My mother died Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1990 at the age of 57. By the time the ambulance reached San Pedro Hospital, she had already fallen into a deep coma. Once she reached the E.R., a series of brain scans revealed the trauma of a massive stroke left little hope she would regain consciousness. Over the coming week, Stefani’s team of doctors continued to run tests while they began to prepare our family for her death. What those doctors had not anticipated, was my mother's ability to wage a tireless fight. For fourteen days, she fought to stay alive hanging on in a deep coma long enough for each member of our family to say goodbye.
Throughout those days, I never stopped believing she could overcome death and live to tell the story. However, this time prayer wouldn’t be good enough to save my mother from an early death; God had other plans for her. I regret never having the opportunity to hear her voice again or not being able to have one more conversation to thank her for all she had contributed to my life. Unlike so many other people who lose a parent, I was one of the lucky ones given time to say goodbye.
Following two gut-renching weeks of holding on to hope my mother chose to walk into the white light, leaving my sister and I to go home to grieve. We both knew then, that our endless prayers to God didn't have the power to change the outcome. Our mother had made the decision to let go on her own to be with God. She faded away, believing it was her time and now we were left to honor her decision.
That first evening alone without her, I remember lying on the bed in her guest room looking out the window at a full moon and a string of Christmas lights dotting the hillside above her home. I wondered then how people could possibly celebrate Christmas, now that my mother had left the planet. How would my sister and I ever be able to celebrate Christmas, New Years Eve, Easter, Mother’s Day, birthdays and another Thanksgiving for the rest of our lives without her leading the festivities? How would I find the strength to overcome my dark depression and muster the courage to let go of her love and begin to rebuild my life in positive, healthy ways? How could I be sure I would not forget her voice, her smile, her laugh, her warm caring touch, her strength, her wisdom, her courage to always follow the right path and most importantly, her endless uncompromising love for my sister Valerie and I? She had never tired in wanting the best for me or my sister and took every opportunity to encourage us both to be wise, capable and strong women.
My greatest fear was that time would have the power to erase my mother’s memory. That night was twenty years ago this week and there hasn’t been a day in between I haven’t thought of Stefani and all the love she brought into my life. She was an incredible human being who always chose the high road in her relationships giving away her love freely. After twenty years, I can happily say that her love has not faded from my memory because she lives on in my heart.
So this year I will celebrate Thanksgiving by giving thanks for the gift of my mother’s love. For it is through her, I learned my values, the meaning of love and the bond of family. Time has erased the pain of her loss, but has proven powerless against erasing her memory.