Tuesday, April 14, 2015

the way it was

I've been trying to make myself post for a week now.
I keep seeing things to post about but they seem trivial in a way.
Plus I feel like I need to address the obvious.
Sitting here I can only think of how I would give anything
to go back to the way it was three weeks ago.
Make that four.
Four weeks ago was great from what I recollect.
But somewhere between then and now
has pushed us into a place I don't like,
not one tiny cotton picking bit.
 
 Last month started out "normal" what ever that is.
I knew the end of March would bring
the anniversary of the death of a sweet friend of mine.
I think of her often but
I thought about her all day that day.
I made sure we played "Fly Me to the Moon"
and we danced and sang in her honor.
 
Then a blogger I follow,
a young mom of four,
passed away after a battle with cancer.
She shared back in December their decision to start hospice care.
It still took my breath away when I read the words of her passing.
Weirdly enough this was at the dinner table.
My husband asked me why I gasped out loud.
I told him and he made a comment
about how things like this come in threes.
I thought somehow that the week would get better.
It did not.
 
We got a text with news that I hoped would never come.
Someone dear to us started hospice at home.
Immediately we volunteered our guest apartment
to our friends for their family or guests to stay in.
It may not sound like much
but for me it was all I could think to do.
I didn't know how to help our friends,
no covered dish or card was going to help ease their journey.
But I could open my home to let their family be close
but still giving them privacy.
The guest room had been on my to do list forever.
Just never enough time or money to do it the way I wanted.
Suddenly it moved to the top of the list.
 My sweet friend Laura went with me
on a mission to update the room
which we did in a whirlwind 24 hour turnaround,
the likes of which I'd never done before.
She was a trooper I have to tell you.
I couldn't think at all.
I'd just look at her and she'd help me
figure out things that normally
would just roll right out my mouth.
We did this on a Monday.
By Tuesday the room was ready.
 I love you Laura.
 
I thought that would be the hardest thing I did all week.
Two days later our world changed.
It still doesn't seem real
but everything in us hurts
so I know its true.

One afternoon as I was walking to pick our boys up at school
my phone started ringing.
I have a wildly loud obnoxious ring on my phone.
Piano riff.
I quickly saw it was one of my brothers in law.
I didn't answer it because at school pickup there are hundreds of people.
Its not really the time or place to talk on the phone.
I put it back in my pocket and told myself to remember to call him later.
I grabbed one kid and was walking to get the others.
The phone rang again.
This time a different in law.
Strange I thought.
Maybe she's in town too.
I thought it was all about going to dinner together.
I rounded up all my boys and started walking to the car.
Then I heard the text ring a ding.
I looked at the words and only really saw one.
Accident.
I called my husband.
I changed his life with my message.
His goddaughter, our niece, had been in a car accident.
Call your brother I said.

The next hour was a whirl wind of phone calls.
Snippets of news from various brothers.
My husband rushed home.
He had been given the number of the emergency room doctor.
We sent our kids upstairs to watch tv as he dialed the number.
We both listened as the doctor listed her injuries.
I only understood broken hips, multiple facial fractures.
My husband is a doctor.
He knew too much.
He hung up the phone looking absolutely gutted.
I said its pretty bad huh.
It shocked me when he said "it would be better if she died tonight."
I got so mad and told him he wasn't God, he didn't know.
He said "Nancy, I heard every word that doctor said.
You may not have understood it but she is brain dead."
They were prepping her for life flight.
She was flown to a trauma hospital near Waco.
I went outside not knowing what to do.
I called my friend Joyce.
I was crying so hard.
She kept telling me to stop, calm down, talk slow.
I was trying to ask her to help me send our friends an email.
I didn't know what we were going to do with our kids.
She said "I'll be there in ten minutes."
In less than that she was there.
Her first words were "GO!"
We grabbed some stuff and left.
Right at rush hour.
It took us over two hours to get out of Houston.
The longest two hours I can ever remember.
We were each in our own little worlds in that car.
My husband angry at the traffic between us and her.
I was just silently wishing what he said wasn't true.
As the sun was setting I finally noticed the sky.



There was a distinct line across the sky.
Like a clear division between heaven and earth.
A few minutes later I looked up again.


It is hard to see from this picture but right above the road we're on,
up in the sky there was one little cloud
that was catching and reflecting the light of the sun.
The only cloud doing this in a cloud filled sky that evening.
Just one.
I think she's gone I whispered to my husband.
I think so too he said.

We finally got to her bedside in the ICU around ten that night.
I can still see her now.
Her petite little person, barely five feet tall.
Her wavy brown hair still with a braid off to her left side.
She was on a ventilator, machines beeping.
Briefly I was taken back to our boys' stay in the NICU.
Remembering the sounds of their time there.
This was no place I ever thought we'd be again.
Not with someone so young.
She was a beautiful being.
She wanted to be a nun.
Even right out of high school.
The convent she wanted to join urged her take some time,
to experience "real" life first.
She worked summers at an ice cream shop,
graduated college in three years,
was deeply religious and faithful and true.
I became her aunt by marriage when she was barely ten.
She read from I Corinthians during our ceremony.
She was extraordinary.
She was petite.
She was a giant.

