The Quiet Amidst the Cries

We started dispersing from the hospital.  His dad suggested we all go to my house so family could gather there… (from that moment on, my home became the gathering place for a week.) One of my brother’s said he would pick up food.  I remember nodding.  I can’t recall the walk back to our vehicle, the drive home.  I can’t even recall walking into the house or who was there.  My brother arrived with food.  There was bustling as my sister’s in laws (I think) were putting plates out.  My ex husbands wife stood to the side.  I grabbed her hand.  I led her to the couch.  We sat in silence.  She squeezed my hand…i squeezed it back.  She started to cry.  I stared straight ahead.   I  felt like we sat forever….alone….in silence.  .

Someone brought me a plate.  I thanked them.  I placed the plate on the coffee table. I walked out to the back yard.  I remember exactly where everyone was.  My daughter and son on the red patio furniture.  They were surrounded by their friends.  My brother standing by the water fountain on the phone with someone.  My sons girlfriend was in a rocking chair staring into the pool.  I recall thinking that our tears would fill the pool if it was empty.  I looked up to the sky.  I watched the palm trees swaying back and forth.  So many happy memories in this backyard.

My back yard would never be the same

My husband and I started excusing ourselves.  He wanted to get me to bed.  People began  to leave.  As we climbed the stairs, he took my phone.  The notifications dings were coming every few seconds.  Questions being asked, “What happened? Is it True? Can we come by? What do you need?”  We don’t have answers yet…, yes it is true..not tonight,  prayers….I want my son back.  I  want quiet, I want peace, I want silence. I want my son.

In the peaceful  surroundings of our bedroom, I collapsed in to a heap of pain and distraught.  My husband ran to me and sat on the cold floor with me.  I heard that painful sound  once again….I heard my screams but I can’t remember what I screamed.   I think I was begging God to bring him back. In between sobs, I recall a calming quietness but it was a fleeting calm.  I cried harder.   We held each other and rocked back and forth…I couldn’t breath …my body limp… my husband trying to keep me from passing out.  I know he was scared . Scott picked me up and put me in bed.   My cries turned into a quiet tired sob.  I have never cried like this…I never want to cry like that again.

Scott fell asleep before me.  I know he fought it hard.  He was afraid to leave me awake and alone.  His body took control…it needed to rest…he needed to regain his strength. I would need his resilience  more than ever.

I Hate Pink Waffle Like Blankets

A male nurse arrives.  He tells us that he will be leading us to the room where they have placed our son.  We will have some time to be with him.  He will answer any questions.  We start walking… going through double doors after double doors.  The corridor is cold and drab.  Gurneys are lined up against walls.  Medical equipment litters the hallways.  It feels as if we are walking into a basement.   I find out later, we were.  We get to this small room. How many others have sat here, I wonder.  It’s a room full of broken dreams,  stolen lives.  It is flooded with tears of so many loved ones, unanswered questions lingering through the musty  air, clinging to the drab walls.   There are a couple chairs, a side table with literature, a box of Kleenex, a fake plant.  Inside the room, there is a window.  I don’t want to walk inside.  Instead, I peek in. Through the window I see a pink blanket.  It’s one of those rough feeling waffle type blankets.  They remind me of the times I was in for surgery and the nurse would bring me a warm blanket.  They weren’t pink though.  They have been a beige color.  Does pink symbolize something?  Do they think that pink is calming, approachable, comforting?  Why pink???

I don’t think I could go in.  I start to shake.  My daughter has already gone in to say her goodbyes.  “I don’t want to go in” I tell her.  “I can’t do it”  “You have to, mom.”  You’ll regret it if you don’t.” People are all around me, but I don’t see them.  I hear cries. I feel a darkness surrounding me.  ok…I go in.  There he is.  My beautiful son…my baby…my first born…my teacher.  Teacher??  Yes. For 31 years.  He taught me to love without hesitation.  He taught me to belly laugh, to play in the rain. He taught me unconditional, unending love.  He taught me what it felt like to be deprived of sleep, yet not to want to sleep because I worried he would stop breathing.  He taught me to agonize over a simple cold, to fight off bullies and to slay the bogey monster.  My teacher was gone and left me with one more lesson.  The lesson of unimaginable pain.

