Thursday, August 4, 2016


It's been nine years.  Sometimes it seems like 90.  Sometimes, only days.  It comes to me at the most random times.  Flashbacks of memory.  Some so sweet, I can feel his presence, smell his sweetness, feel his tight hugs--the best bear hugs ever.  Some so heart wrenching I only want to fling it away in fear that the memory will pull me into the abyss of destructive darkness.

For some reason on this day I keep thinking of the memories that pop randomly into my mind throughout the year.  I remember the panic of the phone call saying Joe had been hospitalized, and being told he might not make it through the night.  He had experienced some set back and was intubated.  My mind both panicked and made careful, thoughtful plans--my first thought was figuring out who was going and who was staying.  Who would watch the little kids?  It seemed most of our friends were away on vacation.  Family would join us at the hospital.  For some reason I thought I could only call someone who had a car big enough to haul their own kids and our three littles--Paul, Kim, and Patrick.  I don't remember the in-between, but we came up with a plan to leave the "littles" with Will's girlfriend (now wife) and Will's friend, Jason.  They came and slept at our house.  In the morning we would figure out a long-term plan.  I had no idea how long we would be away.  Our son was in a hospital a few hours away.

I remember throwing clothing into a bag.  I've never packed so fast in my life.  I forgot any extra shoes so I wore clogs with everything, even shorts, for the next week.  My fashionista girl would have been traumatized--good thing I have no photos!  I had a paper listing of important phone numbers.  I ripped it off the cupboard--it still bears the scars of that night.  Yes, it is now safety restored to it's place of reference.  This ended up being a Godsend because back-in-the-day we didn't have number storage in our phones.  I would later find myself calling a friend to pray, or to set up a playdate for the kids who ended up staying with sweet friends that we didn't even know that well, but who we trusted.  They had three kids of their own, so with the addition of our three, they had their hands full.  I know it was a challenge as the days wore on.  I remember feeling so torn between my children.

The night of the phone call Hubby and I started driving within probably 20 minutes. Will and Lizzy were either with us or driving behind us?  I honestly can't remember.  And where was James?  I know we all made it down there eventually.  We were driving at 1 AM and I wondered why there were so many cars on the road?  Where were they all going?  Did any of them also have a son who was dying?  How could my son be dying?  I always knew he would pull through.

I remember sitting in shell-shock, sick to my stomach, with unquenchable thirst.  We stopped at a gas station.  I went into the bathroom, my legs still shaking, and I vomited.  I still get that flashback memory in a gas station bathroom.

I don't remember talking a lot.  I know we did.  We wondered about many things.  We wondered if Joe would still be alive when we arrived.  We wondered how this hospitalization would go with our son's wife.  If you've read my posts on destructive relationships, you know what I'm referring to.  We kept a cordial relationship, and I'm learning to forgive, but one of the ways his wife found control was to shut us out. As it turned out, this time would be no different.  Many family members would be denied a chance to even see Joe.  It was like something out of a dramatic, horror-filled movie where everyone says the situation would never really happen.  It happens.  I know so much more now about things like personality disorder and mental health challenges.  It still rips my heart out.

I don't have a lot of clear memories of the days that ran together after that.  Actually, some memories are crystal clear, while others dark, absent holes.  I remember family coming.  Sitting in the waiting rooms crying, talking, laughing, trying to sleep, trying to eat.  My sister arriving in the middle of the night and the nurse sneaking her in to see Joe.  I remember brief visits with Joe.  I remember Joe still having a sense of humor and making jokes, even though he couldn't talk.  I remember him desperately trying to tell us something, trying to write it on a piece of paper, but not being able to make his muscles work.  I still wonder what he wanted to say?  What was it?  Tears streamed down both our faces. He knew he was loved. He knew it was near the end.  We all did--even though we held onto hope until the very end.  His Hodgkin's had spread to his heart.  The doctors tried to keep him in a coma, but he fought so hard to be alert.  He wanted to LIVE. And that made it so much harder.

On August 2 my friend called.  Our kids had the throw-up flu and she sounded exhausted.  My sweet nephew and his young wife went and got the kids.  It was decided they needed to come down and be with the rest of the family--we needed to be together.  We couldn't shield them from the trauma.  Silly me to think it possible.  I laugh now when I remember my nephew had placed a pile of bath towels in the Big Blue Beast and the kitchen garbage can next to the child who was still sick.  God came through in that none of the kids threw up again.  We stayed at a hotel that night with the kids.  My sister-in-law brought over bags of food.  I remember waking up at 5am, cuddling with my three little ones on the bed, dreading telling them the news.  This was it.  Unless we had a miracle, their brother wasn't going to make it this time.  How does a mother have that conversation?  What words could I use?  I don't even remember.  I just remember that when they woke up, I somehow told them, and then we left for the hospital again.  We left super early.  It was August 3.  By the end of the day I would sing You Are My Sunshine for the very last time, and our precious Joe would be gone.

Life will never be the same.

Joe, we miss you and love you.  A beautiful color is missing from our world.  I cannot wait for the day I get to hold you in my arms again.  Until then, I'll keep living life--for both of us.


Sammy said...

Wow. God bless you. He knows he was loved and you will see him again. It was a very interesting post on how one feels at such a hard, hard time.

Lisa said...

God bless, Ann. What a beautiful, yet heartbreaking post. I will be praying for your peace, dear friend, as you continue to mourn that vibrant color that's missing...


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, heartbreaking to read. So very very sorry for your loss.

To China and Back said...

Thinking you and sorry for your loss, always.

To China and Back said...

Thinking OF you. :)