My Mom, Her Support and the Real Decision

by Ryan Isley (Originally posted on More Than A Fan on February 22, 2012)

As I sat down to write another column for More Than A Fan, I looked up from my laptop and saw a picture I have seen a hundred times. Only this time it seemed to have more meaning.

In the living room of our house, there is an 8×10 picture on the wall of my mom and I at my cousin Katie’s wedding in June, 2008 in which I am walking my mom down the aisle so she could stand in for my aunt, who had passed away when we were younger. Above the photo is one of those sayings you rub on to the wall.

It reads:

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” sat in this same spot to write on this same laptop exactly one year ago today, with two exceptions. The first is that the picture was not there. The second was that I wasn’t writing a column – I was writing a eulogy for my mom.

I know what you are thinking. You are sitting there saying “Hey Ryan – this is supposed to be a sports column.”

You are right. And it is – well, sort of.

You see, if it wasn’t for my mom and her support, I would not be writing for this site and you would have never read anything I have written for this site or others for which I have written. When I was growing up, the only thing I cared about was sports. School would come and go and I would give an effort, but as my mom always told me – if I spent half as much time on schoolwork as I did on learning sports statistics and history, I would have been a straight-A student.

Despite that, my mom always supported what I loved doing. I played baseball from the time I knew how to throw a baseball and my mom did everything she could to make it to each game. I remembered this in that eulogy:

She was also always at every baseball game I played and I always knew I could see her in the stands cheering me on. She worked until 4, so when I was in little league and games were at 6 she would be there when it started. As I moved to high school, games were at 4:15 and I knew that by the time we reached the second inning she would be there, even sometimes leaving work a few minutes early to make it before first pitch.

As I moved out of high school and started working towards what I wanted to do with my life, she was always there whenever I needed word of encouragement when she could tell I was struggling, a compliment when one was deserved or constructive criticism when it was warranted. She was the one who I ran every major decision by before coming to a final conclusion to what I would choose.

Her support was the reason I got back into sports media when I joined and then moved to the Digital Sports Network. The DSN folded just weeks after my mom passed and I am sure she would have been supportive of my decision to join More Than A Fan as well.

When my mom was admitted into Akron General Medical Center for the final time on February 9, 2011, it was because the levels of toxins in her blood was so high that it made her go into a state of confusion where she had no recollection of what was happening around her. As she was admitted into her room, the first thing she told me was that she was going to make sure to order cable so that I could have Lifetime to watch sports. While she obviously had the channel wrong, the one thing she always remembered was my love of sports. I joked with her that the WNBA season was during the summer and that it was not currently ongoing, therefore Lifetime was of no use to me.

When I told her of this story days later, she didn’t believe me. When it was confirmed to her by others, all she could do is laugh and tell me “See – I was thinking about you.”  And that’s the thing – she was ALWAYS thinking about me.

In fact, as she laid there in her hospital bed over what we now know would be the last couple weeks of her life, she was always making sure that I was able to watch games or go to game or whatever I needed to do to write columns for DSN at that time. If I had a game to go to that night, she would tell me to leave the hospital, go to the game and write. When I told her I would be back after the game to check on her, she told me not to worry but to just go home and get some sleep and that she would see me first thing in the morning as always.

That brings me back to the real decision.

The funny thing about decisions is that there are some that are so difficult to make at the time and no matter how much time passes, you never know for sure if you made the right one or not. That decision for me was on February 20, 2011 and was the reason I sat here to write that eulogy.

Of course my decision wasn’t being made in front of cameras at The Boys and Girls Club and Jim Gray wasn’t there to ask me easy questions leading up to it.

My decision was made at the Cleveland Clinic after being awoken at 5:45am by a doctor telling me my mom was having seizures and after conferring with a number of doctors on my own about my mom’s actual condition. It was after these meetings that I was faced with what no child ever wants to be confronted with – the real possibility that today may be the last day without their parent.

I had to make the decision of whether to allow my mom to continue struggling on life support with very little hope of her making it through (and even if she did, not being able to live a normal life) or to sign the paperwork to have her life support removed and allow her to pass peacefully.

After agonizing over it, I decided the best thing for my mom was to remove the life support because she has suffered enough. I just couldn’t see her take any more pain.

The problem was that this decision – not unlike “The Decision” – wasn’t just one that would affect me. It would affect my mom’s father, her siblings, my brother, my dad, the rest of our family and also anyone who had ever met my mom. That’s the thing – my mom left a lasting impression with everyone whose path she crossed. So I wasn’t just making this decision for me. And that was the hard part.

When I had finally made the decision, I ushered my grandfather, my two uncles and my aunt into a private room where we could talk before I went and talked to the doctors or informed the rest of the family. One by one, they all agreed with me that I was doing the right thing and that they understood it was the decision that had to be made, no matter the hurt that would accompany it.

After meeting with them, I called a conference with the rest of the family to tell them what was happening before I went to tell the doctor of this final decision. Once again, everyone was in my corner and told me they felt that I was doing the right thing.

Their support was so reminiscent of the support I received from my mom through the years, which made the most difficult decision of my life feel just a little bit easier to make, but not much.

Now a year later, the decision still eats at me and I know I will never have 100% confirmation that the decision I made was the correct one. That’s the thing about those tough decisions – you just never know.