"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well."
-Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Day After

Alex’s services will be as follows:

Tuesday January 7, 2014

Elm Springs United Methodist Church, 118 North Elm Street, Elm Springs, AR 72728

Visitation 10:30am, Funeral 12pm, short graveside service to follow at the Elm Springs Cemetery

We are asking everyone to wear purple, as that was Alex’s favorite color. 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Alex’s honor to Elm Springs UMC. 

_____

Here we are, the day after.  Drew and I are doing okay, as things go.  The dogs are unsettled, and I only mention that because they are part of our family and also affected by Alex’s absence. 

I was very brief yesterday, so I will try to share more with you all.  I do this for you all, but also for my own memory saving. 

Alex’s body fought for life for days and we believe that the simple reason for that was because it has never known any different.  Every single physical thing that Alex did in her life was with great effort.  There were multiple times in the last 24 hours where Drew and I were sure that the end had arrived, but Alex’s amazing strength calmed her and she continued breathing.  During these times Drew and I stayed close to her, sometimes holding her and sometimes sitting beside her and hold her hands.  We finally decided to stop touching her, that maybe she was holding on because of that.  Within minutes she took her last breath and her heart quit beating.  That part was peaceful enough, though the intensity of my emotion shocked even me.  Then, two minutes later, Alex’s body took a large violent breath and scared the you-know-what out of us.  That sent me into quite the panic attack.  Drew was wonderfully calm and comforting to me during this, and continued when three minutes later it happened again.  I was completely freaked out, as neither my grandma or Emma had done this after dying.  Knowing me the way he does, Drew didn’t pat or rub me as I gasped for breath.  He just put his arms firmly around me and held me tight and still.  Knowing that Alex was gone, we left the living room and Drew had to coach me through breathing.  He then called the hospice nurse, who assured him that the last two breaths were not actually breathes, but reflexes that sometimes happen after death. 

Those reflexes were frightening for us, but they were not Alex.  Alex was gone and we knew that.  It took me a 20 or 30 minutes to calm down enough to come back to the living room, but then I was able to sit beside her, stroke her hair and see the peace in her little body.  What a little fighter she was, honestly amazing and collected during her entire life.  She was never in any pain during her last days, stayed sleeping comfortably and in her favorite place… at home with Mommy & Daddy.  Her dying process was different than Emma’s, but I think that is only fitting for how different their personalities were.  I am grateful that we were at home through it all. 

We are also infinitely grateful that hospice was involved for the last day of her life.  Aside from providing pain medications, there really wasn’t even anyone here doing anything, and that was okay.  The most valuable gift from hospice was their assistance and support after she died.  The nurse that came to the house was professional, but obviously affected by the death of a child.  She made the phone calls to the coroner and the funeral home.  Drew and I were prepared to make those calls ourselves, thinking that we had the information on how that would go, had Alex passed at home without hospice.  Oh, how thankful we are that hospice was involved!  The death of a child in the home always requires more attention than the death of an adult or elderly person.  What we didn’t anticipate was that, since Emma passed less than two years ago, red flags would be raised immediately.  The coroner was not rude, but he was obviously inquisitive about the situation and how we had lost two children in such a short time.  I do, rationally, realize that it is his responsibility to investigate and assess such a situation, but oh how frightening that could be.  Had Drew and I been here alone with her, sans hospice, we would have very likely gotten the third degree from the coroner and also the police officer who would have been required to attend.  Instead, the nurse and social worker were here to verify, document and answer many questions about our specific situation.  The coroner took care of the technicalities and paperwork, but still left me with a feeling that he was completely at ease.  Thanks be to God for nurse Kathy and her support through that process.  I know, in my head, that any investigation that could have ensued after the death of our second child would have quickly revealed endless detailed medical records, supported by our long time doctors and therapists, and that it would have been found that this was, in fact, a natural and expected death due to a genetic disorder.  Still, I am grateful for Circle of Life Hospice and how they interceded and supported us during that process.  I will also say how grateful I am that we live in a place and time where the death of a child is so rare that it must be questioned.  There was a time in America, not so long ago, and still in some areas of the world, where the health and survival of the young is not so readily expected or taken for granted. 

So, after the coroner part was over, we waited here with Alex, the nurse and social worker until the funeral home arrived.  She had been sleeping quite peacefully for almost 4 days, so as I sat beside her it was almost too easy to imagine that that was still the  case.  I didn’t think I wanted to hold her again, but I found that I couldn’t not hold her.  I was a bit surprised to find that holding her body felt so much like holding her.  I cried and talked to her, knowing full well that she was not really in my arms.  When the funeral guy arrived we went through the technicalities and, while he was definitely the exact stereotype of what a funeral guy might look/act like, he was still kind.  I was able to place Alex on the cot and Drew & I both gave her kisses before giving them permission to cover her.  As silly as it is, I think I even made a comment about how the fuzzy cot cover looked like a bath mat.  Inappropriate?  No, I think I’ve earned a free pass to say such things right now.  And I wasn’t lying, that red fur thing that they place over the body really did look like an old bath mat.  So then Alex’s body was gone.  Our nurse, Kathy, cried with us for a short time, gave us  hugs and then they left.  The house was quiet and Drew and I both felt like we didn’t really know what to do next.  As strange as it was, it felt like the mirror image of the day we brought our new born Alex home from the hospital… we walked into our little house, with our baby girl snug in her carrier and then just stood there in the living room, looked at each other and said, “What do we do now?”  We really had no idea on that day and we really didn’t yesterday either. 

It took us a little while to calm enough, but we went to bed about 2pm and slept solidly until 7pm.  Once we got up we watched weird documentaries on television until we were ready to go back to bed about midnight.  On our way to bed that night, I found myself pausing beside Alex’s door.  I haven’t gone to bed in 11 years without first going in to check on her, then going to my own bed and making sure the baby monitor was on.  It was strange, but my exhaustion probably made it a bit easier.  There are many many things that will require retraining and discovery in the coming days, weeks, months and even years.  I can’t think about any of that right now and I don’t think God expects me to yet.  One day at a time, one moment at a time.  For this moment, Drew & I are doing well.  For today we focused on going to the funeral home, buying Alex a new dress and meeting with our pastor.  We will deal with tomorrow when it gets here. 

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” 

-Matthew 6:34

“Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 

-2 Corinthians 2:4-5

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Drew & Mandy,
You are in my thoughts and prayers. You both along with the girls are so amazing; you taught me so many things along your journey. You bet you I'll be wearing purple Tuesday to support your girl. I'll never forget that spunky attitude and sweet smile.

-Nurse Jayme (CMH Neurology)

Anonymous said...

Lifting you up in prayer

Dri said...

Just wanted to let you know that Ansen and I have been following your journey and have been praying for you the last few weeks.

Sallie Plass said...

I love you all.

Anonymous said...

What amazing love the Father has for us to be called sons and daughters. You have been given such an amazing gift of faith. Faith to believe and know how much you and your family are loved. What an incredible loss you have suffered. I can not imagine your pain. Thankful God knows your pain, sees your tears and is the only one that can offer comfort in such a difficult time. May you know the Peace of God your Father. Blessings.

Anonymous said...

God bless you and grant you and your family members the peace to continue on one second at a time.