Until it sleeps

What is it about June?  This one and the one previous both involved death.  This time, my friend Sam’s dad died.  It was a GSW, as we call it in the medical biz.  Gun. Shot. Wound.  The words of suicide echoed in the conversations that followed.

It threw me for a loop.  I don’t do well with death – especially suicide – it has touched my life one too many times.  I’ve attended, technically 2 “funerals” or “wakes” or “celebration of life” type things: both of my grandfathers.  I wasn’t particularly close to either of them.  I was 8 and 22.  Neither of their deaths were unexpected or tragic; they just were.  And they were old.  Outside of checking people in and out of the morgue at one job I had (and the grandfather bit), I haven’t experienced it.  I still feel too young and immature to take on such heavy things like this.  Nonetheless, I knew I had to step up and be there for my friend.  Charlotte’s boss, the federal government, wouldn’t let her leave so Miranda and I travelled to Vance County, North Carolina – the homeland of our Samantha.  Adele, Miranda’s GPS system, accompanied us on our journey, but even she wasn’t 100% sure of where we were going.  If US 17 is the “backlot” of North Carolina, Vance County is No Man’s Land.  Suddenly I felt like I was back in Illinois – the scenery changed into this poor rural section of the Piedmont.  We drove for miles until we found the road the church was on — Adele got us that far — and then we were on our own.  The road was paved, mind you, so I took that as a good sign.

We found the church relatively easy – how can one miss a building among fields?  We arrived far too early, so we kept driving off the map until we hit the Virginia boarder – I made Miranda pull off to the side of the road so I could snap a picture of the tobacco plants.  Despite being brought up in a farming community, we only grew soybeans and corn; tobacco and cotton are still a novelty. We laughed about how crazy it was and I even took a picture of the road at the boarder – you can totally see where North Carolina ends and Virginia begins.  It’s always an adventure with us!

We continued on to the church.  It was a Methodist church and my 1st time at this particular denomination.  I’ve decided that I’m lumping the Methodists with every other Protestant religion I’ve encountered: they preach the Gospel.  And that’s good enough for me.

We stepped into the church and took a seat towards the back.   It was an open casket.  Totally didn’t expect that, given the circumstances.  No sooner did we arrive and Samantha and her sister entered in.  Many people went up to say their condolences, but we hung back.

The room was heavy; abnormally heavy.  I’m not sensitive or anything of that nature, but I do have a bit of the gift of discernment – there were many people in that room that were unseen.  It’s happened with my family and I am most certain it was happening then.  I don’t have any memory of the air as thick as it was in that church. I could feel the weight of the heaviness on my chest, it was difficult to breathe in.  It was a strange feeling that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.

A choir and piano were on hand to lead the congregation in hymns – my favorite was “I’ll Fly Away.”  A dirge in a major key.  It seemed fitting.  Isn’t that the way it should be?  The pastor had a voice like a Broadway actor and he gave a eulogy that was beyond perfect — for a man who apparently shot himself and was a long sufferer of mental illness, which he touched on — he kept the dignity of the man and used his life’s work, a road construction worker, as a metaphor.  I can’t do it justice to paraphrase here.  He also assured the congregation that he was a Christian.

After a small graveside service a luncheon followed and we were finally able to speak with Sam.  I totally lost it.  I never cry, but I was so overtaken by the grief she was experiencing, it just flowed out.  I told Sam of how I took a picture of the roads at the NC/VA boarder and how I had no idea they bridged the counties he was born and died in, and just so happened to make his career out of NCDOT.  That was a weird coincidence.  And then, out of no where, I found myself in a made-for-TV movie miniseries, or quite possibly a Lifetime movie: Sam dropped the bomb. “It may not have been a suicide, but a homicide.”

While the plot holes were gaping and not enough information, it was impossible to string the events together.  So many clues lead to suicide; yet so many loose ends and events said otherwise: the pendulum of indictment was swinging wildly.  Miranda and I exchanged looks.  The grief of losing a loved one compounded by a possible murder?  It was almost too much.  “Where is the relief?” cried Sam.  Where indeed.

