“Don’t let go Christine.”

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It was a long day at the hospital. I was alone.

It felt like the weight became mine to bear and it felt heavier when I was by myself.

I hated being alone.

He didn’t know who I was. On so many levels, it made me feel more alone.

The nurse came in to change him.

I walked out of the room and down the hall.

I needed to find a place to rest. I needed oxygen – if for only 5 minutes.

I found a little room down the hall with the words “Consult Room” on the door.

I pushed the door open and found no one in there.

Honestly, I was grateful. I wasn’t up to pleasantries. I didn’t want to talk to random strangers. My life had just flipped upside down and inside out. I was holding on by a thread.

The peacefulness of a quiet room ended within a few minutes.

Three people walked in. It was a mother, father, and their adolescent son. One of them asked me if it was okay if they came in and sat. I knew what it meant to find a place when you needed a place, despite my wanting to not share the space.

“Yeah, that’s fine. I’m just waiting here.”

The last thing I wanted to do was make small-talk. Yet, it began…

I probably initiated, though I don’t actually remember.

They asked me who I was visiting. I explained the situation. I probably went into too much detail. I usually do.

I learned that their young daughter had a tumor. The surgery went well. They removed the tumor. They found it because they noticed a large growth that kept growing on the side of her neck. They were beyond grateful it wasn’t cancer. They were taking her home in the morning.

I remember being envious of that… “taking her home in the morning”.

I had been at the hospital long enough that I knew my way around and was often helping people with directions. The ladies in the lobby that checked ID’s, no longer needed to ask who I was there to see; they knew the name and the floor.

They asked me where I was from. I told them about an hour away.

I learned that they were from my neighboring county.

We chatted for about 20 minutes, until they could go in and see their daughter. She had just gotten out of surgery.

I sat there for a few minutes in silence when they left. I thought about the journey I was on. I thought about how quickly life can flip upside down. I wondered how their lives had been changed, if at all. I thought about stories like their’s, albeit different endings. I wish I had asked them if they realized the grace they received.

I returned to see my father.

Around 9 pm, visiting hours were over. He had been sleeping most of the time I was there. I quietly slipped out and took the elevator down to the lobby.

As I stepped out of the elevator, I ran into the three individuals I had chatted with in the consult room. They had left at the same exact time and took another elevator down. We walked into the hall at the same moment.

The father told me to hang in there. The mother came up to me and gave me a hug. She also said, “Don’t let go Christine.”

Sometimes we get what we need in life, not always what we want, but often what we need…

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

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Grace.

 

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My father made it through emergency neurosurgery that technically “saved his life”.  The surgery lasted about 4 ½ hours.

There have been times in my life where time seems to stand still. I can remember distinct words, smells, feelings, etc. This was one of those times.

The doctors placed him in a medically induced coma following the surgery. His body was in shock and storming. If you’ve never experienced a traumatic brain injury, you may be unfamiliar with storming. It’s basically where the brain can no longer regulate systems. Everything is off the charts – heart rate, blood pressure, etc. It’s intense to watch.

I will never forget the day I saw him cry while in the coma. I’m not sure there are words that can describe the pain and helplessness I felt that day.

After a few days, they reduced the sedation. His body wasn’t ready. He slipped into a coma on his own. On the 8th day, he opened his eyes.

I updated his friends and our family.

What I neglected to report was although his eyes opened, they didn’t align. It was in that moment that I again questioned whether I should have signed those papers for emergency surgery and instead said our goodbyes.

That moment scared me almost as much as the moment when I got the call and realized what was happening.

His right eye was looking all the way to the right – though it wasn’t “looking”.

His left eye was staring straight ahead – thought it wasn’t “staring”.

I began to wonder in that moment in the trauma ICU, if my father would remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life. It was the first time I had wondered that since the accident. To be honest, I hadn’t really considered that when I signed the papers.

I had imagined many things, but a vegetative state wasn’t one of them.

On the 9th day, his pupils aligned, though he still didn’t ‘see’ us.

While all this was occurring, there were other angles.

The first night, my little sister cried herself to sleep in our father’s bed. I knew I could not leave her alone. But also, I wanted to be close to her and close to Dad.

I never went home the first 7 days. I slept in my father’s bed and stayed close by my baby sister’s side.

I later told my father that I owed him a few bottles of wine. I drank all but the Chardonnay in his house. Considering the circumstances, I don’t think he cares.

