I went to visit my mom at the hospital. She had stubbed her toe at our house during Christmas. Because of her advanced diabetes, the toe became infected and wouldn’t heal. She returned home to Florida, visited a doctor, and was immediately admitted to Parkway Hospital in Miami.
Within a week, they amputated.
They were hoping there was enough blood flow to heal from this surgery. There wasn’t. She went back to surgery, and they amputated above the knee. She healed.
At 78, recovery was difficult. She was in the hospital for four months. I went to visit her from time to time. My last visit was two weeks before she was to be discharged.
When I saw her this time, she was in great spirits. She looked healthy and rested. She was finally pain-free. She was sitting up, and she looked right into my eyes and smiled. After all she had been through, it was such a relief to see her like this.
I am the firstborn son.
My sister is eleven years older and left home long before I did. She blazed the path for me. I didn’t carry the performance burden of the firstborn, and I enjoyed all the unconditional love of an only child.
My mom loved me like no one else could love. I knew it. She thought I was the greatest.
She gave me life-long encouragement.
I boarded a plane back to Atlanta and assured my mom I would be back for discharge day. As I was flying home, the look my mother gave me the moment I first saw her kept flashing into my mind.
There was a glimmer in her eye and something special about her smile. Just seeing her lifted my spirits beyond description. Her expression captured her love for me.
In a single smile, she showed me unconditional love, how proud she was, how bright my future was to be, and that everything was going to be fine. One look!
A week later, the phone rang.
While in my New York office, I received a call from the hospital. The nurse asked, “Is this Charlie Paparelli?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I am sorry to have to tell you this. Your mother died this morning of a heart attack,” she said.
As I hung up the phone, my thoughts went to our last visit and to the look she gave me. I know now my mom knew we were seeing each other for the last time.
She didn’t want to leave the hospital.
That was not the way she wanted to live. She knew it was time to be with Jesus.
At the funeral, the nurse told me, “I was with her when she had the heart attack. We were right there and brought her back. But there was a look in her eyes I’ll never forget. It said, ‘Let me go.’”