Why I believe in something like miracles:
Late October in 2012, although it feels like 2010 looking back, my birth-mom died (or so the doctor said).
I don’t blame him though. In fact, I’d like to thank him for getting it wrong that fate-filled day. Yet, that would be awkward, don’t you think?
I’m not a fatalist mind you, I’m a factualist. And simply put, if it’s not your time, then it simply is not.
So onward and upward. I received a phone call that morning, or should I say, I looked at my phone finally around 11am, and had 26 messages.
The night before had been a rager. I was with 4 of my favorite people on the planet, including a favorite cousin, and we went ham. The night was epic, the morning tragic. Actually, to think of it, the night was tragic too, I just hadn’t found out yet.
I listened to the first message, and it went something like this; first, just to note, it was from my mom.
“Um, I’m sorry Ian, I don’t know how to tell you this, but you need to call me back. Your birth-mom had a heart-attack last night, and the doctors are ready to take her off of life support.”
“Her mom, Carol, whom you haven’t met, found her outside her house, and brought her back to life.”
“But the doctor says, it’s only life-support keeping her alive, and she probably won’t survive another day. If you call me back, maybe you would like to see her before she passes. I’d be happy to drive you there.”
Needless to say, I didn’t listen to any of the other messages. My cousin and his friends weren’t yet up, but in a New York minute everybody was rousted because I was bawling, noisily trying to find a way out of the house.
I’d skated to their house the night before, and I didn’t have a car. The guys were in ten types of bad shape, and I didn’t want to inconvenience them. I told them to go back to bed. Even though they persisted in trying to be helpful offering rides and condolences, I said there wasn’t anything they needed to do.
Donna was on her way out in my mind, and I had to leave. Finding an odd moment of composure that sometimes comes in the face of a horrible moment, I think gathered myself, and added quietly that I didn’t care that much about the whole ordeal, hoping to put them at ease. “It’s not like I know them well,” I think I said.
I stepped outside and called my mom, who answered. I told her yes I wanted to go, and where to find me.
We were deep in Shoreline, and there was no way she would find me at their rental house. So I had called her with a meeting point back near the main-road. Besides, I couldn’t sit still in the house, period, and I wanted my mommy. I knew this, and I had reached my mom, so I lit off on the three mile skate back to the mainroad.
There was a 45min timer set now, and the hills were treacherously steep. Not the time to die, I thought. It’s amazing what the body can recover from when the moment arises and necessity burns. I don’t remember the ride, except when I street-luged this one hill and melted a hole in my shoe feeling the cement ripping my sock. It was cathartic somehow. I don’t remember when or where exactly my mom found me, but I hopped in her car, and we set off for Harrison Hospital in Bremerton. Safe at last.
The car ride to Bremerton was stoic. That’s kinda my mom’s brand, thinking about where she comes from, my grammy and granddaddy. Driving around was quicker than catching the ferry, so we did that. Besides, it’s easier to keep moving when things are tough than to sit still on a stupid fucking ferry. Actually I love the ferry ride from Seattle, but that day was not the day for a cruise. So we rode.
Again, the moments disappeared in our silence. I made contact with my birth-family, somehow. Oh yeah, they found a paper at my birth-mom’s house, while looking for the DNR form, with my mom’s phone number on it. That’s how we’d gotten all the news so far. They couldn’t find the DNR form.
Anyway, I made contact with my birth-aunt Dee, and got the update that my birth-mom had had two strokes that morning since her heart-attack, but that the family was all there. Life support was keeping Donna alive, and we still had a chance to say goodbye.
Auntie-Dee told me that I probably wouldn’t recognize Donna because of the swelling that had occurred since suffering her traumas, and because it had been 14 years since our last visit. That the whole family had gotten together from all across the US in the ICU meant a lot to me. And they told me, and I knew, that it would mean a lot if I was to show up. I told her, no worries, we were on our way. She said, “I love you. We all do.” Interesting, I thought. Here comes a happy fucking 30th birthday.
Three hours later, or maybe it was four, we arrived at the hospital. I didn’t get lost this time searching for the ICU, and suddenly we were there.
