Michael Robinson: She went into this, you know, coma like state. She just wasn’t responding, and she was having brain seizures over and over again. Now, I had to decide whether—am I accepting this as what my… this is what it’s going to be from my mom’s, you know, quality of life now. Like, is this what it is? At what point did you find yourself where you’re like, okay, this is my mom. Okay, this is who she is?
Jason Pablo: I wasn’t prepared for that. So, while my mom was actually recovering, initially from the brain tumor removal, she actually had a stroke. And it was at that point where it flipped the switch in my head—this isn’t going to be the mother that I knew.
Aliw Pablo: No matter where you are in the world, there is one thing we have all experienced together, change. This pandemic has forced us out of our comfort zones, and has pushed us into a new norm. And we simply surrendered and figured out a way to thrive. I’m your host, Aliw Pablo, and welcome to Making Changes, a new podcast from INC Media Audio. In this podcast, you’ll hear honest conversations between two people who are on the same path to change but are in different stages in their journeys. And we’ll learn how they’ve navigated their way around their new normal, but always with God by their side.
On today’s episode, you’ll meet Jason and Mike, who both cared for their mothers’ battling chronic illness, but now have passed on. Jason has lost three members of his family in a five year span: his young nephew, his mom, and most recently, his younger sister. Mike, an only child, cared for his mother for two years, and just recently lost both his mother and his grandmother a month apart.
Today, these men will talk about what it’s like to go through different stages of grief, and how in such tough times, why having the right perspective matters. And, by the way, Jason is my husband, and Mike is a good friend of ours and my colleague here at INC Media. So we’ll be flies on the wall as these two sons share life lessons they’ve learned along the way. Let’s listen in.
Michael: Hey, Jay, how are you doing?
Jason: What’s up, Bro? First of all, you know, I want to extend my condolences to you. How are you holding up?
Michael: I’m doing okay, and thank you for the condolences. It’s been odd, been very odd. And I say that to you Jay, because, you know, I know you’ve had a loss in your family. I mean, my gosh, like the past three years, if I’m not mistaken, right?
Jason: Oh, yeah, five. Three very, very close family members in the past five years, so yeah.
Michael: You know, sometimes, I wish I could be in your position, because that saying of “Time heals.” And, yeah, the situation I just had, it’s pretty fresh. But I say it’s an odd situation, because just like, you gave her condolences, and I’m so grateful for it.
Michael: You know, but it feels like it happened so long ago. But when I start thinking about those last moments because I had the opportunity to be with her, it really makes it even more real again, that I have accepted that she’s gone. And until now, I still wonder if I dealt with the grief properly. You know, I’ve spoken to others who are close, and I’ve been meaning to speak to you for a while.
Michael: You know, it’s one thing to say that loss is— it’s expected, you know, we’re expected to pass. But when it happens, and it really happens to somebody who’s close to you, and in this case, a parent, it’s always helpful to find different perspectives on it, because everyone’s circumstances are different.
Jason: Well, I lost my mom back in 2017. And I think for me, it was all about—she got into her condition because she actually had a tumor in her brain. And, you know, she was fine before that. And then all of a sudden, that tumor came about and the doctors thought it was a pretty aggressive tumor, so they wanted to take it out really fast. But it was after that particular operation to remove the tumor where my mom was never the same after that anymore. But it was just one of those things where God’s will kind of took the forefront and you know, you’re right. “Have you accepted it? Have you grieved enough? Have you grieved in the right way?”, I was asking that question to myself. You know, I would say, months, probably even a year after she had passed. So, tell me a little bit more about your mom. I mean, if you don’t mind, what was her illness?
Michael: Well, my mom was diagnosed with renal failure. She had kidney failure, and it was a process for her. It wasn’t something that just came. In a nutshell, in 2000, she was in a very bad car accident that changed the life of my entire family. She had spinal nerve separation. Basically, she had all these shredded nerves. And she lost all feeling in her right leg and she had foot drop, and she developed Parkinson’s disease after that, but after that she was walking, going back to work. She had a cane, like—
Jason: She went back to work? Oh, my goodness!
Michael: Oh, yeah, she went back to work after six months, and she was diagnosed not to ever walk again.
Jason: Your mom’s a fighter, Bro!
Michael: And it was lots of prayers. No, I’m serious. This woman is, like, she’s, stubborn to the letter. She went to work. She went back to her usual thing. And it was when we moved down to Florida, because the winters were getting so cold, so harsh for her body in 2018. And, she was expecting just to live life and retire.
