Life always goes on

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

It reminded me of all the chairs, in all the hospital rooms and hospital lounges I’ve ever seen.

The chair was covered with a dark green, heavy-duty plastic. When pulled, the handle on the right side of the chair caused it to recline. It reclined so much that it could be used as a cot for overnight stays.

I sat there alternating between trying to read a book and watching Mom breathe. My two sisters and brother would be joining me soon, but for the time being I just sat on that green chair — watching and waiting.

We had been told by Mom’s physician and a hospital neurologist that Mom could not survive the massive stroke she had suffered two days earlier, so, for now, we could only wait.

As I sat there waiting, I thought I heard the quiet melody of a lullaby. I listened carefully.

In the background, over the public address system, I heard the tones of Brahms’ Lullaby. It was being played quietly. The sound was very faint – like a lullaby should be.

Many hospitals have started doing this. Whenever a baby is born and is being transported from the delivery room to the mother-baby care room, someone will flip a switch and, in the background — among the routine, hectic sounds of hospital life — the sweet melody of Brahms’ Lullaby can be heard.

In my heart, I have always felt that a lullaby signals new life.

Shortly after the lullaby, Belinda, Terri and Jeff arrived in Mom’s room. As you might imagine, all four of us were emotionally spent. The previous few days had been a roller-coaster ride of emotions.

Through it all, we sat in Mom’s room and talked, and talked, and talked. My sister, Terri, said that she really wished that Mom could hear us chatting and laughing. Mom would have loved listening to her children talk about how much she has meant to us.

I like to think that she was right there with us, listening and smiling. We have always told Mom how much we love her. Frequently saying, “I love you,” is a Riley thing.

There is a 10-year span in our ages. The four of us weren’t really close as we grew up.

When I moved out of the house and left for college, my little sister was only about seven years old. Besides our parents, we didn’t have much in common. It wasn’t until much later in life that we realized that we shared many values, traits, likes and dislikes.

The four of us are not just siblings, we are friends. I think we would all agree that we are who we are because of our Mom.

Mom’s name was Adda Belle Riley. The names were said as one name – Addabelle.

In the early 1970s, as grandchildren were added to the family, my son, Josh, coined the name GrannyBelle. It stuck.

At first, Mom didn’t like the name very much, but it didn’t take long until her face would light up when one of the kids would call her GrannyBelle. There was magic in the name and in the flow of love that spread from one generation to the next.

We all knew that Mom would not survive the massive stroke she suffered last Sunday night. We also knew that Mom did not want any heroic measures or special life-support to keep her alive. All four of us were committed to honoring Mom’s wishes.

Six months ago, following a fall and significant injury, my Dad died.

Dad often told me that he wasn’t afraid to die. He had led a great life. He loved his family and he knew that God loved him, but he didn’t want to linger. He said that when his time came to die, he didn’t want to depend on tubes and machines to keep him alive. He was ready to meet his Lord and Maker.

Mom felt the same way. Except, at the end of her life, she not only wanted to meet her Lord … she also wanted to be reunited with Dad.

Some people will argue about whether heaven exists. Some people with argue whether God exists.

Mom taught us to have faith and to have confidence. She taught us not to fear death. She taught us to be confident in a life after death.

Mom’s funeral was held yesterday, but I firmly believe that as one person dies, another is born. Life always goes on.

Mixed in with the beeps and buzzes of monitors, alarms and ventilators, came the faint melody of Brahms’ Lullaby.

I’m not sure if heaven has pearly gates and streets of gold. I’m not at all sure of what heaven looks like, but whatever your image of heaven may be … therein, dwells my Mom.

As I told GrannyBelle hundreds of time … I love you, Mom. Goodbye.

Goodbye, Mom. I love you.

Randy Riley is former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist