The Unexpected

The quadruple bypass had been a total success. The family began to let their shoulders down and breath a little easier, until…that first meal! Those infamous cornflakes – tasty clusters of flakes, yet deadly to a paralyzed, empty stomach. The first spoonful hit the stomach producing nausea, stomach cramps and pain, making the stomach bloat with extreme speed. The symptoms had now become agonizing with no sign of relief. Rushed to the OR! Doctors in desperate search of what had caused this drastic turn of events, and trying to figure out how and why this was happening while he was slowly making a positive recovery from his heart surgery.

The family lingers in the room waiting for an update. The nurse comes in and says, “He’s losing a lot of blood. Are any of you able to give blood for him?” We are willing. After some tests, it turns out only two of his kids are a match. One has been using so he’s out. The youngest of them all is taken to the room where she’ll sit as the precious life giving liquid flows out of her veins.

Waiting and more waiting. Finally, a doctor approaches. “We did all we could…” Words that you hope would only be said in movies, but no, this is real. Before any emotion can be shown, the doctor whispers to the widow, “If you want to take him now without waiting, we are going to have to wheel him out as if he is still alive. Otherwise, you might not get him for days, or even months due to all the red tape.” She, “strong-as-nails”, her norm, says, “I’m taking him now!”

The family is then asked to “stuff all their feelings and emotions” and act as if nothing has happened.

The gurney in front, the family behind…as if…all is good.

The body is delivered to the family home, and is customary in that culture, they will dress and prepare him for the all night wake.

Two of his five sons and his two daughters enter “that room”. He is wrapped in sheets. They approach and start unwrapping…GASP!!! UGH!!! The sight, the smells, the liquids! “How? why? Could they have closed him up? Can someone else do this? This can’t be happening!”

One white shirt after another, stained…useless. “We” aren’t equipped for this?” “This should be done by a funeral home.” Nope, this is us and this is how we roll…yeah…swallow that!

Somehow, he is prepped and ready for the all night wake and viewing of the tons of mourners that will come and pay their respects. Rosaries, prayers, coffee, chatter. Tomorrow, he will be carried through the streets of his village, ending at the cemetery with the proper burial. Then the people will scatter, life will continue as usual…

BUT those four “kids” will live with those images of their Dad. Neither will talk to each other about it; neither will talk about it to anyone…because that just how this family rolls.

The Unforgettable Crate

It was a crisp December day. The beehive buzz around the village was thick. One of their own would be arriving today. Not with the usual fanfare, however, this arrival was one robed with the blackness of grief and sorrow. The house had been readied for the owners arrival. This time, however, the bedding was not washed and pressed because it’s owner would not be sleeping in her bed. The front room was set up with the customary stands and candles to hold the all night wake.

The unmarked van turns the corner.  Could that be? People straighten up and stand, a sign of honor and respect. The youngest daughter waiting to sign the paperwork indicating she had received the “cargo”.

The van parks to the side of the road. Back door opens. What?! A wooden crate?!?!?!

The youngest daughter paralyzed at the sight. Nausea threatened to make her loose whatever she had managed to eat. “Nobody told me…! I just can’t…!” her thoughts shattered by the pounding of a hammer…P-O-P! P-O-P! P-O-P!

AND so it went…FOREVER…and ever! Each “pop” releasing a nail. Nail after nail that held this crate together, pounded…releasing each nail, and with each pound her heart sank deeper and deeper in pain and unbelief.

She stood paralyzed by feelings of sadness and anger. A slow rage boiling inside. “This is a human body, for God’s sake! She might be lifeless, but she still deserves honor and respect!”, thoughts screaming within.

Fulfilling her mother’s last dying wish came at a great price, both emotionally and financially. But here they were. It was what it was…no turning back!

Images that stay; that haunt; that you wish you could erase. And, so life continues…but you can never see a “crate” the same again.

That Day

That long corridor…step by step. Feet as led, heavy, stuck, yet needing to move forward. That closed door…don’t open it! But, it needs to be opened…gasp! Into a cold, morbid room…knotted stomach, stuck to the spine. Was I even breathing?

Barely standing, gasping…wondering, how is this even possible? My legs felt like they would give way…a hand, loving and strong touched me – my son by my side!

