What are we talking about today?

I'll get back to theme days once I find a groove of posting regularly. In the meantime, most of my posts are about some variation of books, bikes, buses, or Broadway. Plus bits about writing, nonprofits, and grief from time to time.

This blog is mostly lighthearted and pretty silly. It's not about the terrible things happening in the world, but please know that I'm not ignoring those things. I just generally don't write about them here.

18 February 2017

Two Years

I was just going to get up early and go to Ash Wednesday service before work. Maybe take a long break in the middle of the day to finish my reading for class that night. Remind Chadwick that he needed to call his doc to see if he could get right away since he hadn't been feeling well and we couldn't figure out why.

The service was forgotten, the reading never got done, and the doc wasn't needed, although the "why" was answered within 24 hours, because there was an investigation underway that urgently needed a coroner's report.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Some folks have asked because news in those first few days was slow to spread after the initial word went out. (I probably never wrote it down anywhere, truthfully.) And there are a lot of people in my life now who I'd never met two years ago. So for anyone who's still wondering, here's how it all went down.

He wasn't feeling well on Tuesday evening. We went to the Pancake Dinner at church, and someone gave us a lift home after, which was a good thing because I'm not sure now he would have made it if we'd taken the bus. (On the other hand, had he collapsed on the side of the road I would have called an ambulance and they may have saved him. But that's the last of the what-ifs I'm going to let myself wander down, honestly.)

He didn't love the show, but he loved this line.
We sat on the couch, I tried to do some homework, and he scrolled through Netflix and told me all the details of whatever episode he'd last watched of everything. He ate all my post-half-marathon ice cream I hadn't eaten yet (with my permission). At 11:30, we said goodnight and I went to bed. The last thing I said to him was, "I love you. I'll see you tomorrow."

Sometime in the night, I heard him come into our bedroom. I immediately went back to sleep and didn't get up until my alarm went off at 5:45. I found him where he'd fallen on the bathroom floor, and when he didn't respond to my shaking him I checked his pulse (none), then called 911. The operator had me do chest compressions until the ambulance arrived, which in the immediate aftermath I suspected was just to keep me occupied until the paramedics arrived. Of course, I do know that it could have made a difference if it weren't already too late. At the time, and in the weeks that followed, I felt robbed of that last chance to sit and hold him. I guess I still kind of do.

The medics pulled him out of our bedroom and into the living room, and one of them sent me away while they worked on him. Another came to talk me through what was happening. I think I was probably praying? I really can't remember. Nor do I remember them stopping and calling him DOS. It wasn't until they were packing up their stuff that I snapped back into reality as the woman who'd been talking to me said they would stay until the police arrived. I made the first few calls (to Denise, my mom, and somebody from church, if memory serves) before the police arrived to tell me there was going to be an investigation.

This is the part that always horrifies people--that I was (or would have been, if the coroner had ruled his death suspicious) a suspect for that first day. I asked the police if I could change my clothes (I was still in pajamas) while they talked to the medics, they said I could but I had to leave the door open. In the meantime, I couldn't touch anything in the house--no making a cup of tea, no having breakfast, and I hadn't even used the loo yet. To the officers' annoyance, first Denise and then a string of folks from church started arriving while they were still getting photos from the scene and a statement from me. (Maybe a statement from Denise, too? I can't remember that, either.) Their grief counselors sat with us until the Red River Church contingent arrived and there was just no more space in my bedroom. A lot of people saw my bedroom that day.

Meanwhile, back in Indiana, my mother was on the phone with a travel agent, my father was on the phone with his employer, and my sister-in-law was on the phone with my niece's school. More or less. Somehow, they all managed to get on a plane in the wee hours the next morning. (It was 9° in Indianapolis when they left. It was 65° in Austin when they arrived. So that was something.)

I don't know how many calls I made before I couldn't do it any longer. I asked one person in Lubbock to make a couple calls for me that I would have liked to make for myself if I hadn't run out of steam. I asked Keely to find a way to reach Dawn in Scotland--the internet on my phone wasn't working (I was still stuck in my bedroom), and it wasn't until later that I'd find out that was because the medics had unplugged my modem to plug in their machinery. I knew that I had to call Chad's dad in California pretty early, earlier than I would have liked, because the flood of incoming text messages had already let me know that the news was on Facebook.

After the coroner took him away and the police left after letting me know that they'd be in touch, I finally got to use the loo. And have a cup of tea. And the pastor went to Starbucks and brought me breakfast before gently mentioning that there would have to be a funeral, of course Red River Church was at my disposal, and did I have anyone in mind to conduct the service? I probably said, "You!" before he even finished the sentence.

The photo we used at the funeral. (We didn't have his body
there, because to do that you have to pay for embalming,
and the cost for embalming is kind of a waste when
you're just going to cremate the body.) It's pretty accurate.
People and food started arriving, the church elders and their wives cleaned the house despite my protests, and I put Chadwick's glasses on a shelf so they didn't get crushed. The organ donor folks called to confirm the tissue donation. By the way, they were great--not only did they walk me through the process as kindly as possible, but I also got a series of very kind thank-you notes and some follow-up grief resources. Someone took me for a walk around the block and asked how Chadwick and I had met.

The next day, the coroner called to tell me it was a pulmonary embolism, probably caused by all the walking around he did at the Austin Marathon three days earlier. The police called to tell me the investigation was closed. I called a funeral home to tell them they had a customer. (The funeral home called my mother "Mrs. Wilcox" twice. I can understand their confusion--the widow isn't usually the youngest one in the group.)

"To love another person is to see the face of God," and it's important to remember that love is a verb. I've never been so loved in my life as I was those first few days. People brought hugs, and cleaning supplies, and paper products (it was literally a year before Denise and I had to buy toilet paper), and M&Ms (which my father promptly ate), and Torchy's Tacos (which Denise swears she'll never eat again), and more food than our fridge could hold. I don't know how I got through those days, but I know it wouldn't have happened without the steady, constant wall of people coming and going and bringing and talking and taking out our rubbish. (And our recycling. We had a joke about that, but it doesn't write down well, so you'll just have to think funny thoughts about recycling on your own.)

At some point I gave up writing thank-you notes, and if I missed you I'm really sorry about that, but I haven't forgotten your kindness. I have to love for two people now, and the love I feel when I think about those first days overwhelms me, that kindness can so alleviate grief, that burdens can be so beautifully shared.

The song we played at his funeral. I wasn't kidding about it being LOTR-themed.


Kar said...

Wow. I can only imagine how overwhelming that all must have been, to put it mildly. I do love that song from LotR...One of the most moving, lovely songs I know. Peace to you...

Aubrey Anne said...

You are so brave. Thank you for sharing your story.

Andrea said...

I always pictured this playing out in a hospital. I remember how shocked and devistated we were for you, how much we prayed those days, weeks, months for you going through the worst nightmare imaginable. Thanks to Facebook, we had interacted with you and Chadwick regularly for years. The love you had for each other, the comfort of companionship, the sharing of quirkiness, it physically hurt/s us to see that cut off from you with one stupid blood clot. I know words are weak when it comes to this kind of thing, but they are true. Thank you for being so transparent on this journey. ❤