Psalm 34:18 – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Sunday, we decided to go to church with one of the Officers from Hunter’s base. At the end of the service, I started to feel off. I asked Brian if we could go wait in the car, while my family finished talking. We dropped my dad off at my brother’s house and began driving to our hotel. My mother had stayed with me, wanting to make sure I was okay. Brian ran upstairs to grab some things, and that was the first time I really knew something was wrong. I started crying for Brian to hurry. He eventually came back to the car and we drove, as fast as we could, to the hospital. In case you were curious, not the hospital in which my brother had been treated.
When we pulled into the entrance, I started vomiting. My mother started crying, she believed that I was going to die and she was going to loose both her children at once. She helped me into the ER, while Brian parked. I was put in a wheelchair and transported to labor and delivery. I got undressed, and that is when I saw it, blood. Then, I started worrying.
Doctors and nurses were everywhere. They got a stat ultrasound and, luckily, my placenta was not bleeding and the baby was doing great. I was, however, contracting. They gave me meds to stop the contractions and we waited. Some family had come to town to attend a ceremony for my brother, the next day. So, they came to the hospital to support myself and my mom. It was comforting to know we were not alone. At bedtime, my nurse gave me a Stadol dose IV. Instead of calming down, I began pacing the room, tearing at my clothes, crying, and trying (not literally) to climb the walls. My nurse didn’t give me anything to reverse it, because it wasn’t until the next day she realized this was the opposite of what should be happening. Eventually the bleeding stopped and everything was attributed to the trauma I was experiencing. I was given the clear to travel, however, I made them clear me to fly home with my brother. I said, “Either get this baby out now, or make him stay for at least another week.” We were blessed, he stayed snug as a bug until 39 weeks.
We spent the next few days in Montgomery, waiting for the autopsy to be completed and to get his affairs with the Air Force resolved. There were so many meetings. We can not say enough good about the Air Force and the way they treated us. They took care of everything. They came to the house and spent time with us. They held an awards ceremony in Hunter’s honor with a reception to follow. Hunter had won multiple awards and been promoted but never received these honors before he died. So, they gave them to my brother’s widow and my parents. Hunter had even won the Air Force Spotlight for recoding the program that decides which planes should be repaired and in level of priority to best utilize the annual budget. It was overwhelming to see such support. We, also, got to go to the biking and hiking trail Hunter was creating with the help of his Air Force friends. They planned to finish the trail and dedicate it to Hunter, in the future.
Finally, it was time for the autopsy. It was excruciating to know he was being autopsied and what all that entailed. It was traumatizing, the way they would be taking him apart and examining him. It weighed so heavily on my heart. The next day, we traveled to the funeral home to have a private viewing of his body. It was terrible, Hunter did not look like himself at all (warning, this explanation is going to get detailed). His head was resting on the collar of his shirt, where they had removed his trachea. He was collapsing on himself. His nose was beginning to deteriorate because the embalming had been delayed so much. Finally, the back of his head was exposed and you could see the line where they used a scalpel to open the back of his skull. It was mortifying to see the brother I loved in such dire circumstances. I was continually traumatized during this period. So many of these images still haunt me. I can’t even look at a burial vault truck driving down the road without remembering these horrors. Hunter was ready to be transported home.
It was the day before Thanksgiving. One of the biggest travel days of the entire year. We packed up our bags and prepared to fly home. On the way to the airport, the hurst driver wasn’t driving appropriately. One of Hunter’s dearest friends yelled at the driver, it made it so he wasn’t allowed to participate in the rest of Hunter’s transport home. We were heartbroken for him. He was simply grieving. It was, then, we started running into people who were hurting themselves. One that sticks out to me was the gentleman helping us check in. He had lost his wife in the year prior. He still carried her picture and was able to empathize with what we were going through. It was so comforting to know we were not alone.
We were transferred to our plane and the ceremonies began.