Sunday, May 29, 2016

Mom’s last good-bye

By Vic Midyett

In about 1971, less than two years after my parents and Anita and I arrived in Perth from our missionary days in India, my mother found out that she had cancer in her lymph nodes and one breast. She had that breast removed and made jokes about not playing with her fake one when she wasn’t wearing it.
    A year or so later (in late 1972, early 1973), after Mom returned from Sydney following more tests, her strength had diminished so much that she was spending most of her time in a bed in the living room. She was taking chemotherapy and had lost her hair. It really knocked her around.
    By this time I was 18 years old and had a job and my own place. Regrettably, I have to admit that seeing her like she was depressed me a great deal, and my visits were few. The memory of how her face lit up when I did visit her will haunt me forever.
    But neither she nor Dad ever really told Anita and me what was going on, or just how dismal the prognosis was. One day they simply announced that they had been researching a radical new treatment that was outside the medical model and not yet approved. Availing Mom of the new treatment, however, would mean they would have to travel to Mexico, where Mom would be treated by a team of American doctors who could practice the treatment outside the jurisdiction of the American Medical Association.

It was a warm summer day when we arrived at the Perth airport, Mom in her Sunday best, complete with wig and fake boob. There was a large goldfish pond there that people could sit around to watch the fish. As we sat there pretending to be interested in the fish, I wanted desperately to ask Mom how she felt about the future, but I was too afraid to voice the words. Anita and I sat there bravely making lame jokes about how we would get along without our parents for a few weeks, until it finally came time for Mom and Dad to board the plane, and we all made our way towards the point beyond which Anita and I could not follow.
    And then it happened. Dear, dear God! As Mom and Dad were walking on the tarmac towards the jet plane, Mom turned to look at us, and only at that moment, seeing the look on her face, did we both understand that we would never see our mother again on this earth. She, too, had been putting on such a false, brave front that the truth finally forced itself on her and prevailed. At that moment she had to be real for us. She had to say goodbye in a truthful way.
    For the very first time she was crying uncontrollably, her arms reaching back to us as Dad pulled her the other way towards the jet. Through the landslide of our sudden, hurdling barrage of thoughts, they covered the remaining 100 feet in what seemed like only half a second and disappeared into the jet.
    At that time Perth airport had a flat roof area that was a little higher than the planes. Anita and I ran up to it and just stood and gazed at the windows of the jet wondering what all Mom had wanted to say to us. Anita was hysterical, and I was numb, with this final glimpse at the truthful reality, still not believing what we had witnessed. It was about as awful a moment as I can remember, and it still is till this day.

I got shaky letters from Mom from time to time over the next few months in which she always gave me hope. She wrote that she was responding to the treatment and finally gaining weight. She wrote that she had moved out of the hospital into an apartment. But they now discovered that the cancer had spread to her liver.
    Then for a few weeks there weren’t any letters, from either of them, and part of me wasn’t surprised when I was awakened at 4 one morning by a man who had driven to the address Dad had given him to inform me that my mother had fallen into a coma and “died peacefully.” The official cause of death was liver cancer, which had been just too much for her to fight off. Part of me wasn’t surprised, but I was, oh, so shocked just the same! Mom had died at the tender age of 46.

Magdelyn Helen Midyett (1928-74)
(This photo was touched up by Mom’s father,
who got through the 1930s Depression
by painting and touching up photos.

Mom had always taught Anita and me to be truthful, but she had left it too late to be truthful herself. She had to have been under strict instructions from Dad, who was only doing what he thought best.
    Dad and I, for whatever reason, never discussed the day they boarded that jet. Ever. It must have been horrific for him too. I don’t recall him looking back at us once. Only forward. As in the trenches of Guadalcanal, always, only forward.

Copyright © 2016 by Vic Midyett

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