In one moment, in one instance, everything I have ever know was completely gone. Sitting on the couch smiling and laughing, followed by a cataclysmic series of events that has left a raw hole in my soul. If l knew then what I know now, I would have changed so much. I would have rewritten our whole story so I wouldn’t feel this pain. But life doesn’t work that way. You don’t always get warnings. You don’t always get second chances. Sometimes your world is turned upside down and there is nothing you can do but stand there and roll with the punches. I learned this the hard way.
I had so much to be thankful for. I had to watch you cook and bake for two days. You played with my children and laughed with me. Chris and I even had a break the night before and went to your work. I was engulfed in love and happiness. Now all l feel is sadness.
They say there are some things you never forget in life. Images, smells, and sounds during traumatic events are a few of those unforgettable things. Like the sound of you falling moments after you went outside. The way you looked lying lifeless on the ground. Hearing my own voice screaming for Chris. The image of you in the ambulance. The smell of the ICU in the hospital. The sound of the machines and the mechanical rise and fall of your chest. The way you looked in the elevator right after I said my final goodbye. It fucking sucks.
Buddha said, “The problem is we think we have time,” and if that doesn’t hit the nail on the head then l don’t know what does. Time is so fragile. Every moment is fleeting, and then it’s the last one. The very last moment we see our loved ones. The last time we smile or the last time we cry. We live our life for that very last moment. But what if that last moment is so earth-shattering that it leaves the ones left behind in such shock and disbelief that they struggle to go on? Some people have the opportunity to say goodbye because they know their time has come. Others are just wiped from the face of this Earth without knowing that last smile was just that—their last. l often think about your last day. Your last “times” with us. You didn’t know. We didn’t know. But you were so happy. You smiled your last smile. Laughed your last laugh. Gave your last kisses and told your last stories. But it wasn’t enough time for me.
l feel like waiting rooms naturally give people anxiety. The reasoning behind being in a waiting room varies, depending on whether it’s a super exciting event or a dreadful one. The first waiting room was a little side area behind the emergency room doors, where l guess they take people to tell them the worst news. The Chaplin visited and my heart sank. l didn’t know what it was, but l knew your number had been called. Truth be told, l knew in the ambulance. l knew it was bad; l knew you were leaving me. You were in the hospital, so I felt a sense of hope, but when they told me what had happened, it vanished. The emergency room waiting room turned into the ICU waiting room. They slowly completed the necessary tests while we waited, knowing the inevitable.
You were gone before they called it. You were a shell. Your brain had filled with blood while you laid on the cold ground awaiting an ambulance. 50% of all people in your condition don’t even make it to the hospital. Your heart stopped three times, but you fought to get there. But no matter the fight, you were gone. After various tests, they told me exactly what I knew had happened. At 12:51 on November 23rd, 2018, you were declared brain dead. I shattered. Though I knew it before they told me, the hole in my soul l mentioned before was ripped open at that very moment. Any hope l carried was gone. You were gone.
The only peace l find in this. Kept on a ventilator for two days. Optimizing organs and determining what could be donated and to who. Chris and l sat there all day on Saturday listening to your chest rise and fall like a song you never want to hear on repeat. l watched your heart beat on the monitor. l was mesmerized by the rhythm. l watched as they did an ultrasound of your heart and l saw it beating. Then l awaited the news about which organs were okay and cheered when they told me over those two days which ones were being donated. Four people. Four families who don’t have to feel this pain just yet.
The honor walk
My final goodbye was a long walk through the ICU and PICU to the elevator that led to an OR. Faculty lined the hall as you were honored for giving the gift of life. l held your hand the entire way, not even seeing the faces standing around me. l kissed your hand and your forehead a final time. l told you l loved you, and I walked you back into the elevator with a heart around your wrist and the other half in my hand. As the doors shut, it was my final goodbye.