I place my hand on his face.  He looked the same.  He still had the mouth shield in his mouth.  They couldn’t remove.  Coroner had to.  I want to yank it out.  My husband stops me.  What are they going to do, I ask, kick me out!!!  He holds my hand. I turn my gaze back to my son.  I lay my head on his chest.  I rub his leg, I bury my face into his chest.  He feels cold, hard, but he looks like he is sleeping.  I talk to him.  I tell him how much I love him and I am blessed to know how much he loved me.  I tell him to visit me…I tell him I will talk about him to his niece and nephew.  I will tell them what a great laugh he had and how much he loved them and how he wanted to teach them sports.  I tell him how much I will miss him.  I laugh and ask what he thought about this stupid pink blanket.  I HATE PINK WAFFLE BLANKETS! My other brother walks in.  Him and my sister in law are holding up my mom.  She can’t walk.  I hear that god awful sound again.  The sound of pain, disbelief, anger, sorrow trying to disguise itself as a cry.

I sit her down.  “MY JOEY!!  OH MY JOEY!!  GOD TAKE ME!!  I’VE LIVED MY LIFE!!  WHY MY JOEY!”  I grasp her face.  I try to soothe her…console her.  I tell her to go see him.  She can’t, she says.  I smile at her and tell her that he is still here.  I gesture to the window “That is just a body that carried his love, his soul, his passion, his love for us.”  He is still here, mom, I tell her.  All along,  I was trying to convince myself.

The corner is taking longer than usual, the nurse tell me.   “He should have been here by now. My shift is over but don’t worry, I’ll stay here.  You should start having your family say they final goodbyes.” I tell him I don’t want an autopsy.  There is no reason and nothing will change the fact that he is gone.  I am told that by law, it has to be performed.  “Your son was a young, healthy man.  It is necessary.”  ” OK” I say…I get up…i wander back and forth for a bit.  My husband is making the necessary phone calls..his family…my boss…my best friend.  My ex husband is talking to the donor center.  My mom’s sisters are consoling her.  She tells them to look at how brave I am.  Relatives I haven’t seen in ages start arriving.  I don’t want them here but I don’t want to hurt their feelings.  I glance at the nurse.  He gives me a nod.  I walk back into the room.  I tell everyone they have 2 minutes.  After five minutes,  I ask everyone to leave the room.  I want to be alone with him.  I feel eyes on me. They are scared for me. I don’t care. I just want everyone to go away!!!  I want them to leave me alone with him….forever

I tell him goodbye and that we need to leave now.  I straighten up the stupid pink blanket around him.  I tuck him into it as if he was a newborn.  I turn and leave.  My legs feel like lead. My body is dragging.  I feel guilt that I left him.  Later, I understand why we couldn’t stay.  Our bodies start to change very quickly once the life is stolen from them.

Doesn’t matter.  I am angered that I felt rushed. I am angry that the coroner took so long!!  I am MAD that I had to leave him.  I am pissed that I had to share my last  moments with him  with all these people. stealing moments from me.  Yet, I don’t want them to leave my side.  I need them to take some pain from me and take it on themselves. I hear someone laugh…I should be happy someone broke the tension…but I am angry that they stole that from me too!   The first sign on life…a laugh..how dare they!!

I am SO MAD…PINK BLANKET??!!!  REALLY!!!??   YOU WRAPPED MY SON IN A PINK F**N BLANKET!!??  I HATE PINK WAFFLE LIKE BLANKETS!!

