I've been trying to put this blog together in my brain for a time and can't organize it very well there, so I thought I'd try writing it out and see where it goes.
Let me start by saying how I have always felt about tragedies, especially other people's tragedies. Maybe someone reading this can identify with me...I'm sure many others formed a more mature position on the topic earlier in their lives. Tragedies to me were always kept at a decent distance. I could sympathise but if I tried to empathise that would be too close. I have always been good at praying for people, really praying, for miracles, or for whatever their needs may be, but especially that God's love would surround the people in trouble and that He would provide His grace and His comfort. But selfishly, I was always too afraid of being too close to the pain. I did not want to experience that kind of pain...I was so afraid of the emotional pain that I had to ignore the comfort that I could possibly provide for someone. I know, someone is now seeing a side of me they didn't realize existed. To tell you the truth, I just never wanted to imagine going through what some of my friends have gone through.
That being said, when I spent a lifetime trying to avoid pain, putting up the necessary walls to not have to walk with someone through their time of trouble, you can imagine what happened when the events of this past year culminated with the death of my dad.
So let's just quickly put 2009 "tragedies" into a nice little paragraph sort of like ripping off a band aid. I believe it began with the death of my friend Sue Lorenz from post brain-surgical complications after she had dealt with brain cancer for about 8 months. Then, during the summer, my mother-in-law, Betty, developed a very bad infection with her diverticulitis, went to the hospital for a week while they treated the infection, went home for 2 days only to have to leave in the ambulance again and face surgery to have a portion of her colon removed staying in the hospital for another two weeks. Right around that same time, a friend that I used to work with, Staci Kelts, was diagnosed with untreatable cancer and died within 6 weeks of being diagnosed...a shock to all who knew her causing a lot of pain to even closer friends of mine. The second to the last week of September my dad passed away suddenly. A few weeks after that I was at May's Farm helping out for a day when a woman from a party in a tent out back came running up to Betty and I and said that something was wrong with Lee (Dan's dad). He was laying under his tractor and she thought he wasn't very coherent. I had to call the ambulance for him. It turned out that he fell off his tractor and broke his arm...unfortunate and uncomfortable, yes, but not as bad as it could have been. Just two weeks ago Dan's "Aunt" Mathilde died. Believe it or not I think I'm forgetting something, but I think you get the gist. Please don't think that I want you to think, "poor Dustine," because I happen to know that many other people face much worse circumstances (think of what Sue, Betty, Staci, my dad, Lee and Mathilde had to face)...just wanted you to realize that some tough things have occurred this year causing me to reflect on some important realizations. I think I could have gotten through the other events with little emotional injury (unless something worse had happened with Betty or Lee, which it didn't) but the death of my dad is where I had to really face reality, where I stand with my faith, and what really matters to me. So I am now going to go through the events of my dad's death...for those of you who are like the me I described at the beginning, you may need to stop reading...however, if you do stop reading, I warn you that you will be missing out on first-hand accounts of God's loving hand reaching out to show us that He's very much here among us, gracing us with His miracles in the midst of madness.
Basic truth #1: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven."
The day after Easter, 2009, I drove my mom and dad down to North Carolina where they would be staying with my sister while we tried to sell their house in Marion. Together we had decided that it would be too challenging for them to try to get it fixed up and ready every time a realtor wanted to show it to somebody. Imagine having to move out of the home you lived in for over 30 years quite quickly and suddenly knowing you would never live there again. I know it took some adjustment for both of them, but my dad struggled with it especially. He did not want to move out of their house. They were making the best of it in North Carolina and adjusting.
Sometime in August I started thinking about the May's Fall Festival at the farm which starts toward the end of September and goes through the end of October. I asked my mom and dad if they would come up for the month of October to watch my kids on the weekends so that I could help out at the farm. They agreed and since my younger sister's bridal shower would be mid-September they would come up that weekend and just stay until the end of October.
After a very nice bridal shower which everyone, including my dad, attended my sisters left and went back to their homes. There was work to do that following week on the farm to get ready for the festival, lots of work actually because Betty had her surgery and things had fallen behind there. So my parents lept right into watching the kids that week as I went to the farm.
