12 Mar Our New Normal – Becoming the Wildflower Part 2 – Tell It All Tuesday
“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”
—The Emperor, Mulan
I remember laying in my bed…
…staring out into the hallway light that was still on, shinning through the crack in my door, as I tried to fall asleep on the rainy march night back in 1994. It was about 10pm and some of my siblings were still up and about hustling to get ready for bed. My parents bedroom was just adjacent to mine. As I drifted off to sleep I remember watching my dad running down the stairs. He had remembered that a movie we had rented needed to be returned, to avoid getting another late fee. I didn’t know until much later that he never made it to take the movie back…..
Every night before bed my dad would tell the story of the 3 bears to my youngest brother and every night the story became more and more entertaining and more and more extravagant. I would often fall asleep to the sound of my little brother giggling and I was sure the story that night was even better and more embellished than the one before. It was great to fall asleep to the low rumble of my dads voice coming from the next room.
He didn’t end up taking the movie back because he didn’t feel well and decided to come back upstairs and lay down for another round of stories with my little brother Jon instead. While my mom, dad and brother lay on the bed retelling their bedtime story once again, my Dad had his arm around my little brother, and his arm was touching my moms arm on the other side. Suddenly, his arm went stiff and he stopped talking.
Next thing I know, I was startled awake from the screams of my mom coming from her bedroom. “Sheree! Sheree!!!” My mom yelled. Sheree is my oldest sister. “Sheree, call 911 your dad isn’t breathing!”
I jumped out of bed and ran to my parents room just in time to see my dad slumped over in bed leaning up against the headboard. I heard his body gasp in one deep broken breath and then all of the air left his body. It made a weird noise.
My mom and my brother in law moved his body to the floor to perform CPR while my sister took directions from 911 over the phone.
My brother in law pounded on his chest while my mom blew air into his mouth.
At this point, it hadn’t entered my mind that he wouldn’t make it.
Strangely through all the commotion only my sister, my brother in law and me were startled awake out of a house full of people.
That’s when the screaming began….
My sister Sheree told me to go and wake up my brother James in the basement and have him run across the street to the neighbors to call the bishop of our church, who lived just down the street. I did as she said, ran down the two flights of stairs to the basement and yelled at my brother, “dad isn’t breathing go across the street and call the bishop.” He jumped up ran up the stairs and out the door.
I remember looking over the other direction to see my little brother Mark sitting on the couch in the basement. He was scared and didn’t move but just sat there and pulled the blanket over his head.
I ran back upstairs, dad still wasn’t breathing and his stomach was filling with air from the CPR.
I think my sister could see the panic in my face and had me run outside to flag down the ambulance since they were having a hard time finding our house.
I remember running out into the rainy, foggy night.
Two houses down in my bare feet, pacing while I waited to hear the sounds of the sirens from the ambulance and fire truck. I could hear them coming closer, it seemed like they were moving slowly looking for our street.
I contemplated running all the way down the main street to get them but decided I needed to stay put.
After what seemed like forever, I saw the flashing lights turn the corner and slowly move down the street. I started jumping and waving. I could tell about half way down the street they saw me because they sped up. Once they saw me I pointed to our house and ran back down to it.
I ran back in the house and my sister Sheree had realized Jon, who was 3, had been sitting there watching everything unfold. For whatever reason he wasn’t crying, he was strangely calm through all the commotion, but she told me to take him to the other room and keep him there.
I did, and kept watching out the window to see if they were taking my dad to the hospital. I found it strange that it was taking them so long.
Jon kept saying, dad isn’t coming home. Somehow he knew.
It finally occurred to me that he might not make it.
I told Jon to stay in the room and ran down the hall to see what was taking them so long. I could hear one of the EMT’s yell “clear.” They were using the defibrillator to jump start his heart.
By now our bishop had shown up, yet most of our house was still asleep. Which was a blessing from God so they wouldn’t have to witness and relive this moment in their life.
I ran into my other older sister Staci’s room, down the hall to wake her up, she sat up in her bed and said a prayer with me. My younger sister sleeping next to her didn’t even stir. As I was pacing in her room I went to walk out of her room when I stopped dead in my tracks from the saying she had on her wall.
It was a small picture of Jesus and on it was the saying “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”
Peace came over my body…..I remember in all the commotion and chaos, I felt peace. Something I shouldn’t have felt in the moment, but I did. I was encircled with peace by a loving Heavenly Father. A Heavenly Father who knew that those few moments would carry me through some very sad and hard years that lied ahead.