Weeks after the accident, he made out of the trauma ICU. On Christmas day, we watched him walk with assistance from nurses. He amazed us when he again repeated this the following day.

And then, he regressed. He slid back to a minimally conscious state. It was then that I realized this was bigger than anything I have ever experienced.

Without a doubt, I was not ready to say goodbye to my father on the day that he fell from the 2nd or 3rd step of a step-ladder. I signed those papers with a heavy heart and a head full of questions. But I wasn’t ready to tell him goodbye. I know this.

I also know that loss is hard.

About three weeks after the accident, I returned to my practicum site. I am a 3rd year doctoral student who happened to be almost done with the fall semester when the accident occurred, though my practicum, my clinical internship, was to keep going through the semester break. I couldn’t do it.

My supervisor asked me upon my return if I had ever experienced loss.

“I’ve had my share. In some ways, I am old before my time…”

It would’ve been easier if my father would’ve died that day. That may sound crass to many or it may be misinterpreted by those who simply don’t get it.

It would’ve been awful. It would’ve tore a piece of my heart out. But it would’ve been easier.

However, life happens. We roll with our choices. We roll with what life brings us.

And we do the best with what we have most of the time.

I’m at that place I never expected to be for at least another 20 years. You know that place where you are the daughter and making decisions for your father? Yeah, that place.

I’ve gotten the flak from some. Decisions aren’t understood. Updates aren’t appreciated because they look too “negative”. Assumptions and expectations happen.

And there are others who have given me grace. Those ones I can never repay. But some already know this. For it’s not about money or even repayment. It is simply grace…

 

© LifeasChristine, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HAVE YOU NO COUTH? …

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“Hello?”

I was worn out; physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. It was a rough 6 months…hell it was a rough year.

“Christine, I just heard he died…Oh my God…Oh my God…” she wailed into the phone.

When I realized who it was, I wanted to scream,

“HAVE YOU NO COUTH? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

I wanted to unload on her. I wanted to put her in her place and tell her where to stick it. I wanted to tell her I never wanted to speak to her again.

I said none of that.

“Yes. He died.”

“How? What happened?” she asked through tears.

I gave her the blunt details as I thought about her last call to me a few months prior.

She had called me a few months prior, though I never did find out how she got a hold of my phone number. She was angry. He had hurt her and she wanted to get even. He left her; hooked up with one of her friends and went to Louisiana with her looking for work. I wondered if she was surprised, but I never asked. I knew she was hurting. She offered to help me. The irony of the situation was almost more than I could bare. I declined her “assistance”.

“It was quick Rachel. He didn’t suffer…” I went on to briefly explain what happened.

I gave her the facts. I knew she needed closure.

I hated being put in this position. I hated that she had called me. I hated that I had to be the one to tell her and that she didn’t think twice about calling me. I guess people only know what they know and to a degree, I knew where she was at and I tried to meet her there. It wasn’t easy I can assure you.

I took control of that conversation and ended it as soon as the details were covered. I was not interested in forming a comradery with her.

It was the 2nd phone call from her, but it wasn’t the last. She called me a few weeks later. She wanted to know about a necklace she had given him.

“Yes, I know what you’re referring to. It was given to me with his belongings after he died. He must have liked the necklace; he was wearing it when he died. His blood is on it.”

She gasped. I gave more than I should’ve and I knew it. I predicted her next words and I knew my response before I uttered them.

“Can I have it back?”

“No, I’m sorry, you cannot.”

She got angry with me. She told me she had his wetsuit and all his dive equipment. She threatened to sell it with justification of how much he ‘owed’ her.

“Rachel, you do whatever you need to do because in the end, we all do, don’t we? I’m not giving you the necklace and you can sell his equipment if it brings you a dollar and makes you feel better. That choice is yours.”

© LifeasChristine, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

There is always more than what you know…

Although I never regretted moving back to Louisiana following the death of Eric, my first husband, it came with challenges.

It wasn’t always easy from a personal standpoint. Life was different. I had been a separated woman with four small children and became a widow with four small children. I hated telling people that I was a widow because I always felt it did not capture the big picture.

People tend to make assumptions based on limited information.

If you are reading my stories, I suggest you leave your assumptions at the door. There is always more than what you know.

Eric’s family was happy that we were coming ‘home’. I believe that our being there helped fill a void that was then a gaping hole in many hearts.

Eric’s father and grandfather drove cross country to help me move the children and I back to the south.

