When a tragedy or accident happens and you hear it on the news, sometimes you wonder…”Why?” It makes us reflect on our life. When something happens to someone you love, we question, “Could I have done something differently to change the outcome?” I struggled with that very question during the time John was in the hospital and a long time after his death. Although I know God is sovereign, it took a while for me to admit to myself that it wasn’t about me. It’s about God and His sovereignty and my faith. To believe in God means believing the whole truth… all His words, not just the bits and pieces that I choose to claim. What happens in our lives sometimes doesn’t make sense, but I choose to believe God knows His purpose. He is sovereign.
Christmas was once my favorite holiday. I found joy in the spirit of love that surrounds the season. I enjoyed putting up all the colorful decorations. I couldn’t wait to put up the tree. It was our tradition to put it up Thanksgiving evening from the time we celebrated as a married couple. When Cam was born and we bought a video camera, we taped ourselves every year. When Cameron was big enough to hold the enormous camera, he took over recording us.
We eventually stopped doing that, but years are strung together on a tape somewhere under my cabinet. When we moved into our house, every shelf that was available was decorated for the festive season. I don’t do that anymore.
John started getting sick the last week of November. The first week of December, he wasn’t feeling any better. Our church was presenting our last year of “Festival in the Forest’ with the choir singing. John didn’t attend any of the performances that weekend because he didn’t feel well. He did make a doctor appointment, but he still didn’t feel better. A second doctor visit the next week still didn’t help. He had been off work for about a week being ill. His breathing was labored and on December 9th, he was feeling so bad I talked him into going to the hospital. We went to the emergency room around noon and didn’t get to see anyone until almost 6:00 that evening. Even being an employee there didn’t get him in any sooner. There seemed to be so many sick people in the lobby waiting. When we did get in, he was admitted to he hospital.
John had pneumonia and they started him on breathing treatments and medicine. That night when we got in the room and the doctor came and visited with him, I remember us very clearly telling the doctor that his sister, Vicki, had died from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and we were concerned because she had started with Pneumonia also.
I have so many regrets about this time. One being John didn’t want me to take off work to stay with him in the hospital because I had already taken a week off to be with Cameron in early November when he was admitted to Dallas Children’s Hospital with Pneumonia. If I had known how short our time was going to be, I would have stayed with him every second. Two, I would have made sure his family would have been up there more. His mom came to see him a few times. That’s the terrible thing about hindsight, it can’t be undone.
He wasn’t getting any better and he was still out of breath on oxygen, so the doctor decided to do a lung biopsy to see if he was having any of the same type of inflammation that Cam was experiencing in his kidneys. I remember his nurse was a friend that he had there in the hospital. She was so sweet and told me she would take care of him during the procedure. That was a Friday. I took off for the procedure, but except for that day, I visited with John after school, and stayed with him on Saturdays and Sundays.
On the last Sunday before he went to the ICU, we spent the evening together watching the Cowboys play. It was a gift from God when I look back on it now. We ate, people came visited, Cam stopped by and overall it was a good day of being together. I kissed him goodbye and told him I’d see him tomorrow after school.
About 2:00 Monday afternoon, John called to tell me they were putting him in ICU. My heart dropped. I couldn’t seem to get there fast enough. I called a friend on the way and ask her to pray with me. I turned the radio up sang with it as much as I could. John was in a room in ICU and he seemed to be doing okay. I stayed with him and he seemed much better. I called work and told them I’d be out until he got better. I left that night feeling good.
The next morning after Cam left for school, I got to the hospital around 8:15. The first thing John said was I’ve been waiting for you to help me with breakfast. I laughed at him being so helpless and he said he couldn’t eat with the IV and the oxygen. So, I fed him two bites of scrambled egg. It was about that time the doctor came in and gave us the news that John’s stats were so low that it was time to put him on a ventilator.
We both knew what that meant. We had been through the experience before with Vicki. I immediately broke down and began to cry. My heart regrets that I didn’t ask for a few moments alone with him. I wish I could have frozen time.
John was trying to comfort me. He was trying to tell me where the insurance papers were kept and who I needed to call. My brother, Paul, came in around this time and I definitely needed someone to be with me. I stood beside the bed holding John’s hand as the hospital staff started bringing in the equipment and preparing him. I couldn’t stop crying. I held his hand and he said, “Becky, I don’t want you to watch this. Go..Go now.” Those were the last words John said to me. I kissed him quickly and stepped into the hallway while they hooked him up to a machine that would regulate his breathing while they put him into a drug induced coma. The ARDS flare had started and there wasn’t anything to do, but wait.
That was December 18th. I don’t remember who I called, but I do remember the friends who showed up to offer words of love, comfort, and support. Friends who came and prayed and brought food. Because John worked for the hospital, they never made me leave his room even when it wasn’t visiting time. I spent 24 hours a day there. I held his hand and I questioned every nurse that visited about the knowledge of the doctor. John and I had a conversation about him once and I remember we questioned if he was doing enough for him. We decided to keep him, but I did have my reservations. During this time, John stats wasn’t getting any better. I battled with a nurse over calling the doctor when his stats went into the 80’s. I prayed and watched his stats on the monitors.
