Monday, January 28, 2013

We weren't finished...

4:00 Saturday morning, January 19, 2013:

I’m typing this blog from my sister’s room in the Intensive Care Unit of a Cincinnati hospital. I see six IV bags hanging from poles, numbers constantly changing on a monitor above her head, tubes...everywhere...and hear the constant puffing and whirring of a ventilator that is assisting her breathing. All this follows an emergency surgery for a ruptured bowel. Now her body is fighting septic shock, acute kidney failure, pneumonia, and any number of other things going on at the moment. Her doctor told us this morning that the prognosis is guarded. Guarded. Does that mean he doesn’t want to give us a hint of hope in the midst of this...or does it mean he’s trying to get us ready to lose her?

Earlier this week my sister and I decided it would be fun to sit and talk with each other on the phone while watching QVC. We’d been deciding what top would go best with a beautiful maxi-skirt she bought for me. We did ‘shop’ talk while the televisions were on mute, essentially providing our own commentary on the beautiful Susan Graver designs being shown. 

9:00 Monday morning, January 28, 2013:
That last paragraph was typed just before I saw my sisters legs moving, and I walked over to check on her. Any movement seemed to indicate she was in pain, as she was sedated to allow the ventilator to breathe for her so her sick body could fight the infection. I stood next to her bed, holding her hand, talking with her. I told her that I saw her open her eyes and look at the nurses when they were working on her a couple of hours earlier and that I wanted her to open her eyes and look at me...just so I’d know she was ‘in there’ and she’d know I was with her. There was no attempt for her to squeeze my hand as I held hers, but I needed to know she knew I was there. I kept whispering in her ear that I needed her to look at me. Then she raised her eyebrows. I told her that wasn’t good enough...I wanted more. So she raised her brows and barely opened her right eye to see me. I was satisfied. She knew.

Many times over the course of the next two days, I would talk with her, reminisce, sing, joke, and talk some more...reassuring her of my love and that when she got out of the hospital, I’d be there to help look after her. One time, I sang the song she would request me to sing a number of times...”It is Well With My Soul” and prompted her when the alto part she’d always sing came by telling her “that’s your part.”

Over those days, more and more people arrived to support her sweet husband Gary...who I like to call “Favorite” because he’s my favorite red-headed brother-in-law. Vangie was well-loved and the steady stream of people - even in the middle of the night - gave witness to that. During those hours of waiting, Vangie had a massive heart attack - one I’m thankful she never felt pain from because she was so heavily sedated.

Without chronicling every single thing that went on during those next many hours, the decision was made by her husband (and lovingly supported by her siblings) that the ventilator should be cut off so she could move on to Heaven, a place she sang about and longed for many times. The nurse said it would be about ten or fifteen minutes before she’d draw her last breath. Well, Vangie got the last word - which was typical - and breathed on her own four and a half more hours. She was such a fighter for so many years through chronic illnesses that left her weak and at times, bedridden...that her little heart and lungs kept going until SHE was finished.

But I wasn’t finished with her. I never will be. My heart is broken. It will mend...but it will never be the same. She used to tell me I was her ‘other half’ and now half of me is missing. I am a woman of faith, so I know God will mend my broken heart and I will see her again. But for now, I can only say that I wasn’t finished with her yet...we had so many plans. We had a unique relationship. A closeness that some didn’t understand, others envied, but mostly one that our friends and family appreciated about us. 

I loved her so.

I always close my blogs with the same line...and now those words have taken on a whole new meaning. “If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!”

My sisters life counted. About 600 people at her funeral was a real testimony to that. Originally we thought there were about 500 people until we talked with the guy who cleaned up the church afterward. He told us there were nearly 600!

Evangeline Ruth Miller Hughes was well loved, but most of all was in love with Jesus...and her husband. She was a witness for so long...even in her death. 

Now let me remind you - as well as myself: “If you have a pulse, then you have a purpose. Make your life count!”


  1. I am so blessed to know you Beth. Even in your deepest sorrow you are a blessing to everyone. Words cannot express my sympathy. Continuing to keep you in my prayers.

  2. Beth, God bless you in your time of sorrow. As always, you are a blessing to the rest of us all the time. Much love.