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Archive for June, 2010

Like A Ripple In The Water

On March 17, 2010 the love of my life passed unexpectedly as he turned the key into the ignition of his work truck.  The job that they (my husband and 26 year old son) were heading to was the first one in six months.  My husband put the key in the ignition and fell over onto my son sitting in the passenger seat.   I am still struggling with having flashbacks of standing in the driveway with 911 on the phone.  My son trying desperately trying to revive him with CPR.  As the tears ran down my face and the operator on the phone asked again what my address was, I saw him.  My eyes locked on his bloated body that was the most hideous shade of blue I had ever encountered.  He was gone, my mind told me over and over.  And yet as I watched him being loaded into the ambulance, I found the slightest inkling of hope.

People were called, I found myself dressed and in the back seat of our dear friends Jim and Sandy.  The ride to the hospital took what seemed like forever.  The twenty minute drive gave me more than enough time to let everything ‘register’.  Over and over in my head I heard myself praying, “Please GOD let him be alive.”  Watching out the windows as the world passed by I felt like a piece of my heart had been ripped from my chest.  It literally felt as if my heart had a hole in it.  That feeling stuck with me for the first three months and one week, today.

Arriving at the hospital I found myself ushered by family and friends who all became faceless masses.  Maybe I did not have enough time for everything to register in my head.  Everything was moving too quickly.  Walking to the small window in the Emergency Room I asked the nurse, “They just brought my husband in, is he alive?”  I remember pleading with her to just tell me, is he alive?  It is a simple enough question, the question that I never thought I would utter in my life time.  The question that would rock my world, take everything that I have, everything I am.  Yeah, that question, “Is he alive”.  Unfortunately hospital protocol must come first. The nurse told me that I would have to wait for the doctor.  She was just doing her job, I understand that.  It is her handing me a long white paper stuck to a clipboard and announcing that I needed to sign it.  When asked what it was she replied, “It is giving us permission to treat your husband.”  And all along knowing that there wasn’t anything to treat, he had passed the moment he fell over on my son in the truck that morning.  I reflect on this interaction and remind myself that last spark of longing, the hope that he was being treated had to mean he was alive.  I knew in my head that he was gone, but the faintest flicker of hope still lingered.

Minutes later we were shuffled into a little room, I sat down in a chair and honestly cannot remember who else was in the room.  Two nurses and a tall doctor walked in and I noticed his bright cheery smile.  The two nurses flanked him, one on each side.  The doctor introduced himself, still smiling through perfect white teeth.  The next thing I know I am throwing up my hands and yelling, “Is he alive or dead?!”  The two or three minutes seemed like a life time.  That glimmer of hope started fading and I had to hear the words.  Just tell me he is gone.  Just tell me that my life is over.  Just tell me anything but stop smiling!

“Mrs Britton, your husband Charles did not make it to…”, the doctor finally stopped smiling.  That was all I heard, as they came out of his mouth I wanted to be anywhere but there.  Anywhere that was safe like it was for the thirty years that I knew Chuck.  Jumping up from my chair I grabbed my purse and shoved through people to the door.  Pushing open the outside door I ran outside slinging my purse on the walkway and into the bushes.  The anger rose up in me and I wanted someone, anyone to make me wake up.  This couldn’t be real, this wasn’t happening.  But I knew, my heart knew because it felt as if it was going to stop beating in my chest with every broken breath.  The tears flowed and I found it hard to concentrate as I walked around the parking lot of the hospital.  My family and friends were multiplying and my son, my daughter in law and my brother were suddenly there.

If you never have to tell your child, “he’s gone.”  Consider yourself one of the luckiest people in the world.  If you never have to see the devastating in your loved one’s eyes, you are truly blessed.  If you never write a story such as mine without crying, then you are much stronger a person than I.  Reliving these memories do not bring me any form of comfort.  From the moment my son ran into the house yelling, “Mom wake up!  Call 911!  It’s dad!” to the moment I stood beside the large tree in the hospital parking lot wanting to vomit are memories that one day I hope I can put to rest.  They are too fresh now, the hurt runs too deep and too much has transpired since that first day.  The one thing that I know for sure, it’s now three months and one week later and just reliving that morning literally makes me sick.