I was shocked to see all of these people I didn’t know. I’d never met Auntie Dee. I saw the men I knew to be Uncle Keith and Uncle Victor, but it had also been 14 years since I’d seen Keith, and I’d never known his partner Victor.
Aunt Dee immediately wrapped me in a huge hug, and the family began to gather around. There were something like 10 of us. I can’t remember everyone who was there this instant, but I remember feeling an incredible weight lifted when I met my birth-cousin, Dee’s 2nd son, Chris. He was a little younger than me, but he had this smile, and this warmth, and this emotional honesty, that was rarer than anything I’d seen before. Actually, it was similar to the calm of my birth-grandma Carol thinking back, but more emotive, and a little less sturdy.
If this story was simply about that moment, I’d have to list the people and reactions in the room for 10 pages. Each person deserves that, and they were all wonderful, but this story is more factually about my mom and my birthmom and that moment. So onward and upward to happy days.
When the doctor and nurses said it was ok, I went to my birth-mom’s bedside, and squeezed her hands, kissed her face, petted her hair, and cried. It was tragic, and emotional; I realized the sadness for the first time. She was so young still, and looked so bad. And more to the point, I loved her. How could this have happened?
Well to be clear, there is a reason. She has a muscle that doesn’t pump her heart correctly; I don’t remember if it’s to the ventricles or atriums or which side. It’s genetic. And now I know I might have it too. I still have yet to get checked for it, but I assume there is still time. Watch I be wrong (inside joke).
Anyhow, so I visited birth-donna that day with my birth-family, and it wasn’t until the next day that my mom got a chance to pay her respects because of the additional surgeries Birth-Donna required.
Now I wasn’t there for this part because I was in the ICU waiting room with the family, but let it be known that my birth-mom had shown no responsiveness nor ability to be off of life support.
But as I understand it, my mom goes in to see my birth-mom and begins talking to her as she stood by her bedside holding her hand. And as my birth-mom tells it, suddenly Donna could here Anne’s voice. This created a deep sense of alarm for her. Again, as she puts it, she thought, “What in the hell is Anne doing here? Something must be terribly wrong with Ian.”
And because of this deep sense of dread, she says, she woke up. She opened her eyes. Tried to sit up. Couldn’t. Tried to breath, but the respirator.
For us, this was the moment that she opened her eyes. Amazing! Speeding through the next several hours, her cognitive functioning came back. Her breathing came back. Her hands could return a squeeze. Her heart beat on its own.
Over the next several days, her swelling went down. She became able to sit up. They took her off life-support. They inserted a defibrillator.
Over the next several weeks, she relearned to walk, speak, read. Her math and clock-reading skills are still only at 80%, and sometimes she forgets a word or two, or has trouble remembering exactly what we are all talking about, BUT, she can walk over a mile and get done anything else anyone else can do. And some things better. For instance, we were able to go to PRIDE together (which she and a few people started 30-40 years before) in Seattle just 3/4 of a year later. We have a relationship now. We can hangout, and be rad together. Sometimes we do.
It was a fucking miracle as far as the word can be defined. A miracle of modern medicine, a miracle of the importance of significant relationships to human health, and a miracle for me.
From this experience I learned patience, I learned to forgive, I learned that it’s not important to be 100% whole, or 100% right, or anything other than thankful and patient and present.
I discovered people that I care about more than most people, whom existed this whole time, whom I’d simply let fall from my life without trying to reach out. I learned to love again in some immeasurable ways. I learned I love my whole family, people I don’t always get along with, people I judge for their indiscretions, and especially those who couldn’t be there that fateful day whom I wish could have been.
It’s preferable to me to wrap up any story with two lines and a question. In this instance, I will do the opposite.
What do you love and are thankful for?
What might you love, that you do not yet realize, that you will be thankful for for realizing?
My advice: think about what it means to appreciate our capacity to love.
Peace, love, and namaste,
P.S. Thank you for taking the time to read something without an interesting title that is very dear to me. I’m sure I do, or could care about you very much too, indeed. So thank you again very much.