Thursday, November 17, 2011

"The Golden Sky" Blogfest - Places I Can't Reach

E.C. Stilson's memoir, The Golden Sky, will be released tomorrow, Friday, November 18, 2011.

Goodreads' Synopsis:  The "death home" gave my son a really nice funeral, the kind I'd never wished to attend. When they tried closing his casket, I nearly fell on my face, not wanting them to shut the lid on my baby. 

We lost it after that, totally cemented in our grief. Cade got into drugs, joined a rock and roll band, and even grew out his damn hair. At the time, I was sick of "the oatmeal option" (the only food we had), so I kicked Cade out of the house, and started modeling and working as a diesel mechanic. That was how I met Earl, an old man and unlikely best friend; the "big sag," a middle aged woman who still flashed folks; my neighbor, the stripper next door, and "The Cowboy," a man who fell in love with me. 

It was slow at first, but Cade reverted back to the man I'd busked with years before. It wasn't until I killed a rogue skunk, and my daughter nearly choked on a fry, that I gave 

my husband another chance. But could our marriage recover from the death of our son?

In celebration of this event and the tragically short life of her son, Zeke, E.C. has arranged a blogfest as a memorial dedicated to the loved ones who have left us behind.

This is my (very raw and very personal) contribution....originally written October 2009, shortly after my father passed away.

Places I Cannot Reach

On Thursday, October 15, 2009 at about 7:20PM, I held onto my father's arm as his soul left this earth. To say I was unprepared for this event, the most difficult experience of my life so far, is quite an understatement.

The previous Friday, my mother had taken my older two children to stay with Jason's parents. Clayton absolutely would not stay with my mother-in-law, so Mom said she'd take him home with her for a day or two. He was able to spend some time with his Poppa that evening. Saturday morning, Mom said Daddy had gotten up with a headache and backache. I did not know he was really sick until Monday morning when my brother called to tell me they had taken him to the emergency room because he was severely dehydrated. I told him to keep me posted, and I carried on with my day.

Sometime after noon, my sister sent me a text asking what was going on. I told her I hadn't heard anything else, but I gave her my brother's cell number. Shortly after that, my brother called and told me they were putting Daddy in ICU because they thought he might have had a stroke. Jason came home about this time, and I was very upset. I had held my grandmother's hand just after she had a stroke, and I helped take care of her the last few weeks of her life when she was completely dependent on others. She was in her eighties, however...

I hurried and cleaned the house and packed some things, and Jason and I headed toward home. When we were about halfway getting something to eat, my brother called again to say they were transferring Daddy to Birmingham. This was actually a good thing because none of us liked that he was in the small hospital in their town.

We hurried to my mother's house, where my brothers and my mother were. She was getting things together to take to Birmingham. I drove her, and Jason took our car to Princeton. My sister was also on her way from Missouri.

It was a while before we were able to see him. I had tried to prepare myself for what I was about to see, but it still struck me to the core. Still, we were hopeful because we did not quite know the extent of his condition.

Eventually that night, the doctor came in to tell us that Daddy did have several hemorrhages on his brain. We knew that he would definitely be different, but we still did not know what had caused the strokes or really what we were dealing with at that point. I had to call my sister and tell her what they found, and her reaction frightened me more than anything.

The next couple days are a bit of a blur for me. It seemed every time the doctors came in, there was something new. Maybe meningitis... Maybe encephalitis... Strange skin rash... Irregularities in his heart beat... No neurological response... Low EEG reading... Can recover... Probably won't recover... Septic embolism... Staph... Hole in a valve in his heart... Kidney failure... Wednesday we were faced with the decision to remove all life support and let him go comfortably. No one wanted to make this decision, but we knew that we were running out of time... And Daddy had always made it very clear what he wanted us to do if anything like this ever happened.

Wednesday evening, we decided to give him another 12-24 hours to see if there were any improvements and to have another CT scan run to see what was going on in his brain. As we suspected, there were no improvements during the night, and the neurologist said if we were to run an MRI we would most likely find more brain damage inside the brain. We made our final decision to remove life support and begin comfort measures.

It was very difficult to watch Daddy struggling for breath. We were all hoping that he was not even remotely aware of what had been happening, but it certainly hurt US to see him that way. We were bracing ourselves because we did not know how long it was going to take for him to pass. It happened more quickly than we really expected. There were some issues during the nurses' shift change, and we just barely made it back to him before he was gone. I was able to tell him I loved him, and that was it. I'd never felt such a strong feeling of peace and life-shattering pain all at once.

Daddy was 64 years old. He had lived a hard life. He was planning to retire the following year. He will not get to enjoy his "new" house or his retirement or his grandbabies. Several of his grandchildren will not get to know their Poppa. He'll be an old photo...a story...a memory...

I'll never get to have breakfast with him again. We'll never enjoy a glass of sweet tea on the front porch again. We'll never laugh over another game of darts in the garage. He'll never help Jason repair anything else in our house :-). He'll never take Clayton for another ride in the mule. He won't see any of his grandchildren graduate high school or get married or have children of their own. He won't be there for me to call when I need to hear his comforting voice or when I need his sound, straight-forward advice.

I barely knew my father, yet I knew him better than anyone else. I understood him. I thought the way he did. I felt the way he did.

There are so many things I wish I would have said to him. So many times I wish I would have just hugged him and told him I loved him. So many times I could have shown him how much he was appreciated. So many questions I wanted to ask him. So many things I wish I had not done or said to him. I wanted nothing more than for him to be proud of me. I could have been so much better. I wanted to show him one day that I could be the woman he wanted me to be. I wish I would have done it faster. How was I supposed to know he was going to be taken from us so soon????

I know I am just at the beginning of my journey through grief and healing. I know there will be peaks and valleys. I know that my faith in God will keep the peace in my heart--knowing that this is not the end. I will see my Daddy again, and I will never lose him again!

B: March 17, 1945
D: October 15, 2009
Cherished husband, father, Poppa ;-)... 
We will miss you terribly but you will never be forgotten!!!