I do have a sweet memory. Cam came and talked to John on Wednesday. He was talking to him and said, “Hey Dad, I’ve been driving your car.” I swear John smiled at that and raised his eyebrows like he’d like to talk back to him. It made us smile. It was one of our bright spots. Another time, one of the nurses saw that John’s whiskers were growing out. I had a picture of Cam and John brought up to the room, so the nurses could see that John was a person, not just a patient. The nurse saw the picture and took a razor and shaved John like his picture, so he looked his normal self.
It was John’s third day on the ventilator, when I noticed something strange happening to his chest and cheek. It seemed to be expanding. I called the nurse in (she was one who knew John from MRI). She said that his lung had burst from the pressure of the ventilator. I lost it. I remember screaming and loosing all control until someone helped me to stop. That ICU nurse told me to call his original doctor and tell him I wanted a second opinion and gave me another name of a doctor to ask for. She dialed the phone for the original doctor and I asked for another opinion with the new doctor’s name. After his page, he came immediately.
This next part is a blur for me. They had a flurry of activity in John’s room and I was asked to wait outside in the waiting room. I later learned that John had coded and they got him back. They brought in a new ventilator and the new doctor switched his position downward, so the gravity would help him with his lung expansion.
John’s kidneys shut down. I had seen that with Vicki. They came and put a picc catheter in so that they could start dialysis. It seemed to take forever before the specials came in to do it. I sat and watched his blood cycle through the machine. It did seem to help, but his kidneys never functioned again.
Another consideration was John’s heart. It was beating so fast trying to compensate for what was going on with his other organs. I talked to the doctor who discussed with me the consequences of it beating so fast. I signed a paper saying not to break his chest cavity or resuscitate him should he go into cardiac arrest.
On December 22, I knew John was going to go home. I sat in the small conference room inside the ICU and cried. The infectious doctor that had been checking on him came and sat with me. I’m not sure why because she got on my nerves. I had also dealt with her when Vicki was in the hospital. She asked what was the matter. I thought that the stupidest question to ask someone who has been staying in the ICU with a loved one. So I told her that I was preparing myself for my husband to die and I was trying to figure out how to tell Cameron. I told her I didn’t know how I was going to live without him. She listened to me, squeezed my hand, said a few platitudes and left. I don’t know if anyone was in the ICU waiting room, but I needed someone who loved John like I did, so I called his friend, David.
David came and sat with me in John’s room. I held John’s hand while he shared sweet John stories. He told me how strong John was and what a sweet man he was and how he influenced his life. I needed that. I needed someone who loved him to be with me. About midnight, David left. I called Cam and told him that his Dad was going. I called my friend, Arlene, to go pick Cam up (he was staying with John’s parents that night). I asked Cam not to tell them he was leaving. I called Mike, John’s brother, to tell him to go over to his parents house because he’d need to be with them to let them know later.
Cam came and we sat beside John and held his hand. John was still laying face down, so we couldn’t see his face. We sat there and talked and cried until about 3:00 A.M. Cam took a picture of John’s tattoo. He had a large one of the Star Trek ship “Enterprise” going into warp speed on his upper arm. We called Pastor Tom, who prayed with us over the telephone and cried. (I loved that man). Although John’s death certificate says he passed away at 3:30 A.M., I’m sure he left before then, but the machine was breathing for him.
Then nurse came in (the one who had shaved him) and said if we would go out, he’d turn him over so he’d be face up. We stepped out into the hall, and John’s brother, Mike, was in the hallway. He said he’d had been over at his parents when John came and told him to go to the hospital because we would need him. I’m not for sure if it was a dream or not, but I know Mike needed to say goodbye. He hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to Vicki before she died. John and I had stood beside her bed along with Jessica when she passed away, but Mike had been with his parents.
We walked back into the room, John was swollen from being face down. I had accepted he was gone. He was pronounced a few minutes after Mike got there and said his goodbyes. I remember thinking it strange that all the nurses were gone from the nurses station as we walked by, but I know now they were giving us alone time. I know Arlene took me home. I remember calling Darlene and I remember thinking I’d never be okay again as I laid on the couch and slept. December 23rd is not a day I celebrate.
We survived the next day of going to the funeral home to make arrangements. Mostly, I was numb. I bought John new clothes to wear for his funeral. I was shopping on Christmas Eve and the stores were full of holiday shoppers. I didn’t want him buried in a suit because he hated wearing them. I cried the entire time. Arlene and Carol stayed with me for days.
John did have a beautiful funeral the day after Christmas. The church was full of people showing their respect and their love. I hardly remember much of it, but on the first anniversary of his death, I listened to it on CD. It was a sweet service in honor of him.
Christmas is hard for me to celebrate. Not because I don’t want to celebrate the joy of the birth of Jesus, It simply is the month that I relieve the sorrow of losing John. I know that he is in Heaven with his family and worshiping God. I’m sure of that. If I wasn’t so selfish, I’d rejoice in that more, but with his death our life changed. The separation is hard, but both Cam and I have learned to live with it.
We started new traditions and made new memories. We celebrate the joy of the birth of Christ at church on Christmas Eve. I look forward to the day when my joy of the holiday returns. It has gotten so much better. I now can walk through the aisles of decorations and I have even bought new ones. I sing Christmas songs. Time will continue to heal my heart and God will continue to heal my spirit.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
John 3:16-17 KJV