Over the next twelve hours the kind hospital workers
prepared my brother and sister in law for the worst.
They graciously and lovingly took care of their first baby girl.
Throughout the night family and friends arrived.
Both of my niece and her family.
There must have been at least thirty young college students
there in the packed waiting room.
Parents of her friends arrived too.
Throughout the night they ran tests
to confirm that there was nothing that could be done.
I think they were giving family time to let reality sink in.
No one slept but rather kept watch on the doors
leading into the ICU.
Two would go in, two would come out, two new would go back.
It was like a dance of people who loved her.
Each going in so hopeful,
coming out in sorrow.

My sister-in-law was incredibly strong that night.
A mother warrior standing tall like an iron rod.
Only in the wee hours of the next morning,
when the medical team as a whole did morning rounds,
did she bend over at her middle,
hands on her knees,
tears in her throat,
to say that they had decided to turn off the machines.
She generously and graciously suggested that if anyone wanted
to go say goodbye they should do it now at that moment.
The whole room of fifty plus people moved as one.
We all went through the doors we had stared at
and passed in and out of throughout the night to see her
and filed into her room that was as tiny as she was.

For the next hour we all stood at her bedside.
The only sounds in the room were the machines
and the occasional ruffle of tissues and sniffles.
A nurse came in to explain what would happen next
as the machines were turned off.
She went quickly after that.
No alarms sounded but a doctor and two witnesses
came in and made their pronouncements.
Her friends then all left so the family could have privacy.
followed by the parents of some of her friends.
Next her grandparents.
Then her uncles and aunts.
My husband didn't want to say good bye.
He didn't want it to be his turn.
I told him he'd regret it all the days of his life.
He was in a pained way I'd never seen before.
I had to physically push his body toward her bed
where he bent over and kissed her forehead.
I squeezed her hand and kissed her cheek as I whispered in her ear.
I asked her to be an angel to our boys.
I told her I knew she already was one.
We left her siblings and her parents alone with her.

For a while the crowd that had gathered by her bedside
now was outside her room,
none of us knowing where to go next.
Our only thoughts were to get home to our boys.
We wanted to tell them in person.
We made it in time to pick them up from school.
We waited until we got home even though
they kept repeating questions about how she was.
My mini-me knew.
He kept asking if she was ____ but he never said the word.
Finally we got home and sat them down.
We told them there was a car accident.
We didn't know the details then.
We told them we couldn't explain anything,
only that she was gone.
We all sat there and cried together.

A short time after, my sweet peep Joyce
called to say she had something for us.
We went outside to wait for her
where the sweet sunshine of spring
kissed our foreheads and somehow, at least for me,
made it seem like she was watching us from above.
Joyce pulled up and jumped out with a bag
of five pints of ice cream.
You didn't have enough while I was here last night.
You only had one little pint she joked.
Your kids need more dang it.
Aren't girlfriends the best?
Mine sure are.
They fed us every day and night for over a week.
My boys kept saying "Mom, you have the best FRIENDS ever!"
Boy don't I know it.
Joyce reminded us that it had been report card day
and she shared that what they do
on report card days is a reverse dinner...
or in other words dessert first
or in their case sometimes dessert only :)
My husband and I just looked at each other.
Done we thought.
Going forward we're going to honor
the day of our niece's passing
with reverse dinner - ice cream for every body.
She would have loved that.

 


8 comments :

  1. Nancy, my heart is aching for you and the entire family right now. As you know, I have two young daughter's close to your nieces age. One in Waco. May God be with each of you in the coming weeks and months. May you feel His comfort and peace my friend.

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  2. Nancy, I have been thinking of you and carrying you close to my heart. Many blessings and prayers for your and your family. - Maxine.

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  3. Oh no!, how absolutely horrible! I've been thinking of you since your last post and hoping something wasn't clear and it wasn't true. Thank you for being brave and sharing the story with us. You've made many good points for us to remember. Enjoy each other while we can, and be a good friend in times of need. God bless you and your entire family in the journey of healing and finding peace.

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  4. OMG Nancy... I am sitting here crying my eyes out for you and your family. What a horrible loss for you all. What a wonderful young lady she was. It must be some consolation knowing that she is in no pain and had a beautiful life which is continuing in Heaven. I keep you and your family in my prayers.l

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  5. I am so very sorry for your family's loss. Your tribute to her and how very much she is loved is beautiful. She is a stranger to me, and yet your words made me feel as though I know her. Tears are flowing for both her short life and your family. I'm sure you have indeed gained an angel to watch over you and yours. Prayers are being sent from South Carolina today.

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  6. Oh Nancy! I am so sorry for your loss. So young...way too young. My father in-law was moved to hospice this week. As we deal with this we all have said he has lived a great, long life. Your niece was too young. I know God has a plan for her...he must.

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  7. Hello Nancy
    I just came over from your comment on my blog and am sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks.
    I am so sorry for the loss of your angelic niece.
    Your post was a beautiful tribute.
    God bless you all.
    I will be visiting you often and keeping you all in my prayers.
    XO
    Terri

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  8. You write beautifully. I'm sorry for your loss. I cried reading this. Marcy

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