God Gave Me One Last Minute by Darlene Nash
When I was seventeen my mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and I remember walking into my high school dean’s office, dropping my books on her desk and telling her I could not take care of my sick mother and concentrate on school too.
In 1975 there was little support for terminally ill people or their families. It was just mom, dad, my nine year old sister and I and when dad grew very detached back then, I quickly understood that it was up to me to take care of not only my mom, but my little sister.
I remember buying mom a blond wig when her hair fell out and how she laughed when I clumsily slid it over her bald head. Each day brought a new confusing task. She developed what they called “elephant feet,” where the feet would swell to a grotesque size and water would slowly seep through the skin. She was so embarrassed by it until I plopped down beside her one day with a bottle of fingernail polish and painted her toes a bright red color.
During those days we knew we had to squeeze in as much as we could in the short months before she died. There were still many things a seventeen year old girl needed to learn from her mother and we were determined to do the best we could. Our conversations lasted late into the evenings and still there was not enough time.
One morning I woke to prepare scrambled eggs for her to eat since she had been having a hard time keeping anything down. I noticed that she was not responding to me and had a very distant, glazed stare in her eyes. When I called my dad, who had not been staying at our home regularly, he told me not to worry and to let her rest. By evening there was no change and dad had me drive her to the hospital in the morning. I physically loaded my comatose mother into our car and drove her to the hospital where volunteers rushed her upstairs and into a bed.
By the time I signed papers, they had her in a room. I sat down beside her on the bed and took her hand in mine and whispered to her that it was okay; she was in the hospital and safe. The previous 24 hours she had not acknowledge me, but suddenly she opened her eyes and they were clear as she smiled up at me. I told her I loved her and she mouthed the words that she loved me too, closed her eyes and quietly passed away. I realize now that God did not want my last memory of her to be where she did not know her daughter. He gave me one last minute with my mother and left me with the memory of her loving smile and whispered words.