Praise From the Pit

1 August 2016

“I am so grateful for the Jennifer Rothschild bible study. Her words, in “Missing Pieces,” have brought me so much hope and healing. The lesson today brought up not being thankful FOR something but being thankful IN something. Not just enduring something BUT thriving in it.

That is the meaningful transition that I have been on the cusp of. I am so grateful for her words that remind me I am on track. I am learning to praise him, not inspire of Hunter’s death, actually IN Hunter’s death and the aftermath. 

This has been such a challenging journey. The trip home allowed my mother to love on me, which she did flawlessly. My father told me over and over again how important I was to him. This was coupled with feeling like I was a burden and disrupting the order that had developed in my home between my parents, my sister-in-law, and her daughter. I didn’t see the misunderstanding on confusion surrounding my illness to change how family saw me. It did, though. I am grateful that I don’t just experience the good things anymore, but I experience the hard things. That I get to see both sides of people. They are getting to see both sides of me.”

Exposing people to my illness continued to be challenging. When you are mentally ill and grieving, your world seems to hit pause. Honestly, thinking back to those two years, if I hadn’t journaled, I wouldn’t remember any of this. My memories are garbled, faded, and misconstrued. I, honestly, barely remember my youngest first two years. I had snapshots, bits and pieces. It was all a blur of pain and emotion. However, at some point, I began to come up out of the darkness, the pit seemed less and less deep. I began to see the light of day. When I looked back at where I had been, the light began to pierce these places too. I began to see the good and the bad. The more I looked back, and as I got healthier, the more good I could see. I was not so alone. At the time, it seemed like the worst things that could be happening to me. There was no good, no light. When people tried shining light into my pain, I recoiled. I didn’t want to hear their Bible verses, or words on encouragement. They seemed so shallow, and like they were coming out of the mouths of people that couldn’t possibly understand. Those moments, those positive moments, did stick somewhere in the darkness. The truths were ignored at the time, but they made an impression. When I began to see light again, it was if a veil began to lift. I stopped seeing myself as a victim. I started to see the positive that could come from my illness. They ways that it could be used to glorify the Lord. I began to hope. And a little hope could change a life.

My Puzzle Piece

May 19, 2016

“Another time in the Ingles parking lot with a Starbucks Caramel Macchiato. Today is Maddox’s Creek Stomp field trip.  I am so grateful I feel well enough to go today. Praise be to God! I hope and pray that this continues and that Latuda continues to work well. I am so thankful for the time to spend with the Lord. Time for healing that my husband and family has been a part of. I am worried about Judah. He has been fussy compared to usual. Two days ago he vomited three times. He fusses with his formula but drinks lots of pedialyte. It leads me to think he may be intolerant. I want him to feel well again and I am praying for healing. 

I am grateful, today, for life and the love of my Savior.”

May 23, 2016

“Dear Hunter,

I miss you more than I have missed anything in my whole life. I feel like I fell asleep and woke up to half of my body missing. It is traumatizing, hard to understand, painful. I am loosing you. I can’t feel you. It is like the movie, Back to the Future. I feel like Marty McFly looking at the picture of his siblings in childhood and they are slowly fading away. You feel just beyond reach. My love for you is just as big as ever. 

I love you everyday, every moment. Everything reminds me of you. I am scared of the future without you. I wish you were here so we could grow old together. I love you so deeply, in a way I see others don’t understand. I am torn between being grateful for that love and aching from the pain of that love. I hate that getting to see you again means never being a part of this world again. The trade is not right. I am still needed here. But, so are you. What do you think about what is happening? Do you agree with the trial over medical malpractice? How can we gain from your loss? I wish I could understand God’s plan the way you do now. I wish I could embrace you one last time. I know I will recover but not seeing you one last time will haunt me until the end of my days. 

I wear you now. You travel with me. I have to be your now. I represent you to our family. We are like two puzzle pieces. I cant be you but my edges match you. You are seen because I am marked with your form.”

Getting better and improving on my medication was a breath of fresh air. It gave me hope that there was a future for me. Transitioning away from breastfeeding to formula was hard. It was emotionally hard on me and physically hard on Judah. My kids all have significant dairy intolerance. I felt robbed. I felt angry. It was another way the doctor’s and medical staffs mistakes took from me. In their mind it was a singular mistake. They couldn’t see the ripple. The way their mistakes spread like a toxin, hurting everything in its path. It would take forever to come to grips with my grief and anger. I knew I had to forgive the people that contributed to his death, but I was not yet there. I will say the anger gained me nothing. Forgiveness would be freedom, freedom to move forward and heal. That still, however, felt like a betrayal of Hunter. I owed him that anger, as irrational as it sounds because he wasn’t here to be angry for what was taken from him. I was trapped by my pain, I would have to let it go.

The abyss inside my soul was still there. I wasn’t carrying his memory. I was consumed with it. My life drastically changed. I felt like I took on a  new roll with his death. I was, now, an only child. All of my parents hopes, dreams, and fears fell on me. I longed for another sibling to confide in. People often forget about the sibling. Everyone was consumed with my parents grief and my sister-in-laws grief. People note it, address it. Rarely do people think about the siblings. They sit on the side, in the shadows. Broken, never the same. They take on the weight of their lost siblings identity. It is such a pressure. Their grief hurts their parents. So, they feel the burden of needing to act like everything is okay. They feel the need to put on a brave face, when they are breaking inside. The stress and pressure to be all things to all people to fill in the void left by their sibling is suffocating. 

I am glad I chose to feel my pain. So many push their pain aside. They try to move forward because others think that they should. They feel pressure to be okay or to grieve the right way. I grieved terribly. It was all consuming and life taking but it was my way. I didn’t act how I believed I should, but I felt every aching moment. I am not glad for all that I went through but I am glad I grieved my best way. I can look back at the journey and see the fingerprints of God, sitting with in my pain all along the way.

I’ll Fly Away

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.