My mother, Doris Ruth Martin Smith, and I were having two of the happiest days of our lives. We did not realize at the time that these would be my mother's last days. This is our story.
After mentioning to my friend and boss, Eddie Estep, about how much I have always liked trucks, he and his wife, Diane, rented a Chevrolet Silverado truck for 24 hours as a gift for me.
What a great surprise!
My 87-year-old mother was my mama, my sister, and my best friend all rolled into one. I had told Mama to be ready so that we could go "truckin." On Thursday, December 13, 2012, when I got the truck, she was ready. To help her get into the truck, I borrowed a two-step ladder for her use. Placing her foot on the first step, she took hold of a handle in the truck and pulled herself inside as if she had been doing it all her life. We rode around for a while, posed for photos, and looked forward to our road trip.
On Friday, December 14, we had planned to make a trip to Laurens, South Carolina, about 70 miles away from home, to put flowers on my daddy's grave. Laurens held a special place in my Mama's heart because she and Daddy pastored the Church of the Nazarene there for many years. That morning, we got into the truck, went to a store close to our home to get the flowers, and then headed out on Interstate 26 West toward Laurens.
Words cannot express how much fun we were having. Mama said that she really liked being up high and able to see all around, and talked about how comfortable she was.
Then she said that I should rent a truck like this for our Kansas City trip that we were planning for the next year, and I told her that I would. I was thrilled that she was enjoying the ride as much as I was. We made it to Laurens and put the flowers on Daddy's grave.
As we left the cemetery, she said that she was hungry and would like to go to a restaurant called the Blue Ocean, located a few miles away. When we arrived, Mama ordered flounder fillet with all the trimmings. Then she wanted a piece of carrot cake, which we shared. When she finished the meal, she said, "That was the best lunch I have ever had."
As we were leaving the restaurant, she said, "You're going to have to get me warm because I am cold." So, we got back into the truck, I turned on the heat, and we got on Interstate 26 East to head back home. We continued to have a wonderful time until about eight miles down the interstate when Mama made the following three statements with a few seconds between each:
1. "I'm getting hot." And I responded that I would turn down the heat.
2. "I guess we had too much fun."
3. "I am feeling numb, I am feeling numb."
My response was, "What do you mean you're feeling numb?" I looked over at her, and she was patting her face and head with her hands. I knew that we were in deep trouble. By the time I pulled the truck off the interstate and slid across the seat to her, she could no longer respond to me.
I called the 911 emergency number and an ambulance finally arrived. Emergency responders took her to the hospital in Laurens, where they confirmed what I already thought - she had a stroke. They transferred her to a hospital in Greenville, South Carolina, to see if specialists there could do anything for her, but they could not. She went to Heaven to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, about 12:45 on Saturday morning, December 15, less than 11 hours after her stroke.
I give praise to the Lord, because:
1. Mama and I were having two of the happiest days of our lives.
2. I was blessed with the most precious mother in the world.
3. She was the greatest Christian I have ever known - she consistently walked the talk.
4. I was with her when she had the stroke.
5. The Lord granted the desires of her heart (Psalm 37:4).
I am thankful that the Lord was so gentle and kind with Mama and granted her heart's desires. When we moved back to South Carolina after 20 years in Kansas City she said, "I didn't want you to have to bring me home in a box." She never said one word about that in Kansas City. So I knew that her heart's desire was to complete her earthly life in South Carolina.
The amazing part of our last two days together was that when Mama had the stroke in the truck, we were still in Laurens County, where my daddy is buried, where they had lived and served together - a place filled with special memories for her. If we had been a half mile farther down the road, we would have been out of the county. Coincidence? I don't believe so.
I believe that down to the last few minutes of her life, the Lord was granting the desires of Mama's heart. Oh, what a wonderful Lord and Savior we serve, one who deserves our love, devotion, and commitment - praise his holy name!
Peggy Smith is executive assistant to the district superintendent at the South Carolina District office for the Church of the Nazarene.