Friday afternoon I went over to Lutheran Hospital to see my uncle and my cousins and whatever other family members might be there. You see my Aunt Sandy had basically died in the early hours of the morning. For more than thirty minutes her heart didn't beat. For all intensive purposes she had been dead. My uncle performed CPR on his wife and finally her heart began to beat once more. The doctors though found no trace of brain activity. Before they give up at Lutheran though they try a new procedure to attempt to stimulate brain activity. They use a machine, I believe it's called "The Artic", and they lower the body temperature form the inside out to ninety degrees. After it reaches this temperature and has been there they reset the machine to warm the body back up to normal temperature. Then they check for brain activity. It will either be there or it won't. That is about as matter of fact as I can state it. So they were in the cooling phase of the process when I was at the hospital. My aunts body shivered. About two A. M. they were scheduled to start the warming process. My aunt and uncle have four children. Nick, Robbie, April and Jessica. My aunt Sandy had all four children by the time she was eighteen years of age. She was an extremely young mom and an even younger grandmother. She was just a baby herself with babies to take care of. She didn't have an easy life before marrying my uncle and with four children at such a young age, probably not much of one after either. No matter how poor or what the circumstances though, my aunt and uncle and their children always seemed happy. My uncle and aunt really loved each other two. They have stood beside each other come what may for the last thirty years. My aunt married my uncle when she was thirteen years old. Just like Loretta Lynn I'd say she married way too young, but then life at home was less than idea.
As I got to the hospital yesterday I would have given anything to chicken out and not go in. I hate those scenes in hospitals. It always reminds me of the first major death in my life. The first time I wanted to just curl up and forget life really existed. The first time I felt I had to put on a brave face and hold strong for the sake of others. I would have given anything to escape the pain in the children's eyes I knew I was going to see. There really is nothing anyone can say that will be of any use or any comfort in these situations. Small talk is what you end up with. I was very relieved though to see that my uncle JR and his wife Lisa were just arriving too and I eagerly took the opportunity to walk in with them. It was good to see my uncle JR. Other than a limp from a recent surgery he looked well. When we walked into ICU only my cousin April was in there. She is the spitting image of her mother. She looked tired and warn but she was putting on a brave face. My uncles wife went up to my aunts bed and took my aunts hand and started talking to her. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she told my aunt she loved her. I tried not to look as I felt certain my aunt wasn't in there to hear her and I didn't want to cry. I've seen death before. All that went through my mind was how dead my aunt looked. Death, not life was definitely in that room. Machines breathing for my aunt. Machinery causing muscle's to twitch that my aunts children clung to as signs of life. The nurse had told me that they had given my aunt something to paralyze her in case there was brain activity. They didn't want her pulling out the massive amounts of tubes and wires that she had hooked up to her. With this information I knew my aunt couldn't voluntarily move if she wanted to, but my cousins clung to the notion that she moved eyebrows, feet, her head. Two of her children were in the resolve of knowing she was gone. Two in denial. My cousin Jessica, my aunts youngest, came into the room and walked over to her mom. She took her hand, stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. She looked at me and said she knew her mother wasn't dying now. She knew this because they had a pact that she wouldn't go, not until Jessica could give her a grand daughter to name after her. Jessica herself has three boys. She has to be having the roughest of times with this out of the children. You see her mother is in ICU on the fourth floor and her four month old son is in the ICU on the third floor. She kept going back and fourth between floors. Me? I felt helpless. I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to say it's hopeless, because it isn't. Where there is faith there is hope. I also didn't want to give them false hope though.
Saturday came and not much information new to be shared. They say that the top portion of my aunts brain is dead. The bottom half has life, but not sure how much. Probably not enough to give any quality of life should she live. Then there is the fact that the reality is that her brain will probably swell in the next few days and kill her even if she has signs of life. My uncle will be faced with the decision of whether to keep her on life support or take her off. He loves her. As I got to the hospital today I saw my uncle. He was a mess. He was walking through the parking lot crying. He hadn't shaved or showered or cleaned up from the day before when they had been building a porch on their house for his wife. He had finished it. She had sat on it once that very day. He was crying. I stopped the car and got out and gave him a hug. I left him there and went up because he wanted to be left to pray. Pray for a way to either fight for her or let her go whichever one is best for his beloved wife. There were lots of people there today. Lots of relatives. Today though more reality was sitting in with the kids. I felt so lost. I didn't want to cry. When my uncle Roger was dying I remember telling him, "I won't cry for you while there is life or even hope of life." "I won't cry for the living. and when I do cry it won't be for your death, but for the loss I will feel in my life at not having you here." I was determined to show my aunt the same respect. Even if only I knew I was doing it. I wouldn't cry, not today, not while there was the slimmest of hope. It was hard for me though. Listening to their pain. Listening to one child say she wished she had died instead of her mommy. One saying that she didn't want to see her mother in a coffin. One child a son who says he wants his mother at peace and he doesn't want her back in pain. Two holding it in as best they could. So many tears. My chest hurt from fighting off the tears. It felt almost as if I was going to stop breathing. Thankfully I had to go to work. An escape of sorts, but there was no escape that as much as I wanted away to try to put it out of my mind, there was just as much a part of me that wished I wasn't working so I could be there with them. Nothing I could say, nothing I could do, nothing I could possibly do to help them escape the pain that was headed towards them. Tomorrow's another day, more test, more answers or lack there of from doctors. I guess time will tell, but if you ask me death lays in the room. If it hadn't conquered completely, it's lurking near. I love my aunt. I love all my family and I know by not crying today they may hold me cold, but I needed to respect my aunt, the same way I would for all those I love. No, there is no escaping life and there is no escaping death. Each comes for all of us at some point or the other. I'll pray for my cousins and my uncle for peace of mind. Perhaps you could add them to your prayers as well.