And unfortunately, she got to that age where her condition got worse. Her Parkinson’s got stronger, you would see her right arm shake, her neck shake involuntarily, so she had to take more medicines for that. And then she started having urinary tract infections. And it got to the point this past year, Jay, I mean, I’m not even kidding, because I have the discharge papers to prove it, she was in the hospital more than 20 times this year. She was in the hospital more, and rehabilitation more, than she was at home. And that’s how bad it got.
And then later on, she started having seizures because she had to go on dialysis because of her kidney failure, and it weakened her body more and more and more, and every time she got sent home, because she ran out of Medicare days, she couldn’t do rehabilitation anymore. You know, she would always get sent home in a weakened state.
And it got to a point where I picked her up from dialysis one time because her blood pressure was so low, I picked her up, we’re driving home and she had a seizure, right in the car when I was driving. And I was holding her down trying to turn around, keep calm and everything like that. And since then, and this was in September, I admitted her again. And that was the last time that I was really able to have a conversation with her because then she went into this coma-like state. She just wasn’t responding. And she was having brain seizures over and over again. And yeah, that’s where it got really, really tough.
Because you mentioned before, now I had to decide whether—am I accepting that this is what my mom’s, you know, quality of life [is] now? Like, is this what it is? You know, and I start to ask, like, how am I going to deal with this? I mean, there [were] things that happened beforehand that I was even struggling with, but she was home with us. She was able to talk to me and tell me like, “Michael I feel this way, or this, you know.” But now like, I was in this position where I’m like, Oh my gosh, I have to make decisions for her health now?”
Michael: And now I have my wife who has her own health issues. [I] Have two young children. How does this all fit in? So, and it even started affecting me honestly, Jay, it started affecting my own health.
At what point did you find yourself where you’re like, “Okay, this is my mom. Okay, this is who she is, even though she’s sick. Okay, yeah, she’s still the same person.” And then all of a sudden, they’re never who they were that you knew they were before?
Jason: Oh, yeah. No, it’s, you know, when I was going through all of my health stuff, of course, the heart transplant and everything, you know, of course, with something like that, you know, death is always in the back of your mind. And for me, it was thinking about death. For me. It was about me leaving behind my wife and my two young kids. But with that, I was prepared for me, for my own death. And by the grace of God, I got through all of that, but when it came to my mom—I wasn’t prepared for that.
So, while my mom was actually recovering, initially from the brain tumor removal, while she was recovering, she actually had a stroke. And it was at that point where, you know, it flipped the switch in my head saying that, I don’t think my mom’s going to recover from this, or if she does recover it, this isn’t going to be the mother that I knew. This isn’t gonna be the mother that was always calling us to see how we were doing. You know, every time I ended up in the hospital, she was…because she worked at the same hospital, she was there, she would spend her lunches, she would spend her breaks just to see how I’m doing. But now that was gonna be gone, that part of my mom was going to be gone.
I mean, essentially as bad as this may sound, my mom stopped being my mom, during this time. And yeah, it was tough to accept, even if she were to be physically—and she was transferred into a nursing facility. She was also after that transferred to another specialist facility, because she actually got tracked. So and there she is, she’s there. She can’t communicate, because she has a tube down her throat. So, yeah, one of the biggest things I struggle with is–this is no longer my mom. And it was tough.
You know, there were a lot of prayers, but the theme of those prayers were—at first, it was, “God, please heal, Mom.” That’s what we’d say prayers with the kids with Aliw and the kids, “please heal mom.” But, once we were kind of like, knowing where this was going, and you know, there was, it was a couple years until my mom actually passed on. But once we turned our prayers to God—”no matter what, we’re still gonna let—Your will is what we trust. Whatever You have planned for mom, we will accept it.” And, I think, once we came to that point, it got better, emotionally, to deal with. It got better spiritually to deal with. Because, we had to just let God’s will kind of like happen. And the toughest part was just kind of like watching her deteriorate. I mean, it’s hard, one, to see your parent, or to watch your mother get older and weaker. But for me, I mean, I had siblings, there were four of us to take turns, because she was bedridden from this point on. But for you, man, I mean, you were an only child.
Michael: Yeah, that was really the rough part. And to be honest with you, my shoulders would get tight, my face would get tight. There’s actually a part of me at one time when I found out my mother was intubated, because things weren’t going right. I actually was in the car driving, and I felt my face tightening up. I started having heart palpitations. I said, “Oh, my gosh, am I having a heart attack? Am I having a stroke? So, I called my wife and I said, I’m going to the ER, and when I went to the ER, they’re like, “Sir, you’re fine, it’s anxiety.” And I used to belittle people who have anxiety attacks. And I’m like, “oh, man, it’s just in your brain. Like, get with it, grow up”, you know that kind of thing.