Miranda and I stayed with Sam, her sister, and her mother for the afternoon.  We talked about the crazy events and tried to figure it out to no avail.  Sam spoke of the family going back to her father’s house to find the wheel.  Wheel?  I finally asked what was so special about this wheel they were looking for and Sam laughed.  They were looking for the WILL but with the southern twang it sounded like WHEEL to this carpetbagger.  Everyone had a good laugh about it, including me.  They spoke of happier times with their dad – his love of cars, music, church – when the dragon of was sleeping.  I never knew this man, but I think it was therapeutic for them to talk about it.

It’s hard to work through the mourning process without a firm cause of death.  And all I can do is pray for Sam and be there when she has a low day.  Sam is strong and she will lean hard on the Lord to get through this season.  A true ending has yet to be written.


My Katie

Katie Scarlett, 42 in feline years, passed away unexpectedly on 18 May 2012.  She was born sometime in or around October 2006 to unknown parents in the Wilmington, North Carolina area.  On St. Patrick’s Day 2007, she came home to The General and Wife, after being adopted through an agency for kitties.

Katie was best known for being a fuss budget, her sensational appetite, and her soft little kitty snores that often accompanied naps.  She was often referred to as a garbage disposal because of the grumbling sound she would make when other cats/dogs were in her territory.  She had a fondness of catnip fresh from the plant, open tuna cans (The General always shared), and laser pointer lights.

She leaves behind her humans, The General and The General’s Wife; special friend Captain Rhett Buttler (brown tabby), several fish, and many silly memories from over the years.  She is interred in the backyard of the house.  A Katie Garden will be made in her honor around her grave among the long leaf pines and turkey oaks.

While she never caught a squirrel in her earthly life, one can only hope she is chasing (and catching!) squirrels off the Lord’s back porch.

I sure am going to miss that cat.

Bis dann, Katze.


Katie and I taking a Sunday afternoon nap, circa 2008.

Well, that worked

For every action, there is a reaction.

Those 2 people who were moments away from death from last post?  They both died yesterday from their conditions.  It made me sad.  Both were completely preventable deaths.

3 of my Facebook friends all had their babies yesterday.

Life is a revolving door.

The dishwasher’s conditions have deteriorated as well, it has gone from critical to deceased.  The lights don’t come on anymore and my fingers are all wrinkled from washing dishes in the sink.  Maybe it was the roaches.

A weekend of life….and death…..rinse, repeat.

It seems like everyone is dying. One of my dear, dear friends went comatose this morning out of the blue and no one’s sure what happened.

This dear friend is none other than my dishwasher.

Everything was fine until I went to run a full load this morning and it decided to go to the big kitchen in the sky.  The lights light up but nothing happens.  I threw the breaker like the nice people on the online forum said.  I alternately pushed “heated dry” and “normal wash” to “reset” the “computer.”  Nothing.  I left it alone all day, to return at night to see if it fixed itself (the machines at work have a habit of doing this).  Nope.

My sorry butt spent the better part of an hour trying to remember how to do dishes in the sink.  Luckily, The General was on the phone to help walk me through this process that I haven’t done since I was in college, circa 2004.

Where is The General?  In the Great White North with family, celebrating life.  Our nephew graduated high school this weekend and they threw a big party for him.  It was a last minute decision and I couldn’t go because of work and I wasn’t ready to spend a large amount of money on  airfare.

To make matters worse, The General had an hour’s drive back to his hometown from the airport and the jerk rented a car.  And not just any car, the most beautiful car to come out of Detroit: a 2011 Dodge Challenger.  I drool over them in the parking lot when a Camero isn’t in sight.  So beautiful!  The General wasn’t impressed with the interior, but I’m sure he looked bad ass driving it down the interstate.  I’m so jealous I’m actually a bit green under this dark tan.

They buried Bea on Saturday, my mom said the service was well done and I should probably try to make it up north sometime this summer to see Austin and relive some awesome moments of my childhood vacation destination.  I decided to write Austin a letter expressing my condolences.  I am much more of a writer than a talker.  I will send the letter as soon as I figure out what I want to say and get it on paper.

My weekend was surrounded by the dying, as health care goes to be sometimes.  Despite missing out on all the “life” my loved ones were experiencing up north – burying a wonderful godly woman and launching a young man, who surprisingly has a good head on his shoulders, into the real world – I got to experience my own bit of life here.  I know I helped save at least 2 lives this weekend.  For the sake of federal laws I can’t write about them in detail; but the 45 minutes I spent running in circles, I know I was part of the chain that kept someone’s loved ones from planning a funeral.  Heavy stuff, really.