There you were…no smile, no rolling of eyes, no “Hi Mom”…no movement, no sound. Your butterfly t-shirt, comfy pants and comfy socks, such normalness…yet, it didn’t seem right. The teddy bear named Gabriel was in your arms. I remember when it was given to you. I remember when you clutched to it, now it seemed, well, not right. I hear, “take as much time as you’d like.” Time…really, “as much as I would like?” Can I freeze time? Can I stop time? If I could, this is NOT the place I would choose.

“Time” ended…the choice was made. My husband, my son and I put our hands on that door, none of us wants to close. That door that will mark the “end” as we know it here on this earth. It closes, it snaps…my heart shatters, again.💔

Last Breath…

The dawn of another sleepless night. Your breathing shallow, sporadic…every interval, more and more distant. “It” was lurking at every corner, making “it’s” presence known, felt…making my body stand on edge. “It” had been announced months ago, AND, maybe we had “accepted it”, but the thought that “it” was…almost here was just so unnerving.

Your little frail body, almost a shell of what you had been, finally at peace; finally the screams, “Help, me Mom!” had been quieted. The horrible flow of you vomiting your insides had stopped. Finally, you lay oh so peaceful, not writhing in pain. BUT what was the cost?

At times begging The Father to take you already. At times clinging to every last second of life…wishing for one last

…Hug, smile, giggle, even a grouchy face, anything…one last MOMMIE…

I’m playing one of your favorite songs, trying to sing to you…YOU breathed in ANDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD it was over!!!

My heart pulverized into a gazillion pieces…

I know You are at peace in the very safest place you can ever be. I know I will see You again. I know…I know…I know…

BUT

How do I convince my aching arms that they will hold You, again? How do I tell my ears that they will hear Your voice, again? How do I tell my eyes that they will see You, again? How do I tell the fragments of my heart to beat, again?

I miss YOU, my beautiful girl ❤

Choices…Decisions

This picture has always captivated me. I remember looking at this plant and thinking, I need to get rid of this “dead” plant. Then I saw this beautiful flower, almost as if defying the dead, brittle branches around it. Standing straight, showcasing its beauty.

Choices…decisions…

This “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is incomprehensible. No way can I even try to explain “it” nor do I want to. However, I do need to keep on “walking”, “moving”, “living”. I have choices and decision to make.

Several quotes have captured my attention: “Suffering is a gift. May we suffer well.” * “No matter how dark it gets, love and hope are always possible.” * “Suffering is a gift; in it hidden mercy.” * “Life will continue, will you let it come in?”

My daughter’s race is finished, but mine is not. Will I “live” in a manner that “showcases” my hope and trust in a Living God? Will I stand straight and firm upon the promises of a God that does all things well? Will I “showcase” the beauty of the cross, the hope of the resurrection, the trust in the God who is, who was and who is to come? By the amazing, keeping grace of God – I believe so! I am willing! AND because He lives, I can face tomorrow, and I can rejoice in the LORD today!

Images

Images, images…an onslaught of images; a constant replay.

What’s playing, “presently”, in the theater of my mind? My beautiful daughter being placed in that bag. Yes, it was just her shell! Yes, she “wasn’t there” anymore! Yes, yes, yes…I KNOW!!! It was all part of the “normal” process! I get it! I accept it! BUT the torture and assault of those images is relentlessly painful and gut wrenching!

Her frail, lifeless little body being placed on that gurney, with that black ominous bag. The zipper going up, up…closing…watching her little face disappear. I wanted to turn away, but that seemed “unloving”, and I wanted to “see” her face as long as I possibly could. I wanted to scream, “she will suffocate!” I wanted to STOP the process. I thought I’d vomit…maybe if I vomited that twisted feeling in my guts would be relieved…UGH!!!

I try to renew my mind. I try to “think” on things that are true, noble, praiseworthy. Really…I do! But somehow, the images return, over and over again. I am thankful for the times that the images are of joyful, memorable moments. I welcome the relief and joy they bring.

Always on the edge. People…noises…anything threatens to take me over the edge; to explode.

I wonder, “If the images stopped, would I stop missing her; remembering her?” “Are these horrid images better than not having anything at all?”

And so the journey continues…one day, one moment, one second at a time. Thankful for the grace to do just that…one second at a time!

“Cry whenever you need to. Scream. Shout. Lay on the floor. Sob in the shower. Be still. Run. Share without fear. Listen. Release your pain. Breathe. Be courageous. Throw away the map. Wander. Be real. Be compassionate. Read. Seek friendship. Be vulnerable. Don’t fear being broken.” ~ Zoe Clark-Coates