This week has been a whirlwind and it is only Wednesday. There are so many emotions that I am feeling that I wasn’t even sure what to write. I am a planner by nature, I like to have a list and I like to check things off of that list. I have 3 planners that contain the ends and outs of almost my every move. But then, life happens; something unplanned and it throws me for a loop. One of my very close girlfriends lost the love of her life in a tragic accident on Sunday. And just like that I am taken back to the very moment that I experienced something similar.
One of the best things about growing up with a huge extended family is that there is always something happening. Every family gathering turns into an event. When you mom is number 13 in her line of siblings and most of them have children and now the children are having children, you can see how quickly the number of family members adds up. Personally, I am an only child, but I never felt that way growing up. I never lacked social interaction and I definitely was not spoiled( at least not by mom ). My childhood had a lot of great moments in them. I have my cousins to thank for that.
The one thing that big families endure a lot of is loss. It never occurred to me as a child that my aunts and uncles wouldn’t be around forever. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what death was; but rather I thought somehow we would be immune to it. I have always had a hard time saying Goodbye, because I think a part of me still wants to believe that no one will ever leave me. And goodbye seems so…permanent.
Just before my 2nd birthday my mom’s mom was killed in a tragic accident. I don’t remember it, but I know that it changed the course that my family traveled. My mom’s dad passed away when I was 8 and that is the first memory I have of death. My Grandpa and I were so close. We even shared a birthday. Whenever I wanted something that I knew my mom couldn’t get, I would call Grandpa. I would tell him what I wanted and why I wanted it and he would say “Put your mother on the phone.” I would practically throw the phone at her, smiling and listen every so closely for the magic words, “Get that baby what she wants.” When Grandpa died, he had a picture of me on him. He was buried with that picture in his shirt pocket.
Our family is no stranger to death. We lost four people in one year; two only three weeks apart. I am told that even on the day my Grandmother was killed in Upstate New York, her brother died in Georgia. Their siblings had to bury their brother and then drive to New York to bury their sister. Death isn’t something that you get used to. Tragedy isn’t something you get used to either.
I will never forget the day I received the call that will send me down into the lowest valley I have ever seen. It was a Monday morning, somewhere between 8:30-9:00am. My oldest cousin on my father’s side of the family called and left me a message to call her. I had just finished working 3 double shifts and I was delirious. I returned her call. I think she could probably tell that I was still sleeping and the only thing I gathered from our conversation was that she wanted me to have my mom give her a call back when she got a chance. As we hung up the phone, it was like I awakened from being in Acoma. And I knew.
I got up and got dressed and I raced over to my mom’s office. From the way I burst through the doors, I think my mom knew something was up. I told her that my cousin had called and was waiting for a call back. We didn’t need to call back. We both knew. I sat in a chair while my mom dialed the number. She didn’t say much, and the conversation was brief. When she put the phone back on the receiver I said, “He’s dead isn’t he?” She didn’t have to answer. I knew.
She started talking but I couldn’t hear anything. I told her I was going home. I remember driving to my job to tell the director of nursing that I wouldn’t be coming to work. I couldn’t get the words out. She told me that my manager was off and she was at home. She called my manager told her what had transpired and my manager said I could come to her house. Let me just take a moment to say, that I grew up and lived in a very small town. Everyone knows everyone. This gesture was not abnormal. I don’t remember driving to my manager’s house. But I called my mom to tell her where I was and she knew I was in good hands. My manager had just lost her mother. I also spent so much time at work that my manager became like a pseudo-mother, taking me under her wings. I don’t remember much of the rest of that day. But I know that I would have never made it through those initial hours without my manager.
What came after was a whirlwind of events. My sister (by choice, not birth) drove from NC to be with me. She drove me to and from the funeral. A few of my close family members were there with my mom and me that day as well. And they remained there by my side, even after the initial shock was over and the reality had begun to set in. In my experience, it’s the aftermath of it all that brings you to your knees. It was in those moments that I realized how truly blessed I am. For these people to see you at rock bottom and to surround you with love; it is the greatest gift one can ever receive.
Dealing with death in my opinion is the hardest thing we have to endure. The questions that will remain unanswered can literally leave you in crumbled pieces. But there is a glimmer of hope, my dear reader. When the darkness engulfs you and you think that you that there is no way out; look up and look closely. You will see a tiny spec of light. Although it may seem lightyears away, it is there. And you will find your way to it. It will not happen overnight, and you will claw your way out of hell to get there. BUT YOU WILL GET THERE!
So many hearts are heavy today. I am sending light and love to you.