On Wednesday when I got home my dad asked me if I'd take him to the emergency room because he was having really bad pain in his mid-section. I took him to Mercy at about 8:00 that night. It was a very busy night. We waited a long, long, long time to get in. There were people in very bad shape and I kept praying for them and kept saying to God, "Thank you that Pop only has stomach pain and it seems to be subsiding. Please bring your blessing upon these people who are suffering in so many ways." They had that show "Grey's Anatomy" on the television in the waiting room, which I can't stand...I can't stand any of those shows...they're too stressful! I wanted something funny on, but it was out of my control so I tried not to pay attention. After spending the evening in the emergency room, his EKG coming out fine, they found in the CT scan that he was passing a kidney stone and said that's where the pain was coming from. They said he also had a bladder infection. They gave him an antibiotic pill, and a shot of vicodin, and sent him home with a bottle of vicodin and a prescription for an antibiotic at about 3:00 am.
Thursday, I went to drop Pop's prescription off at the pharmacy. Again, a very long line and when they did get to me I found out it was a new guy and he was slightly confused with the computer. He said they were backed up and it would be ready later that day. I went to the farm. I called home and mom said pop was sleeping and the kids were fine. I worked late and did not get to pick up the prescription. When I got home I found out that Pop had been dizzy and had fallen. Mom said he had bad pain a couple of times during the day and she gave him the vicodin for that. I told her he was probably having a bad reaction to the vicodin and to stop giving it to him. Meanwhile she read the side effects of the antibiotic and it said it could cause dizzy spells and falling so she did not want to give him the prescription. I picked it up anyway on Friday. On Friday she called pop's urologist from Marion and he agreed she should not give him that antibiotic and called in a different one and also told her NOT to give him any more vicodin, that he should not be taking that stuff. He was still dizzy, had a dry mouth, and fell on Friday. I still thought it was a side effect of the vicodin. Saturday morning before I went to help on the farm he fell again and was in a position that he could not stand up. I helped him up...it was very challenging, he could not help himself hardly, but we got him up. I asked him what the problem was and he said he just needed to sleep more. I told him that I thought this was all a reaction to the vicodin and to sleep it off. So he got back into bed and went back to sleep. I went and picked up the new antibiotic prescription on my way to the farm, and called during the day. Mom said he was up and around and seemed to be doing better. He was using her walker, but at least he was walking around a little. We got home before the kids were in bed on Saturday night and I checked on him while Grace was waiting for me to take her upstairs. Mom said he was having trouble holding the water cup because he was shaking so bad, and was still dizzy...he told me he was so thirsty. I went to the internet and looked up vicodin side effects. These were all listed as side effects and it also said that vicodin was rarely fatal. So I put my fears to rest, I told Grace that Grandpa just wasn't feeling well and that he'd be much better in the morning (I didn't want her to be scared of him or the situation) and to give him and grandma a hug and kiss goodnight. I told mom that the computer said that his symptoms were all listed as side effects of vicodin. She hadn't given him any for a couple of days, but we just figured that with all the fluid he was retaining in his ankles (he had been for a couple of weeks) that it wasn't metabolizing quickly.
At 3:30 am Mom called up the stairs, "Dan, Dustine, pop needs you! He fell and can't get up." We ran downstairs ready to help him up. We got there and his eyes were closed...well...mostly closed...I could see a little of his eyes through a crack in the bottom of his lids. But I thought he fell asleep there. So I sat on the edge of the bed and looked at him. Dan asked if he fell asleep. I said that I guessed so. I tried to wake him up, said his name, reached down and shook him. No response. We looked at each other. Was something wrong? None of us knew. Dan asked if something was wrong. I didn't know. I shook him some more. I slapped his face. He was good and warm. I thought for an instant that was a good sign. I felt under his nose and looked at his belly and did not feel or see breathing. I knew I needed to give him breath. I held his nose and tilted his head back and gave him breath. I did it again. I did it again. He took one big breath on his own...like a struggling breath. I thought for an instant he was fine. Then I saw he wasn't breathing. So I gave him a few more breaths and decided that although I did not know how to check his pulse, that I was sure I should do cpr. I couldn't remember...it had been so long since I was trained and I never had to really do it. I went to the center of his chest and just did 20, sometimes 25 (I couldn't remember) pumps. In between I would give him a breath. Meanwhile, Dan had called 911. They showed up fairly quickly. When I saw them come in I kept going until someone came over to him. I stood up and just shook my hands and arms and had no words...I just wanted them to take over and do it right. We were all in shock and didn't really know what they were saying or doing. We all really, really, really thought that he would be fine. Pop had been through a lot of close calls in his life and always made it through.
