In the early morning hours of October 24th, my mother, Cleal Shine, drew her last breath. To be exact, it was 3:17 A.M. in the intensive care unit of Willis Knighton’s Pierremont location in Bossier City, Louisiana. My mom is gone.
Mama began her transition on Thursday, October 22nd at approximately 11:30 A.M. My sister had called me earlier that morning to tell me that Mama had been looking peaked and had, in fact, told me that she saw death in Mama’s eyes. I knew exactly what she was talking about because I had gone down to see Mama the day before, just as I did daily, and knew she just didn’t look right. She was as responsive as she had been in recent weeks but was nothing like her spry self. During the first phone call from my sister that day, she told me that they were going to sit Mama up, hoping that would make her feel better and I told her that I would be down before noon. My phone rang at 11:42 A.M. and even before I answered, I knew, in my spirit that it would be the phone call I’ve dreaded my entire life. My sister was frantic and was yelling that I needed to get there ASAP because they had called 911 for Mama.
Rarely am I rattled to the point that I can’t function, but at that moment, time indeed stood still for me. I called my soul mate and for the first time in the 40+ years that I’ve known him, he was shaken. I don’t even remember the ride to Sarepta from Springhill. I just know that when I pulled into Mama’s yard, there were two ambulances and my cousin was there comforting my sisters. I walked past them and went straight to my mom’s bedroom. They had loaded her on the gurney and I was able to see that they had placed an oxygen mask on her face. My heart nearly stopped. I thought I had prepared myself for that. We’re from a small town so everyone knows everyone. The lead EMT took my hand and said, “Sweetie, I know you’re going to follow us, but don’t try to keep up. You know the way to the hospital, so drive careful.” I heard him, but there was no way I wasn’t going to try to keep up with them. He had my mama in there. Everyone who knows me knows that I can drive like a bandit, but that day, I could not keep up. He lost me when I got caught behind someone driving extremely slow. After I was able to pass that car, I was sure I would be there in a couple of minutes. My oldest sister was with me, but neither of us could remember how to get to the hospital. I passed the road. There’s so much absurdity in that fact because that’s the only hospital in this area and the only one we went to.
When we finally made it, the wait for the doctor to come out was nearly unbearable, but when he did, I wished, with all my heart that he would have just shut up. He told us that there wasn’t much they could do for her, but that they were trying. I screamed, “What does that mean???” I started to cry and that’s rare for me. I knew I was losing my mama. I knew my second oldest sister was on the way, so I told my oldest sister that I was going to get Will. You see, I had always told Will that if anything happened with his grandma, I wouldn’t call him, that I would just come to get him. That thing was happening. I didn’t even bother to go back home, I just headed for UAPB.
He had been texting me for the first 25 minutes of the drive and I had been responding via voice through iMessage. I knew that I was going to lose him due to poor cell coverage and I knew that if I didn’t make up something as to why I had to stop responding, he would call my mom’s house asking where I was. My last message to him was, “I have to do some things so I’ll talk to you later.” He responded, “Okay.” When I finally made it to campus 2.5 hours later, I knew he would be in football practice so I headed to the practice field. He didn’t see me initially, but a couple of his coaches did and they called him over. Nothing in this world has hurt me more than the look in his eyes when he realized what I was there for. He stopped in mid-stride and asked me what was going on. I didn’t have to say a word. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Nooooooo!!” He knew why I was there. His coaches held him, but there was no comforting him.
We knew to call her sisters in and they came. Her organs began to fail so quickly. She needed dialysis, but the doctors said that she would have died immediately if they had placed her on the machine because her heart was too weak. Her liver had failed. So had her kidneys. It was just a matter of time. That time came at 3:17 A.M. We were allowed to see her at 3:25 A.M. I walked in with my sister, my son, and my brother-in-law. There was a sense of peace in the room. I kissed her on the forehead, told her that I love her and that she was free to fly. Will wept silently. My sister went over and kissed her. Mama was at peace.
My most immediate thought was that she was no longer in pain. I had watched Cleal suffer for so many years. There is no more pain. So many people absolutely loved my mom. It wasn’t just that lip-service type of love — they loved her. I am honored to have had her as my mom. I am the woman I am because of her wisdom, teaching, and discipline. I miss my mother so much that I’m numb, but my desire to see her fly free and painless supersedes my desire to have her here suffering. So for now, I’ve said farewell to her. I’ll see her again.
T. Shine Hinton