Looking back I do not really know what happened in the next couple of days.  People came and went and there were hushed conversations whenever I entered a room.  There was a lot of “How is she doing?”, “Has she eaten?”, “What is she going to do?”.  That is pretty much all I remember of those first two days but the third day is one I will never forget.  It was the day that we gave Chuck a Celebration of Life party at our home.  He had requested that his body be cremated and that he did not want a funeral.  He wanted all of his family and friends to come by and to tell stories about him.  Which we did, hundreds of them.  Chuck was a magical person in so many ways.  And it was not until the celebration that I saw just how loved he was.  Never did I realize how many lives Chuck’s had touched and in ways that will keep his memory alive forever.

The celebration started when people started dropping by that morning.  One minute I was getting dressed and wishing I could spend eternity curled up in my bed safe under the covers.  The next minute I walked out into the kitchen, hearing ‘guests’ and there were twenty five or so people mulling around the house.  It was a perfect spring day, not too hot and not too cold.  Chuck’s garden had just started to bloom.  Everyone did a great job of taking care of everything.  Everyone, meaning family and friends made my life as stress free as possible those first few days making phone calls, taking phone calls, cleaning the house, getting the deck and yard ready for the celebration.  Everyone was taking care of everything.  What I was doing during these hours, days?  I haven’t a clue.  I do remember that my eyes were so sore from crying.  Maybe it is better that I can’t remember.  The emotions are evidently ones that I do not want to relive.  It is amazing what the mind will do to protect itself.

Back to the celebration.  Not only was the weather perfect, the celebration was more than I had ever dreamed of.  The house was filled with laughter and huge amounts of food piled high on every flat surface.  Moving from room to room I amassed enough hugs to last a lifetime.  Not literally.  Those long hugs made me feel safe and whole, if only for the moments that the other person’s arms were around me.  I hadn’t put any makeup on that morning knowing that it wouldn’t last five minutes anyways.  Everyone was just wonderful with their words of condolences, love and sorrow flowed freely that day.  Once again I started hearing mumblings, “Did he have insurance?”, “She should be able to get his social security.”, “What is she going to do?”.  Answer to the first question is no.  The answer to the second question is no.  And the answer to the third question is still unanswered in so many ways.  But I look back on that day with fond memories that I will cherish.

While sitting with friends and family on the large deck out back I made a request out loud to Chuck.  Looking at the sky I found myself asking him to send my doves.  Everyone looked at me like I had simply lost my mind.  Once they figured out I was still indeed sane various conversations started.  Sitting in my chair I kept one eye on the bird feeder.  My doves, the wild doves that would show up at our feeder every spring.  The doves that I hadn’t seen since the previous spring.  Those doves that were eating beneath the bird feeder across the yard.  Twenty minutes after asking for my sign, I received it.  Some may think it is mere coincidence.  Me?  I prefer to take it as a sign that Chuck was there.  He was there listening to people’s story about him.  He was there holding son tight in his arms and holding my hand.  Word on the street has it that he was standing next to Keith, a long time friend, telling him to drink another shot of pineapple rum.  Before the night was over there were lots of shots, lots of laughter and lots of love flowing through veins.  The celebration was the perfect way to say goodbye to so many.  And yet those who truly loved him, those of us that cry ourselves to sleep at night because of the loss.  Those of us who’s lives are suddenly broken and beaten, we hold on to the memory of that day.  It makes us feel closer to him.  It was just as he always said he wanted it to be.

That day I learned that Chuck was like a ripple on the water.  Every life he touched, he enriched.  He was truly loved and respected by so many people.  And even through death he continues to touch lives daily.

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