her heart rate and breathing were slowing. My sister Aly, my brother Rob and I were all by the bedside. My sister whispered :
“Mom, it’s okay to go now.”
My brother and I both chimed in too saying it was okay, and in a few moments she was gone.
Her time on this earth was shortened, but she held on as stubbornly as she could to get every last moment she could with her family.
Time is a funny thing. Some days we constantly check our clocks just wishing for the day to speed up, and other days we feel like the days are dragging on. Time is best spent doing things we love, and with the people we love. For those loved ones we have lost, we can find them in those moments of happiness because they do not want us to sit around and be sad missing them. They want us living and enjoying every moment.
One thing is for sure, on those days where I catch myself wishing for time to speed up I have to stop and remember how precious every moment is. Be it an hour, a month, ten years, or five minutes.
The Raw Brunette