There were Sunday dinners and weekend sleep-overs for the children at Granny and Papa’s house. They were the grandparents I had always dreamed of having for our children. There were baseball games and barbecues. There was bike-riding and mud-puddle-splashing. There were spontaneous trips to the movies with Aunts and Uncles. There were a lot of magical moments that our hearts will always treasure.

But there was also a flip side.

I didn’t grieve according to the standards that were set for me. There was an unspoken expectation that I was unaware of until I became aware.

There was a time that I was asked on a date. That didn’t go well, especially when I chose to go.

I honestly don’t think many realized the mix of emotions that whirled within me when he was killed. I had let him run long before his death, many forgot this, or did not understand what that entailed.

After the shock of his death wore off, there were times I wanted to pull him out of the grave to whack him upside his head. There were times I wanted to just ask ‘Why’. And there came a day that I wanted to let him know that I forgave him, but all of this is a story for another day.

I made choices against my heart and stumbled some.

Eric’s family are firm believers in Catholicism, a religion I have tried on. Upon his death there was great concern about our choice of not baptizing our children.

Eric and I were both baptized Catholic and neither of us chose this path as adults. We had made the choice not to baptize our children because part of the Catholic baptism includes a promise that the parents will raise the baptized child in the ways of the Catholic Church. I don’t like making promises I would not keep.

I struggled hard with this one.

I decided to give Catholicism a second look. I signed up for the Catholic classes. They weren’t too fond of me; I asked a lot of questions.

In the end, I appeased and had my children baptized despite knowing that I would not be raising them Catholic and despite the fact that I do not believe in infant baptism. I chose this for their peace of mind. It is a decision that I have reflected upon many times since that day.

To give peace of mind to another and feel as though you made a choice against your heart is not balance.

But for the reasons I chose to go to Louisiana, I will never regret. Louisiana needed them and they needed Louisiana. 

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What she will never know is that sentence tore me up and freed me all at once….

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I’ve heard powerful phrases throughout my life.

People have said things to me throughout my life that have stuck in my mind and I’ve reflected; long after they have said them to me. It is who I am and what I do. I am a muller.

Someday, I’ll write them all down, but tonight one comes to the forefront of my mind:

“You have to find your own faith Christine, you can’t lean on mine.”

It’s hard to put that into words that one may understand, but I’ll try.

I never wanted to, nor did I try to, lean on her faith. I needed to know for myself. It was never enough for me to hear another’s experiences, stories, or faith. Faith is a very personal journey… it’s something that can sustain you when all else fails.

Faith is … the evidence of things unseen, unknown…most of the time beyond our comprehension- there isn’t always something to back up ‘FAITH’; because well, it is faith. Some do not get this, some will never get this and there will be some that understand. I get that.

She was lying in a hospital bed dying of a terminal disease when she told me that. She had tears in her eyes when she said it. She said it softly, without judgment or defense; she had come a long way and she learned a lot.

I grew up exposed to a lot of ‘religion’. Those that know me are yet to understand the depths of what I mean when I say this.

I grew up exposed to witchcraft, Catholicism, Protestantism, atheism, new age religion, etc. Family trying to find their way… searching for truth, love, and things that made sense. And yet, most of us aren’t that different… we search, we look for answers… some more subtly than others, but still the quest is there.

I’ve known a lot of angles that many do not understand.

Trying to find my way in the midst of a hurricane of theories and beliefs that were shoved down my throat and preached at me a million miles an hour was tough growing up – especially when it came down to putting their money where their mouths were. There were mistakes made, there were hearts broken, and there were empty promises. But there was also some growth and I see that; time and life has a way of doing that, if we allow it.

I don’t have all the answers and I still don’t trust the ‘preachers’ – you know the ones? They got all the answers, never have doubts, and got it all figured out… those ones I trust the least. I cannot help it, I’m skeptical of them. I wonder if they have known enough of life because real life causes doubt sometimes. Can we just be honest enough to say that? I can.

And yet, I know faith. I don’t have all the answers. I have doubts. I have questions. And yet, I know faith. Not everyone will believe what I believe, I am okay with that – are you? Faith is a personal journey. It’s not something you read. It’s not something you can always explain. It just is. We must find our own faith, we cannot lean on the faith of others.

What she will never know is that sentence tore me up and freed me all at once…..

© LifeasChristine, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to LifeasChristine with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.