They would take him to Mercy Hospital. When we got there they lead us to a room. I told the nurse to call a priest. She never did. A doctor came to us after several minutes and told us that it didn't look good for him. They were able to restart his heart a few times but they couldn't keep it going. If he continued to crash they would not be able to bring him back eventually. He left to go back to him and not too long after that came to let us know that he had passed on.
Miracle #1:"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Pop got to be with the entire family at Dea's bridal shower one week prior to his passing. He would have wanted nothing more than to be with his whole family together.
Miracle #2:"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven." Had this happened in North Carolina it would have been so much harder and so much more confusing to deal with the funeral and all the details of things you have to take care of after such a thing happens. Had it happened in Marion with Mom and Pop living by themselves, Mom could not have dealt with this all on her own. I did not ask for this. I did not want it. I wish it would not have happened at all. But it is a miracle that it happened in Ohio and with family who could support my mom.
Miracle #3: The very first thing Danelle did when she walked in the door after driving for 8 hours from North Carolina was to come straight over to me, sit down next to me, and look me straight in the eyes. She said, "Dustine, this was not your fault. You did nothing wrong. You took good care of mom and pop. It was just his time. I thought I was seeing signs of it while they were staying with me and I was preparing for it to happen down there. It was just his time." I was torturing myself that entire day going over the details in my mind. All the "What if's" - what if I knew how to do cpr the right way - what if I had taken him to the hospital - what if I ever paid attention to those shows like Grey's Anatomy...maybe I would have known what to do - what if I would have stayed home instead of going to the farm - on and on. How did Danelle know I needed to hear that? It still took a good month for me to stop blaming myself, but her words would echo in my mind...they were words that sustained me.
Miracle #4: About 3 weeks after his passing I was a mess. Couldn't sleep for a few nights. I decided to go see a woman who does reike to see if she could help center me and calm me down. After the reike treatment she asked me if I had a conversation with my dad about someone not feeling adequate either him or me. That long night in the E.R. he had told me that he felt so inadequate as a father and did I feel like he was as bad a father as he feels he was. She said that she was getting a message about someone being inadequate and she said that she should tell me, "you did the best you could." I told pop that night that he did the best he could at the time with the circumstance given him and that he was fine...that we're all fine. She said he was using that conversation to let me know it was him and that he was telling me that I did the best I could with the circumstances given to me. She said that he said to look in his blue plaid shirt pocket for something (later mom had told me that it was one of the first things she did and that shirt was the one that he had all his pictures of his family in). She said that something else was wrong with Pop, that if we had saved him or taken him to the hospital sooner they may have found it, it would have been a long, painful, road for my mom and she could not have withstood it. She said that he needed to pass this way. It was his time. After this she gave me some advice. She said that I was acting like I had some sort of choice or power over what God had determined from before time started. She said I had a sort of power complex and that I needed to realize that some things are out of my control. If God wanted to take him there was no way I was going to be able to stop that. These words were the other miracle words I needed to hear to let myself off the hook.
Well, there were more blessings in all of this. But I fear I've really run away with this blog. I'm not sure it turned out the way I had hoped, the blog I mean, but I guess it turned out the way it turned out. Maybe I'll be able to pull my other thoughts together for a follow up after Christmas sometime. I think we'll all be far too busy for me to sit and try to do this again until then.
God bless everyone who reads this and have a wonderful Christmas!