Chey Steph and Mom at MD Anderson

Goodnight, Mom. I Love You.

I stood at the foot of my mom’s hospital bed watching as my sister stroked Mom’s hair and kissed her goodnight. I observed the machines around the bed.

Steph with Mom at hospital

Medicines dripped through IV lines while various colored lights shone through the dimly lit room. Beeps and alarms randomly permeated the otherwise quiet ICU floor.

I slid my hand down Mom’s left leg to her foot and then crossed my arms before turning to join my sister on the way out the door. I stopped just before I walked out, turned back to my mom, and said,

“Goodnight. Love you.”

A faint, “Love you,” left my mom’s lips back to me.

Little did I know when I turned to leave that those were to be her final words to me.

A few hours later, at 1:30am, we got a call from the hospital asking if they could intubate my mom. She was struggling to breathe because of the pneumonia taking over her right lung.

I gave them permission, hung up the phone, and spent the night counting the hours until we could return to ICU to see her.

at Mom's bedside

Unfortunately, the news we were given upon returning wasn’t good. In fact, it was the worst news we could have been given.

Mom was getting worse.

She was 100% dependent on the ventilator and no longer breathing on her own.

The family was called in and many drove the 4 hours from Dallas to be with her—with us—during her final moments.

leading Mom home with praise

My brother requested we not prolong the inevitable. It wasn’t what my mom would have wanted and we had to selfishly agree.

Just after noon on Friday, August 11, we agreed, as a family, to turn off the ventilator. We brought in all the family present and sang songs of praise as my mom took her final breaths.

At 12:52pm, the doctor called the official time of death. My dad, not realizing, perhaps not wanting to believe really, broke at that moment and our lives forever changed.

Dad with Mom at the hospital

In the days that followed, we would discover just how far and wide my mom’s love for others had reached. We were inundated with messages, texts, comments, calls, and cards from all over.

Family and friends shared stories and memories of my mother’s life with us; some we had never heard. None that surprised us knowing our mom as we did.

There were many tears shed, and will be many more over the days, weeks, and years ahead, but we also laughed together.

We were able to celebrate her life as we mourned her loss. We danced to her favorite songs and rejoiced in the memory of her.

Chey Steph and Mom at MD Anderson

My mom loved to dance . She had an infectious laughter that would brighten an entire room. She loved being the center of attention and had a personality that easily warranted it.

I heard repeatedly over the last week about how much I look like my mom. In fact, I began noticing it myself over the past year.

My mom even posted a side-by-side photo recently of her mom and Jaci, my 11 year old. I was amazed at how much they looked alike. I would have never noticed it.

As we looked through tons of old pictures, I could see more and more of Joeli, my youngest, in my mom. The freckles. Her hair. Her smile.

Admittedly, it still hurts to look in the mirror to see my mom looking back at me. I’m confident that in the years ahead, when I’m weak and need my mom, I will appreciate having that connection.

For now, we are trying to get a grasp on our “new normal.” The past week was filled with funeral arrangements, paperwork, and visitors.

This next week will force us to settle into a new life… without Mom.

Mom and Dad on a cruise

Dad has become our biggest concern. Not only were my parents married for 44 years, but Dad retired early to stay home with mom. Being by her side through every step of her final fight with cancer became his full time job.

Had Colby and I not just happened to drive to Houston for the day, Dad would have been alone at the hospital when everything quickly progressed downhill last week.

Although I’m grateful that we could all be by my mom’s side in her final moments here, I selfishly want more time.

More time to tell her I love you.

More time to learn from her.

More time to hear her voice.

More time to taste her cooking.

More time to watch her dance.

More time to hear her laugh… see her smile… hold her hand… hug her… cry with her… love her.

Mom and I on my wedding day

The past 2 weeks have been an emotional roller coaster…

  • The feeling of helplessness rushing through the hospital to get my mom to the ER after her lab recorded her fever.
  • Heart-dropping sadness when the ER doctor asked me if my mom had an Advanced Directive.
  • Overwhelming anxiety when, as I sat in the ER room, my mom’s heart began racing wildly out of control and doctors rushed in to stop it.
  • Complete heartbreak upon hearing the ICU Doctor tell us that Mom was 100% dependent on the ventilator as my knees buckled beneath me.
  • A selfish anguish when we had to decide to turn off the ventilator.
  • Tormented sorrow facing the family in the waiting room, including 4 of my own children, when we told them our decision.
  • Agonizing pain as I stood holding both my dad and my brother as we watched my mom take her final breaths.
  • Unearthly strength as I held my dad up when the Doctor declared an official time of death.
  • Unbridled grief when we returned home to tell our 7 year old daughter she would never again see her “DotDot” this side of heaven.
  • Woeful mourning as we prepared for our “new life” without my mom.

Please keep our family in prayer as we continue to move forward the way Mom would have wanted. The video below includes a song, “God’s Waiting Room,” that my daughter, Jaden, wrote and performed for my mom’s funeral.