Jason: Shake it off type of thing.
Michael: Yeah, shake it off, but you know what I realized at that point? That it wasn’t in my mind, because it really wasn’t in my mind that I was stressing. It was my body. Like, my body was actually telling me like, “Look, you got to deal with this in a way that you know, because it is affecting you.” And, you know, being that I was the only one working.
And, Jay, you and I being members of the Church, we love our duties. We would die for our duties. It doesn’t mean that we don’t balance our time with our family. We love our families, but when that call is there, we know that when we perform our duties, God doesn’t forsake us. And that’s what it was really at.
So, when you ask that question, like, you know, how did I do it? It really was with God’s help. And why I did it was because I was really like, God, what more can I do to have you help me? What more can I have? I used to say this to my wife—I’m not asking God to give us more things, I want more mercy. I want more of His pity on us because I really felt like, “wow, I’m hurting here.” But that was an experience that I thought maybe, at the time, crossed my mind being a human being and, when I had to do maybe sometimes undignified things to take care of my mom because it was just me, and it’s just her. With the prayers, I mean, I went to the chapel every day, you know, initially asking, “God, can you please heal my mother?” You know, “I’m not asking you to make her 100%, just let her be able to walk, or not even walk, just let her be able to talk and respond.”
And the experience that I wanted to share with you is that the doctor was telling me right in front of my face. And at the time that my mom had just opened her eyes, but she couldn’t communicate–He’s saying, “You need to consider hospice.” And when he said that, my mom had this very sad and tearful look. You know, and I let the doctor talk. Because I said, “Okay, we need to listen to what he has to say.” Then after he left, I went to my mom. And I said, “Mom, look, I said we had to hear what we needed to hear, because for the doctors, yes, it’s an improbable thing. But that’s why this is for God. He’s the expert of the improbable and impossible. So we’ll continue to pray, and do what’s best. So don’t worry about if I’m going to send you to a hospice center.” I said, “That’s not in my mind. What I want is, is that, you know, we’ll be guided in whatever decisions we make.”
You know, and that was the turning point, as you said, Jay, to my prayers. I went to the chapel that day, and I prayed and I met a good friend. This close family friend said to me, “Mike, I wish I was in your position. Because I wish I could have had the chance to be with my family or a family member before they passed.” And when I heard that, I realized that I was never upset about the fact that God didn’t heal my mom, I never got upset about that. I never got upset that, you know, as much as I prayed that there was no progress in her health. I realized that God was preparing me, I was mourning that whole time, grieving that whole time, but He was preparing me to accept that look, you know, if it’s your mom’s time, this is what it is. And I remember saying that, that time I first spoke to the sister that, “God, please just give me the strength from now on, to accept whatever you want. I’m ready to accept that if my mother passes.” Because Jay, I’ve seen the pain that she’s been in. And I’m sure you’ve seen the pain that your mom’s been in probably a long time—
Jason: Most definitely.
Michael: You know, you’ve been sitting with her next to her on that bed taking care of her and you see this excruciating pain they go through. And they even tell you about it.
Jason: Most definitely.
Michael: It was frustrating taking care of my mom, but not once did I ever get upset with God; thinking that why would he allow this to happen? Does He know that I’m performing my duty at the same time and Jay, I fought hard. Your wife knows well, I fought hard to come into the office every day to do work. And at any time, I could have said, “I can’t.”
Jason: And you had every reason to say no.
Michael: You would think I had every reason. And at the same time. I’m like, “do I have a reason? Do I have a reason to be upset? Do I have a reason not to thank God still?” And after all that, that’s when I really again, realize like, you know what, I can never be mad at God for what happened.
Jason: When my mom was going through all of her stuff going in and out of the hospital—there was one time I was actually in choir practice, and I get a call. The doctor said, “Your mom is having trouble breathing, we’re probably going to have to intubate her again, but we need your family to give us the yes or no.” So, quickly, I had to call my siblings but right before I call them, I just prayed and I said, “God, I am not going to make this decision.” Because the doctor said if we don’t intubate her, the trajectory could go in a downward direction. And it was just one of those things like oh, okay, so I prayed, “God, let your will be done.” I called my siblings and said, “Hey, this is what’s going on. I need to give the doctor some decision, okay? What are we going to do here?” And you know, we talked about it. The decision was, is my mom able to communicate with you? So I called the doctor back. That was gonna be my question—“Can my mom communicate with you?” When I called the doctor back, the doctor says, “Your mom told us to intubate her.”
Michael: Oh, wow.
