Elizabeth* brought a bright, sunny smile into the hospital?s intensive care unit (ICU). She was sick, very sick, but somehow she managed to smile through the pain, the gloom, and the death sentence the doctors had given her. I don?t recall what gruesome malady it was that racked her once vibrant body, but I do remember her wonderful attitude. Even more than that, I remember her four strapping sons.
The boys, all tall, broad-shouldered, clean-cut, and good-looking, ranged from late teens to early 20s. Their mother was the light of their lives. You could see it in the way they held her hand, the way they hugged and kissed her before leaving, the way they called her on the phone many times each day. Yes, Elizabeth was very loved, and she knew it. Her dull, feverish eyes lit up every time one of her boys appeared in the doorway.
Despite her illness, Elizabeth, only in her mid-40s, was still very attractive. She was a favorite among the ICU staff. Every nurse wanted to take care of her. Every therapist was delighted when asked to spend time working with her. Elizabeth?s positive attitude and sweet smile gave courage to everyone fortunate enough to know her.
But alas, Elizabeth was very ill. Her illustrious life was nearing its end, and everyone knew it, especially her boys. Their sad eyes and slumped shoulders told of their sorrow. Yet even in their sadness, they treated the ICU staff wonderfully. ?Thank you, nurse,? they would say with tears in their eyes. ?Thank you for taking such good care of our mother.? Everyone loved Elizabeth and her boys.
As expected, Elizabeth?s condition rapidly deteriorated. Within a few days her color worsened and her smile disappeared. The pain medication took its toll as she wandered in and out of delirium.
On her final evening the boys huddled around her bed, never leaving her side. The nurse pulled the curtain, allowing the family privacy while spending its final hours together. A somber hush had fallen over the entire ICU. Nurses, doctors, therapists, and family members of other patients all talked and walked quietly while trying to attend to other activities and duties.
?Please don?t leave us, Mom!? one of the boys suddenly cried out, his trembling voice echoing throughout the ICU.
The ICU was huge, but not one ear in the entire unit escaped the mournful caterwaul.
?Mom, we love you!? another voice wailed.
?Oh, God, please don?t let her die!? a third one sobbed.
Hoping she could still hear them, the boys loudly and unashamedly proclaimed their love for their mother, who had so willingly cuddled them as babies, nurtured them as children, and unconditionally loved them into adulthood.
Everyone knew the exact moment Elizabeth drew her final breath. Something like a storm erupted from her room.
?No, no, no, no, Mom, nooooo!? four huge, wonderful, sweet boys wailed in unison.
The mournful sobbing that followed was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Many of the hospital workers quickly fled the unit, unable to continue with their duties. Every eye dripped faucetlike tears, but no one cared. We were mourning with our friends.
Later that night as I lay awake in bed, I prayed for that family. I thanked God for Elizabeth, for her sweetness, her joy, and her loving spirit. I thanked God for those four boys, for their loyalty, their kindness, and their love for their mother. I also thanked God for my own loving family, but most of all, I thanked God for the hope He has given us?the hope of the resurrection and of spending eternity with Him.
I think Elizabeth and her boys will be there, and I hope I am somewhere in the vicinity when they are reunited. If those boys were so openly unashamed when loudly expressing grief at their mother?s death, then what is their joyful reunion going to sound like? I can?t wait.
*Not her real name
Brent Franklin is a former respiratory therapist who writes from Peoria, Illinois.
Note: In the April/May issue of Women of Spirit, Brent?s bio incorrectly stated that he was an ICU nurse.