Mother had become so very impulsive. You never knew what she might do next. This brilliant woman in her younger years had put herself through Baylor University in less than three years while working full-time, was a member of an Honor Society, and had spent most of her professional life as an eighth-grade English teacher.
She had prided herself on being able to solve almost any puzzle, answer most any question, and now it was she who was puzzled by lots of things. She got disoriented, and was going crazy thinking she might be going crazy. In fact, a local doctor in our small town in east Texas told Dad if she got much worse, she might need to be put in a home or institution. That drove her even crazier. Amidst the other perplexing conditions, she thought she was not hearing out of one ear, but that was a minor thing so she did not pursue answers for a long time.
Eventually, she decided to go the 60 miles to Longview to have a hearing checkup with an ear, nose and throat specialist named Dr. Norman, whose only other contact with our family was about 14 years earlier when he diagnosed a hearing problem for me when I was 8 years old. He ran tests and did X-rays of Mother, but was baffled. He said she had lost most of her hearing in her right ear, and he expected to find a small tumor in her inner ear but the X-rays showed there was no tumor at the normal spot. She had a hearing loss, but he had no idea why. She went home feeling that at least there was something wrong with her that was not psychosomatic.
Nonetheless, her depression, anxiety, loss of balance, impetuosity, all kept getting worse, and she knew it. As fall was heading toward Christmas, mother was heading for disaster. That was what she feared, as did my father, my older sister, Susan, my two younger brothers, David and Bill, along with me. Several months after her office visit with Dr. Norman, my brilliant mother was overwhelmed in a way none of us could help. This smart woman who read all of us Bible stories from our earliest days, who loved to recite poetry, jokes and stories, was now having trouble from time to time remembering some of those — and it was not just age taking its toll on this 50-year-old mother.
One night my mother could not sleep, which was not unusual, but she got on her knees to pray. This was a regular habit for this staunch Christian, a Southern Baptist in fact. But that night it was in complete desperation and hopelessness. She prayed in essence: “Lord, You know I would not take my own life, but I cannot live another day like this. I cannot go on. You have to do something. Please help me!”
My youngest brother, Bill, was the only sibling still living at home. He said he awoke, got up, saw a light on, and went to the living room. He saw mom and worriedly asked, “Mother, are you all right?”
She said, “Yes, son. I’m fine. Go on back to bed.” He did. She prayed a while longer, eventually drifting down the hall to fall in bed beside our father. The next morning, Mother, not having to teach that day, slept late until the phone rang. Since Dad was already at work, Mother answered. It was the ear doctor who had seen her once many months before but with whom there had been no contact since. “Mrs. Gohmert, this is Dr. Norman over in Longview. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about you, and just wanted to call and see if your problems had gotten any better.”
Mother told him, no, that she actually thought she was worse. He said that is what he had awakened thinking, and he wanted to send her over to a neurologist friend of his at Baylor Hospital in Dallas and just let him run tests until he figured out what was wrong.
Mother and Dad did not have a lot of money then, but they readily agreed to do just that. Dr. Norman was not a friend of the family, had not seen Mother in many months, did not have common friends with our family, but he was providentially usable and awoke with Mother on his mind!
Almost a week of testing and nothing showed until they tried a new machine (at that time) called a CT Scan. It revealed a small, walnut-sized tumor just inside the skull above her left ear. Mother was elated when she told us the results. We were all heartsick, but not Mother. She was so excited, because she knew it was a physical problem; she wasn’t just going crazy. What was more, she knew as we all did — God had answered her prayer. From there, she could handle whatever happened.
The doctor at Baylor, concerned about the sensitive area of the brain in which the tumor was located, referred her to a neurosurgeon friend at the Mayo Clinic. Again, she and dad did what they had to, with surgery scheduled shortly after Christmas. When the neurosurgeon went in, he found the tumor was more grapefruit size, involved a great deal of the brain, and could not be removed entirely. We were told later it would grow back in maybe a year, maybe 20, no one would know. Mom felt that was OK, too.
And through it all, she found her amazing sense of humor again as well. In fact, her surgeon was quite concerned that he had traumatized nerves or parts of her brain that could have materially affected her abilities. He told the nurses it was imperative that he watch her come out from under the anesthesia so he would have a better idea of the damage that might have occurred. He was alerted, and was standing at the foot of mother’s bed when she opened her eyes, which then met his eyes. He asked, “Do you know who I am?” Mother looked at him for a moment and then said, “If you don’t know who you are, you’re worse off than I am!” Mother still had it.
It took 15 years for the tumor to grow back big enough to take her, and the last few years were tough. Half of her face did sag a bit, causing many to think Mother might have had a stroke. But that too did not matter as much as the fact that Mother’s prayer had been answered. She, and we all, had a God who listened to our prayers, and answered them.
Christmas was rather special that year. It was before her surgery, so none of us knew what lay ahead for Mother or our family from there. But, everyone seemed a little closer, loved a little deeper, hugged a little longer, had fewer squabbles, and appreciated everything a little more. Two thousand years after God gave us Jesus, He was and is still in the business of answering prayer. Emmanuel — our God is with us.
Psalms 116:1-2: “I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications; because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.”