Finally, they loaded my dads body on to a board and carried him down the stairs with an air bag over his mouth. My sister Sheree told me he hadn’t been without oxygen so his brain would be ok if he made it.
Although I think she may have already known he was gone, her efforts were to comfort me and give me hope.
After the ambulance left, I paced around the house, my littlest siblings still asleep. My mom and sister Sheree had gone to the hospital with the ambulance. My mom’s friend had come over to the house to stay with us.
I had the job of calling my older sister Michelle, who was living in Utah at the time, to tell her what happened. She happen to live just down the street from my grandma, my dad’s mom, so she headed over to be with her while they waited for more news about my dad. That phone call is burned into my soul. The hardest call I’ve ever had to make. I could barely get the words to come out of my mouth.
I remember going into my parents room and seeing my dads blood on the floor. I panicked. Why was their blood on the floor?! My mom’s friend said they had tried to give my dad a shot in the heart to help him and a little blood from that may have gotten on the floor. She could see my stress and said “you know what, lets clean that up” So we grabbed a rag and some warm soapy water and scrubbed the blood from the floor.
She tried to encourage me to go to bed afterwards, which I did, but sleep wouldn’t come.
After about and hour, the phone rang, my moms friend was heading to the hospital and asked if my sister Staci and I wanted to come with. We did.
I wanted to see my dad, make sure he was ok……
When we got there they took us into a room to meet my mom and my sister, their faces were stained with tears. They already knew what I was about to learn. Shortly after the doctor walked into the room and told us my dad didn’t make it…he was gone….
I still didn’t believe it was true. How could it be? Why??
I asked to see him. My sister Staci came too. The bishop took my arm and we walked down the hall to see his body. As we approached the curtains where his body laid, I became very light headed and sick, I said I think I’m going to throw up…The bishop asked if I wanted to go back. I said no, I needed to see him. To see that he was really gone. Somehow it still didn’t seem real.
Then they pulled back the curtain and in the bed laid his body, covered in lots of chords and tubes. One was still in his mouth where they had tried to resuscitate him. I didn’t touch him. I wish I would have, while his body was still warm. Just to remember what it felt like.
The next time I saw his body at the viewing it was stiff, cold and his spirit was clearly gone…
We went home, driving through the fog back to our house on Coat Ridge Road in Northern Virginia. Back to a house of sleeping little kids who had no idea what had just taken place. No idea that they would wake up tomorrow and their life would be changed forever…
I laid in my bed trying to sleep as the tears fell down my cheeks for what seemed like hours. I could hear my mom downstairs doing the dishes, unable to sleep, and knowing her house would be filled with visitors the next day.
She says now that she vowed then and there to keep going, no matter what. That her 10 kids, 8 still living at home, were now all depending on her. If she gave up, they would too, and she knew my dad wouldn’t have wanted that. So she did what you do when you have no other choice, you keep going….
To be continued……
Most of my story comes from journals I kept during those teenage years of my life. Journaling, I believe, is very important and therapeutic when working through the grief process. It helps to get your thoughts onto paper to remember how you felt going through the process and to see how far you’ve come through your grief.
In the future we will be offering personalized Wildflower journals. Until then, I will link to some that I’ve found. I believe anyone can become a Wildflower by growing through what you go through. You can choose to bloom through your personal adversity whether thats loosing a loved one or another hardship that you are experiencing or you can shrivel and let the hardship take over. It’s up to you, it’s your choice.
It’s not an easy choice at times but once you decide to not give up, to grow and become beautiful in your surroundings, it somehow becomes easier to grow into who you are meant to be.
My husband writes about this through a poem he wrote for me 22 years ago when we met. It brought me hope, happiness and comfort. We have now published this poem into a book that we hope will bring comfort to those who are in need of comfort and who may be experiencing hardship or sadness. There is happiness and hope ahead. You can overcome the rocks and thistles and grow into the beautiful wildflower you were meant to be in a place that may be harder than most but where your beautiful presence will be appreciated and admired because you are growing where others can’t.
If you would like to donate a book that we can distribute to families and individuals that are going through the grieving process please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are in the process of working within the healthcare industry to have these books donated and distributed to families so they have something to leave the hospital or care facility with. Having experienced that long, sad and disheartening ride home without your loved one myself, I never want anyone to leave without something to comfort them. Though small, I hope it may be something to bring them hope. Eventually that will include journals and workbooks for kids to help them work through their feelings and grow into their new normal.
This is the main reason for this blog, to help and comfort those on their journey. Everything else is crafts and hobbies I’ve picked up along the way as well as a fun way to connect and share with others.
To all the Wildflowers on their journey, there is happiness ahead, don’t give up!