This is the story of my mother, Jacquelyn Stewart. It was June 14, 2000, and it was like any other day, so I thought. I was scheduled to work 3-9pm at my job. I can remember on the way to work it was storming. As soon as I got out of my car, a large bolt of lightening struck a light pole in the parking lot. I never heard such a crash. I looked up and I could see sparks. I worked my shift and went home. I always check my voice-mail right when I get home. My ringer was turned off, but the kind of phone I had lights up when it rings. I usually screen my calls, but something told me to pick up the phone. It was my step brother on the phone. I asked how he was doing. He didn't know how to answer that. He told me my mother was in the hospital. I can't even remember how he told me what happened, but he said to some effect that my mother had bad headaches that day and her brain hemorrhaged. I felt so distraught that I could barely hear him when he told me how to get to the hospital, but I was able to write it down and get there. My step dad said it was bad, that she may have already suffered great brain damage. They thought it was a brain aneurysm, but they weren't sure at that point. She was having some tests done. I just remember thinking, "She cannot die without me being able to talk to her again." There was so much I wanted to say. My family and I stayed at the hospital until they finished the tests, which was until after midnight. We went in to see her, and her head was wrapped, and there was a tube in her head draining the leaky blood out. The doctor said it was a brain aneurysm, but they didn't want to operate until she was stable. The doctor was to call my dad in the morning to let us know what was going to happen. I went home that night and couldn't sleep until 5am.
Later that morning about 8am, my dad called and told me they were going to operate. I got myself ready and headed for the hospital. Meanwhile, I called my best friend, Cheri, in Texas to let her know. She has been my friend since childhood and my mom was a second mom to her growing up. We played phone tag all day, but she informed me she was flying out that day, which I never expected. I wouldn't have gotten through this without her. She stayed for ten days.
The operation went well and they were able to clip the aneurysm. Her chances were 30% of surviving, 30% chance of major brain damage, and 30% chance she would die. All we could do was wait.
My dad told me the story of what happened that day as told by my mom's secretary. She went into work like any other day, as I did. She ate her lunch and had a meeting that day. She began getting a headache. In the meeting, it got bad. She saw a flash of light and the voices in the meeting began to fade in and out. After the meeting, she told her secretary what had happened. She offered a ride home to my mom, but she declined. She just wanted to go home and sleep it off. She said if it happened again, she would pull over. Sure enough, she had a flash of light while driving. She immediately pulled over and called 911. While she was waiting, she called her office and talked to them until the ambulance came. My dad was notified, and he met her at the hospital. As my mom was telling the doctor what had happened that day, she had another bad headache and exclaimed, "Can't anyone do something for this pain!" She began throwing up and then had a stroke. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head, and she went into a coma. She was transferred to another hospital where there was a neurosurgeon on staff. I believe when she was having these headaches in the meeting, it was about the time the lightening struck the light pole by me as I was going into work. It's like God was trying to tell me something.
We hoped as the days passed, she would get better, but she only got worse. She was losing more of her brain functions. They did various tests to see how much brain function she had. By Sunday, June 18, the only thing she could do was breathe on her own, and that was slipping away. She had been on life support to help her breathe. We were told there was nothing more they could do, and she was pronounced brain dead. My mother never wanted to stay on life support, so we decided it was time to take her off. It was scheduled the next day, June 19. It was the most horrible thing knowing she was going to die the next day. The family arrived the next morning, and the doctor discussed with us that they did everything they could. They removed the life support, and we watched her die. I have never been that close to death. In some ways it was the most intimate thing I have ever experienced, to watch a loved one die. I told her everything I had wanted to say the day before while she was in a coma. I never got to talk with her again. She never came out of the coma.
My mother was a beautiful, vibrant, and healthy woman. She died at the age of 59, 3 months before her 60th birthday. Her birthday was September 11, a day I have to share with everybody else since the tragedy of September 11. She was a very active part of the Republican Party and well respected by so many. As my dad said, she mattered.
I wrote a poem and read it at her funeral called: Mother-Creator
Mother-Creator who has given life to me
You have left the body and walked unto thee
You have lived your life so gracefully
Successful and beautiful is how I see you
Like an angel with wings above the sky so blue
If you truely found peace here on this earth
May you find it ten-fold on your next search
If my will could make this decision
I would have you with me alive and living
But my higher self will let you go
To find new endeavors which allow you to grow
Mother-Creator spread your wings and fly
And with this vision I have I will say goodbye!
Almost two years later, I still attend a grief and loss group. I met my partner in life, whom my mother will never know, only in spirit. I believe she sent him to me. He just lost his mom and dad within two months of each other to cancer. I try to support him the best I can through my own loss. I will always love my mother and continue to ask for her guidance in my life. She can support me now more than ever. The thing I want to do now is find a way to shed more light on brain aneurysms. I want to make a difference. I believe that God and my mother can guide me to do so.
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