I would have much rather been with my mom or husband saying good-bye to family or saying hello to family I’ve never met…..but I was needed here, teetering on the edge of life and death in my chosen career….for someone else’s family who doesn’t know I exist.  That’s the beauty of doing work behind the scenes: you’re essential to the process, you just don’t get the credit.  And I like it that way.

I’m not sure what to do with the dishwasher.  I’d like the guy from Sears to give it the last rites look at it and see if it’s worse fixing….or buy a new one.  My diagnosis is a bad board.  Who knows how much that will be.  We’re going to wait on it for the time being since we’ve spent money like it’s going out of style lately.  I could dip further into my savings for this, but I’m not going to.

The dishwasher is like the spleen: it’s nice to have, but if you don’t have one, the liver takes over it’s job of culling out the old cells.

And now I am the liver.  Chopped liver.  But you can’t live without a liver.

Another star in the sky tonight

Bea died yesterday.  It was expected: she was 79, had breathing problems for years, and the leukemia that was in remission came back for a vindictive final round.  She started chemo – her kidneys started to shut down with treatment – her body wasn’t able to take on the added stress.  So she went home.

No one seem to know what flavor of leukemia she had, but I would assume CLL because of her age.  Saying you have leukemia is like saying, “I drive a Ford.”  Well, are we talking an Escort, Mustang, or F750?

Bea was the wife of my 2nd cousin (once removed!), Austin.  He was old enough to be my grandfather and we spent many of our summers up at his cottage on the shores of Lake Huron in Michigan.  He took my sister and I out trolling in the lake and was generally a blast to be around.  Austin cooked the most amazing perch, after we caught it, and was one of those jovial souls who loved to be around kids.

Bea and Austin got married after he came back from a tour in Korea (circa early 1950’s) and together they had 5 children, who are pretty successful (engineers, doctors, etc) with scores of grandkids.  One is even adopted from overseas.  They loved spending time at the cottages, their home in Detroit, and with their kids.  They lead a very full and enriching life that touched many.

And now she’s gone.  I’m not as upset as I should be – or feel I should be.  I don’t do well with death or funerals.  I spoke with her on the phone last fall and after 15 minutes, she was out of breath and tired.  Luckily, they got to meet The General 3 years ago – we had dinner at their house and it was lovely.

The funeral is this Friday.  I’m tempted to fly in for it; my mom is going, as she was extremely close with them growing up.  Mom lives in Illinois, which is a feasible drive to Detroit.  Me, on the other hand, would have to fly.  It’s a 14 hour drive from here to there that I would have to do by myself; The General is heading to his homeland this weekend to meet up with family he hasn’t seen since the 1st Bush Administration.  What’s holding me back is the money and work bit.

While I have the money to easily make the trip if I dip into my savings (again); I also have nearly $1,000 in dental work to pay as well as brakes on my car: something I should have done last month.  I just scored a random 3 days off, and then working through the weekend, starting tomorrow.  We’re short at work.  I’d have to be back Saturday in time to be at work, mainly because I volunteered this weekend and we still don’t have enough to run the place.

Funerals are for the living.  I want to be there to support Austin and my mom.  I always take the work part in these things: I didn’t go to my grandmother’s funeral because of school.  I didn’t go see my sister in the hospital when she had a suicide attempt because of school and my mom said it wasn’t necessary for me to be there: in hindsight, I needed to be there for my mom because my dad wasn’t.  I regret that.  Ah, but when you’re in your early 20’s, sometimes you don’t think about those things.  That’s perspective I have now that I’m older and have been through more.

And then there’s the part where Austin is going to be surrounded by his kids, grandkids, and other well-wishers and I know he is going to be overwhelmed as it is.  I’d rather spend time with him away from all the craziness of a funeral: it’s like a wedding.  You’re so preoccupied with what’s going on that you can’t always see everyone.  But is that a more selfish reason for me?

I’m going to talk to Mom today and get her perspective on it.

Then again, maybe the General and I can head up there this summer and go to the cottage with Austin and fam.  I haven’t done that since my youth because I want that memory to stay pristine and not record over it.  It will be different now that my Grandma and Bea are gone.

