It is Never “Goodbye” but Always “See you later”

When we are young we learn quickly that ‘Goodbyes’ hurt. My granddaughter gets upset when expected to say goodbye, but when saying, “See you later” it has a lighter emotional toll.  It is not as final or definitive. Life experiences have taught me that it is never “Goodbye” but it is always, “See you later!”

I was snug in my bed nearly asleep and had no clue to the events that would unfold when there was a loud knock on my front door. My neighbor told me that my son’s girlfriend was trying to call me. I was informed that my son Jacob was airlifted to Inland Valley Regional and in surgery, but they would not give his girlfriend any information because they needed next of kin. I struggled with wanting to explode with fear while trying to remain calm and think positively. I do not remember how I got from the house to the freeway, but as I started going faster I heard a voice saying, “I am so sorry Mom. I am so sorry.” Repeatedly I heard him, and tears threatened to run down my face. Then I heard “Slow down Mom. Slow down!”  I started talking to Jake while I was driving and trying not to speed down the 215-freeway saying, “I love you no matter what!” This went on repeatedly until I parked in front of the emergency entrance.  

The heavy double doors slid open. Jake’s girlfriend looked relieved to see me, gave me a hug and showed me to the reception desk telling the receptionist, “This is Jacob Holman’s Mother.” I showed my ID and listened intently. “Jacob is in surgery due to multiple fractures and unknown head trauma.”, the receptionist began. I asked questions, but she had very little information and told us to have a seat until we were notified that Jake had come out of surgery. When the doors finally opened on the other side of the waiting room a doctor in a white coat asked, “Family of Jacob Holman?” We all rushed to the door. “Jacob is being brought out of surgery to ICU. He has been through several hours of surgery to fix fractures to his arms and legs,” he spoke in an accent. Due to his tone I could sense the gravity of Jacobs condition. “He has some head trauma, but we will not know how bad till he starts coming out of anesthesia and more tests are ran,” he continued. I asked several questions, but the answers were a blur. I just wanted to see my son!   “We have to clean him up before you can see him. I will take you to the ICU waiting room and you will be more comfortable there until you are called,” he said as if reading my mind. We were finally able to see Jacob and he was hooked up to every machine one could imagine, but throughout the day as his anesthesia wore off... there was no response.

Later that evening when the doctor’s diagnosis was that Jacob was brain dead I knew I needed to do everything in my power to make sure every test possible was administered. Friends and family took turns visiting and in-between I studied about tests and talked to doctors. When it was my turn again to spend time with Jacob in the cold ICU room I held his hand as I felt his soul’s presence to my right and heard his voice once again, “Mom… I do not want to live like this.” I understood but while choking back tears I said, “I know son, but I need to make sure.” The next morning the last test came back negative for brain stem activity. Jake told me just months before he was a donor and was proud of the pink dot on his newly received license. While we were waiting to hear about the possible lives he would save we let friends and family have time to say their goodbyes. I was in the room waiting when I saw a light flash from the doorway area and hovered over his bed. The light started zipping around the room. It was like he was saying, “Mom, look at what I can do!” A few hours later we got the call that they were ready for him in surgery. Before going through the O.R. doors, I gave his head a soft kiss and told him “Goodbye Son, I love you… no matter what!”

Jacob saved seven lives that night but as I was walking out to the car I received a picture of clouds in a text from my oldest daughter. The clouds spelled out ‘JAKE’. Having heard Jacob’s voice in the truck as well as what I felt, heard and saw in the ICU room, the evidence of his ethereal existence in the clouds confirmed what I experienced. I knew then it wasn’t just a goodbye.  It was a “See you later.”