Jason: My mom was the one who made the decision. So, even the last time I saw my mom awake, and it was a Saturday night, prior to her death, Aliw and I, we walked into the hospital and you know, my mom, she’s hooked up and everything. But she’s cognizant, she’s looking at us. She’s smiling. She’s waving. But she’s got all these tubes, in and out of her. You can see the pain that she was in, and you know, yeah, we just sat down. Of course, you know what it’s like to sit there holding her hand. Just watching them suffer. But my mom was still trying to smile for us. I think she even asked us if we ate. And I was like, “Mom, you don’t have to worry about us eating.”
And then my dad and my sister walked in, so we kind of left and Aliw and I were just talking and said, “You know, I hate seeing my mom like this.” And that night we prayed, “God, we know, whatever You want to do, we’ll still love You.” Again, it was always that, we wanted to assure God that we will still love You no matter what. Just put my mom into Your hands, whatever Your will is.
And that was the last time that we saw her awake. Me and my family, we never had any reason to ever be mad at God. Because with the situation where she had a hard time breathing; are we going to make the decision to intubate her or not? God gave her enough strength to communicate with the doctors, so she made the decision to be intubated.
Jason: Even that last time that I saw her, you know, we knew she was suffering. But again, the prayer was all about, “God, she’s in Your hands. We’ll love You no matter what. I just don’t want to see her suffering anymore.”
And a day later, that was when she was no longer awake, and the only thing keeping her alive were the machines and the medicines that she was on. She was sick for quite a while. And I think God gave me that time, gave us that time to to kind of prepare for it. But you know how it is, Mike, no matter how much you prepare, you’re never prepared when it really happens.
Michael: I was gonna say, because you said something before and hearing what you’re saying, Jay, it’s helping me a lot. Because one thing I was looking for, always was, in making these decisions, am I gonna have peace about it? And you sound like, you know, because of your prayers. You know, God gave you that peace to know that even if the decision that was made, and you know, she passed, that you really could feel that it was His will and it wasn’t something that you were left in confusion. And I went through that similar thing. When I made that decision, I was wondering, before the decision, am I making the right decision? Am I choosing her fate here of some sort? Or what’s gonna happen?
Jason: You know, the one thing that you said, which totally hit home was, “what should we pray for as a family?” And you said, “I just prayed for mercy.” And that’s what it was. Once you said that, it’s like, I had goosebumps everywhere. Because that’s exactly it—”God, you know, please be merciful. Not just to me, but to everybody who showed love to my mom.” And I thought that was awesome, when you said that. I’m not asking for anything. I’m not asking for her to come home, you know, to be able to do this again or do that again. All I’m doing is praying for mercy.
Michael: It was mentioned in one of our worship services about how God’s peace is something so different and unimaginable, that it guards our thoughts and emotions. And when I heard that, it just clicked.
Jason: When we were asking for mercy from God, for God’s will to kind of show up. It’s like, do we keep my mom around for our own selfish acts? Because we just want her around?
Jason: Or do you just want God to do what He has to do, so she stops feeling pain. And the latter was always the greater, and yes, I love my mom. You can ask my siblings, I am the favorite. You don’t have that problem!
Michael: Oh right.
Jason: Yes, but I miss her very, very much. And, you know, but God did what he had to do for us, and for my mom, to put us at peace. We as members of the Church, we treat death differently.
Michael: Oh, definitely, yes.
Jason: So, I mean, definitely with my mom, definitely with my, my nephew, when he died at eight years old. And then with my younger sister, who was only two years younger than me, so she was, 45 when she passed. And hers was all of a sudden. So, with my mom, you had time to prepare, with my sister, I didn’t have any time because that was, literally, out of the blue. But God knew. God’s will was that they all be taken away from this world. In the time that He did, and that’s all God’s will. And we say it in our prayers every time, God, in Your hands, and in Your will, is the best place for us to be, just keep us there. And I love it when my kids can say that in their prayers when we say that at night.
Michael: And that’s one of the great things too, Jay, because you ended off like with your kids. You know, I think about the legacy that my mom leaves behind, and that’s left in us. I started thinking about all the things that she taught me.
Aliw: And that’s part one of Mike and Jason’s story. We’re going to stop right here for now. And in part two, we’ll talk about the values that their moms have passed down to them, that they’re now passing on to their own children. We’ll also talk about their advice for others who are going through grief in this pivotal change of losing a loved one. So, make sure you tune into part two.
Now, if you found value in what you heard today, please share it with a friend who is dealing with loss and grief during this time. And we’d greatly appreciate it if you could leave a review on whatever platform you’re listening from. Be sure to subscribe to Making Changes to stay up to date with new episodes. For more inspiring content or to learn more about the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ), log on to incmedia.org or download the INC media app. Thanks for listening and may your change uplift you.
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