I’m sure they’re having coffee looking over the lake now, laughing about the old times, just as they always did.


A road no one should take

Both as a medical professional and someone who occasionally bikes on River Road, this story made my heart hurt.

The short version was a father and son were bicycling along River Road in the bike lane when a man, high on cocaine and drunk, crashed into them and killed them.

I can’t even imagine what that family is going through.  It’s so sad, so senseless.  This has happened before – all the biking fatalities have been linked to impaired drivers.

Why is it so hard for people not to drive if they are intoxicated?


Life, Death, and what follows

It’s the circle of life and you can’t illustrate it better than the model of a hospital.  One out, another in.

When one does something to one’s self that could result in a slow painful death, yelling the F word is completely appropriate, even in a professional setting.  At least that’s how I rationalize it.  I accidently stuck myself with a dirty needle because I am an uber-klutz (my PMS is not moodiness, it’s clumsiness — and it’s really, really annoying).  I was very lucky: the person’s blood was clean (after much testing) and they were in a demographic that didn’t fall into a high risk category for all the fun blood borne pathogens.  Whew.  Dodged that bullet.  I was almost in tears afterwards and it wasn’t from jamming a blunt needle (i.e. not sharp) into my thumb: it was because I did something so stupid that could have ever-lasting consequences.  I got lucky.  Very lucky.

Several people close to me have experienced death quite a bit.

The neighbor kid who used to live behind us died via suicide.  He was only 17 and battling depression.  I remember when he was born and the last time I saw him he must have been a little kid.  My sister was close with his sister and the family was beyond devastated.  I just happened to call my sister the night she was driving back from the benefit event for him.  It upset her more because she too struggled with depression, a failed suicide attempt (thank God), and she knew him.  It was all so sad and tragic.

Another friend lost a family member due to old age and aplastic anemia.  They knew the end was coming, but it still hurts like hell when you hear the news.

I was removed from all these people, they were far away and I never knew them.  Then it hit home.  My good friend Samantha lost her puppy this week, a 3 month old cute little thing.  She was hit by a car while they were out walking.  She jerked away on the leash and ran into traffic.  There was blood everywhere and the puppy died in Samantha’s arms.  She was beyond inconsolable.  This puppy had been her world for the past month and their bond had grown so strong.  It really upset me to see her in such a state; having not dealt with death a lot in my own life, I felt out of place trying to comfort her.  What do you say?  I wish I could have taken her pain for a little while, or at least help her shoulder it – and I couldn’t.

The next morning I was going to take her to Cracker Barrel (good comfort food) to get her out of the house and talk.  She was crying too much to be in public, so I met her and her sister at her house and decided to make breakfast.  I would have made my French-Canadian grandmother I never met (again, to death) proud with the last 2 crepes I made.  (Nutella crepes go down easy and they’re light.)  I had the stove too hot and used the wrong type of pan, so I burnt 4 of them.  I mean really burnt them, like open-a-window-it’s-a-like-a-dream-sequence-in-here type burn.  It made for some comic relief and the only casualties were 4 crepes, my finger from hitting the hot pan (1st degree burn), a dish towel, and my pride.  Luckily, I did made enough for each of us to have 2 large ones.  With strawberries.  Nom.  Towards the end, Samantha was beginning to be more like herself.  She’s a strong woman and she will get through this, it will just take some time.

The other death was a murder victim here in the Port City — and I know one of the relatives.  No one’s sure about what happened or why — typical shooting deaths here usually are drug deals gone bad — but to have that kind of pain – wow – I can’t even imagine.  Lots of prayers for peace and healing are all around me.

As with all things, there’s a flip side.

One thing the Lord really put on my heart was to pray for those couples who are struggling to conceive.  I was astounded last year when 2 of the couples found out they were pregnant!  The power of prayer is real!  It does work!  In the past month, I learned 2 more couples on my list are now pregnant!!!  The one couple was told they had a 2% chance of conceiving naturally, so they decided to adopt after years of trying.  3 months into the process the Lord blessed them with TWINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I almost started crying when I read it.  I’m not suppose to know yet about the other couple, but I am so happy for them nonetheless!!

My prayer list is down to 2 couples left.  So far, I’m 4 for 4.  Well, it’s really the Lord who should get the glory!  It’s all His work.

I wonder who will be next….?