I walked through the hospital countless times. My face stayed blank, with tear stained cheeks and tired eyes. People knew. When I walked by, they quickly went silent and looked at me as if they could see the wrenching soul underneath. My pain encased me and everybody knew. I would see people smiling, carrying on with their day, not feeling the pain I felt. How did l get so unlucky?
An angel was sent to me during this time. An angel who cared for you. Who talked to you. Who talked to me for hours. Told me stories. Let me laugh and cry and talk about you. She held your hand. She told me how beautiful you were. She told me how strong l was. I truly don’t think I could have gone through this without her there. She was an angel in the form of a nurse named Linda.
It comes like the tide. One moment l am full of grief and then the next l am empty. l see your face everytime l close my eyes. I see your smile at night when I can’t sleep. I long to call you every single time something happens. The pain I feel is so raw, and it is like no other pain I have felt, and knowing I am stuck with this pain fucking sucks. l have to learn to be happy without you, and that is not something I want to do just yet.
After the pain comes a burning anger. l guess that’s what happens when your last moment with your mother shouldn’t have been your last. How can people be in their 50s and have both parents, but l am 25 and have lost both of mine? Why was l chosen to endure this life without the ones who gave me life? Where do l find my guidance? What did l ever do to deserve this hand that l have been dealt? The anger is worse than the pain. The fire only grows bigger as it swallows my tears and spits them out of my mouth like word vomit. It burns so bright that any ounce of happiness l feel is consumed by it. Why was the most beautiful women on the face of this Earth ripped away while shattering my entire sense of normalcy? The anchor to the world was severed and l am just lost floating in the vast ocean of anger and pain. l so desperately want to find the shore, but l am treading and sinking into a pit of grief as l go. Strength? No, it’s anger.
Ever been 25 and had to plan your own mother’s memorial service? No? Good for you, and l sincerely mean that. It absolutely sucks and is insanely expensive to have someone put in a giant furnace to be burned to a pile of ashes. l didn’t even know where to start. l didn’t know I needed several copies of a death certificate (at least 15, by the way). I had to decide if I wanted it to be a religious ceremony or a celebration of life. I had to honor my mother the best way I could, without being able to ask for her opinion or advice. How do you honor someone’s life when you aren’t ready for them to be gone?
5th out of 4
Chris. My rock. My anchor may have severed, but l have a rock that my line got tangled around, so I can’t float too far. When I feel like falling, he lets me feel the pain just enough and then catches me before I fall too deep into despair. He never left my side in the hospital. The first few days he didn’t even let me shower alone. He stayed awake so I could sleep, and every day since he is always right there. My gratitude extends farther than the emotional aspect because he saved you first. He brought you back so you could give the gift of life. When your heart stopped the very first time, after l frantically scream for him and he went outside to you, he brought you back. He gave us all the opportunity to say goodbye. He gave us all the peace we have in this shitty experience. I never thought I could love him more until he gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to my mother.
I have received so many messages that l don’t think l have even read them all, though they all say the same thing. It is almost a blur of “I am so sorry for your loss” and “if you need anything please let me know.” I am grateful to be cared for by so many. My support system truly is amazing, even if my anger makes it hard to see sometimes.
I keep hearing how proud people are of me, and that’s one thing l know for certain: you were always proud of me. You always let me know how much you loved me. You always told me how proud you were. I am a lucky one to know those things. The amount of people who love me because they love you is astonishing. It always annoyed me how many times you would introduce me, but now I see it is only because you truly loved me from the deepest pits of your heart and wanted everyone to know. Your love was a once in a lifetime kind. There is few people who love the way you do. You always found a reason to love everyone you met.
I have yours. But mine can’t light up the darkest rooms like yours could. I no longer have the sparkle in my eye that you had when you would smile. You took that sparkle away with you. That sparkle is now a piece of your soul floating in the universe. Your smile was more than a smile. It radiated happiness in the worst situations. It gave me hope and comfort. I miss it the most. Keep my sparkle in your soul, because I can feel when you are near me. One day I may be able to smile with a new sparkle, a new one that grows when my anger flame burns out.