This year, the lowly Pitt Panthers will make another return visit to Morgantown.
Although it may sound strange at first, whenever I think of a night game in Morgantown with the Pitt Panthers, I will forever think of Mom, a woman who didn’t even care that much for football.
Please allow me to explain:
In the latter part of 2003, my mom was near death. A diabetic on regular dialysis treatments, she suffered from a bad heart along with a host of other ailments. She was an extremely old woman of a measly 65 years.
Mom spent the last six weeks of her life at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Parkersburg, West Virginia, CAMC in Charleston, West Virginia, and Ohio's Cleveland Clinic. Her final days were spent in The Arbors, a hospice facility in Marietta, Ohio.
The night West Virginia crushed the Virginia Tech Hokies in Morgantown, I didn’t get to use my game tickets because I spent the evening in the Cleveland Clinic, where my mom was having major heart surgery.
The weekend of the Pitt game, I had scheduled a day of vacation on Saturday to take my 13-year-old daughter to the game. That was the one football game she had absolutely insisted on seeing!
On Friday, I received a phone call at work, telling me to hurry over to The Arbors. I don’t even remember which family member called, but they told me to hurry because Mom was bleeding to death. They said she might not make it through the hour.
I left work, rushed over there, and was immediately ushered in to see my mom. That afternoon, she amazed everyone by rallying from her condition. The nurses in the facility couldn’t believe it. One of them whispered to me, “We can’t understand how she’s still alive.”
However, I have often seen people with serious medical conditions rally at the end. It seems that it often happens that way. It’s almost like the Lord mercifully gives them a final chance to make amends or to say their final “goodbyes.”
That evening, Mom called each one of her children and grandchildren individually into the room and spoke to us. I will forever treasure the last words she shared with me that night.
In those last six weeks in the various hospitals and facilities, it was the first time she has spoken a coherent word to me. It was also the first time that I was confident that she knew I was there beside her.
She spoke about my days in college, the struggles I had in completing them, and how hard I worked to finally get that diploma. She told me that she was proud of me.
Then she learned that I had originally planned to take my daughter to the Pitt game on Saturday.
Mom, the child of divorced parents, said, “That is so nice! I always wanted so much to spend more time with Daddy, but Mom wouldn’t let me.”
My wife and I started for home later, but were called back to the facility before we arrived. Mom had slipped into a coma, out of which she would never return. We spent the night there at the hospice.
In reality, Mom never actually told me to take her granddaughter to the football game. Perhaps I only selfishly wanted to go. Maybe I read more into her statement than was actually there.
However, Dad insisted that I take her and go. “She wanted to go to that game,” he said, “There’s no reason for her to sit around this place watching her grandma die. Go ahead and go to Morgantown!”
So, with a heavy heart and misty eyes, we left for Morgantown that Saturday afternoon.
It was a terrific game by the Mountaineers! And several times during that chilly evening contest, I felt guilty for occasionally forgetting Mom’s condition and for actually enjoying the action on the field.
We returned to the house from Morgantown at approximately 2 o’clock on Sunday morning. I slept until 3:30, got up, dressed for work, and made a quick detour by The Arbors. I softly kissed Mom on the cheek, told her that I loved her, and rushed off to my job.
There was no response; nor did I expect one.
A little while after 11:00 that morning, my sister-in-law called and told me that Mom had passed away.
Perhaps, no matter what our age, we are all children when Momma dies. But for the first time in my life, I was a lonely child faced with the idea of living in a world that didn’t have Mom in it.
To this day, I often wonder if I did the right thing of going to that football game with my daughter. However, the two of us share one great memory of that weekend that didn’t involve my mother’s death! And for that, I am certainly grateful.
But every two years, late in the year when the weather turns cold, when the cursed Pitt Panthers come to Morgantown, I think of Mom.
My daughter and I are going to the game together again this year. And before the kick-off, I will take her hand as we stop by a small brick outside Touchdown Terrace and remember the dear, sweet lady who brought me into the world and made my life special.
The brick reads:
"In Loving Memory"
"Glenna S. Yoho"
I miss you, Mom!