The Many Faces of Grief

We make it to the hospital.  Standing in the entry way was our pastor, bible in hand. He knew my son. He baptized him, he counseled him, he loved him. I see pain in his face. He tries to hide it. He wraps his arms around me.  I cry harder.  I know he tried to give me words of comfort, but I don’t recall what he said except to lean on my faith.  He knows my faith is strong. ….. My faith WAS strong…a million years ago

He holds my right hand, my husband the other.  We begin the walk.  I recall seeing kids running around, the smell of burnt coffee and disinfectant.  A security officer walked past us.  He looked at me…I looked back.  A sad smile crossed his face. Does he know???  Is this a familiar scene he has witnessed much too often???

My ex husband had called and told us they were no longer in the family grieving room.  My son was being moved to a viewing room.  “We are in the lobby…waiting for you guys.”  We turned the corner and I saw them.  They saw us…they saw me.  My brother quickly walked up to me to hug me.  I remember a wail…a sound I had never heard before…a sound of grief, pain, heartache…it was coming from me.  I stated pounding my fists into his chest.  “YOU’RE LYING!!!  YOU’RE LYING!!!  NOT MY JOEY!!!  PLEASE TELL ME YOU’RE LYING AND THIS ISN’T HAPPENING”!!!! He holds me tight.  It’s true.  “NO!!!” I hear that sound again.   I fall to the ground.  He doesn’t let go.  People gather around me.  I hear people around me crying.  see people holding each other. I see my sister-in-law throw her hands to her face, trying to stifle  her own cries.  Almost everyone is there.  My kids and their significant others, some cousins, my son’s best friend, nieces and nephews, my ex and his wife.  Their faces are red, swollen from crying.  Sadness and pain is everywhere.  Whispers engulf me.  My children hang on to me.  I hold them and tell them I love them and that it will be OK.  I look into their faces.  I see their brother.  I feel sick.  God help me!!  Everyone looks so much older.  Grief is harsh, unrelenting, a youth bandit, its unmerciful, its evil.

Joey’s girlfriend stands in a corner.  She is clutching his belongings that someone put into  a plastic bag.  His shirt is ripped from where the paramedics cut it off of him in an attempt to save his life.  I manage to get to my feet.  I walk to her.  She clings to me.  Her body limp.  The love of her life was gone.  I put gently cup her face with my hands.  Her beautiful flawless face was gone.  Instead, there was loneliness, guilt, pain, disbelief. I tell her I love her.  Her face gets sadder.  She cries harder…. I HATE GRIEF!

What happened??  Someone tell me what happened but DON’T give me details.  Give me only as much as I can handle.  I heard ” going home after gym, eating MacDonald, laughing, making fun of her because she mispronounced a word, seizure, screaming, pulling over, CPR, a nurse driving by, helping with CPR, couldn’t get a hold of his dad, called his sister”.  His sister…baby sister…my baby girl.  She had just got engaged 3 months before.  How could she handle going from pure bliss to horrific grief.  Her dad was working overtime.  He was in his patrol car when my daughter called him.  He beat the ambulance to the hospital.  He was there as the gurney quickly raced by him.  He heard code blue.  He told the nurse that was his son.  The nurses face went white.  She knew officer Joe but he was never on this side of  that invisible line no one wants to cross.  Doctors came in to the waiting room to tell him they were working on him.  “Do everything you need to.”  His captain, lieutenant, fellow officers started arriving.  He told  them that as soon as the doctors had him stabilized, he would go home to change out of his uniform and he was prepared to sit by his bedside as long as he needed to. Of course, they said!  The doctor returned, this time though, not alone.  “I’m sorry. Nothing we could do.”  It was too late.

No more details…that’s all I can handle.

The longest walk

I finally managed to stand a bit stronger.  the quick sand was gone. I took some deep breaths and began to take steps towards the hospital.  This is going to be a long walk but I can do it.  Just stare straight ahead and follow the path.     I wanted to get there fast but yet I wanted it to take forever.  Still no…no tears…no pain…no anger.  My husband asks me if I am ok.  I nod…slowly.  I don’t want to risk waking up my head or my heart for fear that a battle will ensue. We pass a few parked cars…our gait slow but steady.   We had to stop to allow a woman driving an old and large pickup truck try to maneuver into a space that is made for a Prius. I wondered why she just could find a bigger space.  I am still practicing my Lamaze breathing.  Don’t think Cynthia.  Don’t feel Cynthia. We wait and we watch.  Pull in, pull out.  Pull in, pull out. Turn the wheel.  Pull in.  Pull Out.   The lady tried for hours to park.  It was really seconds but time plays games with you.

Then it happened.  My amazing, greiving husband grabbed my hand and cut through the opened stall, right in front of her, pulling me along beside him.  She honked and made a gesture towards us.  What happened next was in slow motion yet I can’t remember many details.  I turned to look at her yet I never saw her face.  I saw details…the look of irrate on her face, the rolling of her eyes. Her lips slowly mouthed something. There was a man next to her. Then it happened.  I did it…I walked to the front of her truck and with all the anger I had been penting up inside, I started slamming the hood of her beat up truck. “MY SON IS DEAD! MY SON IS DEAD! MY SON IS DEAD”!!  “YOU F*** B**** MY SON IS DEAD AND YOU DARE TO HONK AT ME”!!!!  She never moved.  She just sat there.  I still don’t remember her face but I remember her eyes.  Fear.  Was she afraid of me or was she afraid of what I was about to face?  I know that for the rest of her life, she will never forget that incident or me.  She will tell this story again and again.  I know it.

My husband grabbed my hands he looked me in the eyes and said “let’s go.”  I nodded and started the longest walk again, only this time I couldn’t see the path through my tears.

Hospitals will never be the same

My husband circled the garage across from the hospital trying to find a parking space. I now hate hospitals.  They are no longer the place where you go to see a beautiful newborn baby. They are no longer the healers.  They are no longer the miracle makers.  They have become a dark, ugly, place that I never want to visit again.

I still had not cried.  Had not spoken. My gaze was still fixed straight ahead.  If I don’t move, my heart will, in turn, stay in place.  It will keep beating at the same pace.  Don’t panic…don’t show fear…don’t show pain.  My brain will continue to take over.  Isn’t it funny how athletes work out to make their bodies stronger?  They sweat, they pant, they lift 3 times their weight, to build their muscles.  Silly, people…don’t they know that the strongest muscles in our bodies are our hearts and brains???  Without those 2 components, we can’t go on!  They are so strong, that they are constantly battling it out! The mind wants to over power the heart!  The heart wants to be in command!  Ironically enough, a few hours ago, those 2 organs has started a battle inside of me.

Don’t think, Cynthia.  Just let your body be led.  Don’t breath, don’t think.  Don’t feel. I get out of the truck.  My knees go weak.  My husband holds me up.  I feel like I’m walking in quicksand. The newspaper falls out of the truck.  I just want to go back to 9:00 am.  Three letter word for ‘Dreamy state sleep’.  Nightmare????

I had text my kids to let them know we were on the road.  Two of them text back.  I remember telling Scott I had this feeling.  Couldn’t explain it other than ‘ugly’.  He said it was the caffeine from my quad Americano.  No…a different kind of heaviness in my chest feeling.  Shake it off” I told myself.  Don’t worry…Ha…who am I kidding? I am a worrier.  I worry if I have nothing to worry about because that means something is going to happen which will cause me worry! I try to keep my mind busy. I continue to work on my crossword puzzle.  Look at phone…maybe a missed the ding….hhmmm..no reply.  Should I text again?  It won’t hurt.  “I love you baby boy.”  Nothing.  We are now going over the grapevine.  My heart and head are battling it out.  UUUGGG.  FINALLY!  10:47…ting…A TEXT!!  It’s from his girlfriend, Sarini.  Hi Momma!!!  Sorry, we were at the gym!  We love you have a great time!!  Phew, I thought.   Except the battle was still going strong.  UUUGGGG! Stop!.  1:58.  The phone rings….