Death is Never Ordinary

Each of us throughout our lives will lose to death a friend or family member. Death is inevitable. The old axiom that no one gets out of life alive is the absolute truth of the situation. From the very moment we are born we are racing towards our death. Not the best visual, I know, but still true. Yet, even knowing that death is an inevitability we are often caught by surprise. Some folks have a long life, and others are taken much too soon.

poem-of-lifeMy family recently lost a member, my cousin. He was much too young (only 55), and his loss was unexpected. He was my cousin, but also one of my best friends. We did not live in the same state, did not get to see each other very often face-to-face but we talked at least once a week for the last 35+ years on the phone, text, instant messenger or Facebook.  I remember reading a long time ago that a cousin was God’s promise that you would have a friend for life. R has always been the embodiment of that promise. He has always been the best friend a person could have. He was funny, cheerful, loving, irreverent, bawdy, loud, and persistent. God, he was so easy to love.

Oddly, we were not “born” into the same family. I met R while I was a teen, when my aunt married his Dad. I am pretty sure that R never met a person he could not get along with. It always amazed me how he could pull the most reticent person into a conversation and get them to laugh. The most outrageous things would come out of his mouth at times. He told me once that since we were “step-cousin-in-laws” that it was ok to flirt and be bawdy around me. I remember laughing until tears streamed down my face. Like he needed a reason to flirt? Be bawdy? Not ever! Not sure he had any filters – but he was never mean. From the day we met we were family.

tucked-safelyI remember when R was getting ready to propose to his wife, he was so excited. He was so proud on his wedding day. Then the kids started coming along, and with each one that excitement and pride grew in him. R was definitely a family man. And he loved to brag about his kids. Every achievement was proudly proclaimed. I loved listening to him spout off about how wonderful his kids were. Family for R was pretty broadly defined, eventually everyone he met became part of his extended family.

Often very early on a weekend morning, I would login to Facebook and R would be online. He would send me a message “Good Morning Beautiful, what are you doing up this early?”… Which is funny when you consider that my time zone was three hours ahead of his. Did he ever sleep? R and I would talk about everything and nothing at all. His family, mine and our extended family. I read one of the posts in Facebook after his death that said R was the family historian. I find that insightful. He always knew everything going on. A one stop fount of information. I think he had this information because he genuinely cared, and would ask the right questions. I know he always asked about my kids/husband questions that showed he listened to previous conversations and that he was genuinely interested. He will be genuinely missed.

Death hittimelimits hard.  I find myself lost in thoughts about this wonderful man who was taken from us much too soon. I reach for my phone early in the morning to see if he is online so I can tell him some silly story or another. I have lost others, my grandparents, a son, and a few friends to war. So, I know that this dark time will slowly fill with light again.  It just takes time. Even more than 10 years later I still occasionally reach for the phone to call my grandfather to ask his advice or share something special in my life.  Life goes on, and we keep living, sometimes one breath at a time. So, R, my cousin, my friend, I love you and will miss you until the time we meet again, Rest in Peace.

Ordinary Veterans Day

fb_img_1464382185932A short message from an ordinary lady who is a veteran and is married to a veteran. Today is Veterans Day. A day established to commemorate all US veterans and victims of all wars. Originally called Armistice Day which marked the end of hostilities of WW1 that occurred at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month. This day is celebrated on the anniversary of that end on November 11th.

I would like to thank all those who are serving or have served in the military, past and present. Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed though at times it seems that way. Know in your hearts that many people support and appreciate all you have done or will do.  Thank you for your service.fb_img_1464392643289

I would also like to thank the families of all our services members. The mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters of all who have served or are serving, I thank you all for your sacrifices as well.  For all the “important” dates you have spent without your soldier, sailor, airman or marine, I thank you. Being left behind can be even more thankless than those that are wearing a uniform.  Your sacrifice has allowed our veterans to do their jobs and invaluable task. fb_img_1464640977105Thank you for your service.

To all those who are not personally touched by military service, spend a few minutes today and reflect on what your lives would be like if not for our service members, past and present.  If you see a veteran today let them know that you appreciate them even if it is only with a smile.

Happy Veterans Day!

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Ordinary Pregnancy, part 2

My extraordinary husband pointed out that this ordinary lady left out a few very important parts of my original post on pregnancy. Most of what I left out revolved around him and heroics of course! Plus, I should mention that he laughed and laughed at the title of my blog – Ordinary Lady.  This wonderfully supportive man told me that I am anything but ordinary that I am in fact extraordinary. He might be prejudice, or buttering me up for something. That could go either way. But the fact that after 30 years together he still says he believes I am more than ordinary makes me smile – even if he is nuts.

I am going to revisit one of the seven pregnancies that I mentioned in the first pregnancy blog, my second pregnancy. This pregnancy has some very important roles for my husband, and to give the devil his due, I did not mention them previously when I should have.  His strength, support and belief in me, and in us were my rock. I was very firmly tethered to him during this time in my life – and still today. Any time any of those tethers became frayed, he added a new one to keep me with him, safe.  He still does this for me after 30 years. He is my safe place. He has always had a gift for making me laugh in even the direst of situations (a gift he uses shamelessly to get out of trouble he deserves to be in too!).

My second pregnancy was going along very normally at first.  One little off note was that my husband and I enrolled in birthing classes early because his military unit was going to deploy him during the eighth month of pregnancy. I learned that in our area the classes were normally in the seventh to eighth month. So we were a bit early for our Lamaze classes. So Monday night at this class, I was teased by all the other moms-to-be for my tiny belly. Sort of a ritual in these weekly classes was getting on the scale to see if we had gained any wait in the past week. I had gained 1 pound from the previous week on the scale. The first time in a couple of weeks of classes I had shown a weight gain. Only time in my life that weight gain for me was slow was during pregnancy. Heh!

The next morning, was my regularly scheduled prenatal appointment. My husband could not make the appointment because he was on duty. The appointments were pretty routine anyway, so he would not miss much. So we both thought. First clue something was wrong was after the initial screen process began. First thing at every appointment was please pee in this cup – the nurse then did a regular protein test. She tested twice, I watched her dipping the little test strips. Odd, but not alarming. Next it was up on the scale, weird I was 12 pounds heavier than the night before at the Lamaze class. Next the nurse took my blood pressure. Then asked me to stand up and took it again. Then asked me to lay down and took it again. Yes, now I was starting to worry this was not normal.

The nurse told me she would be back in just a couple of minutes to please remain laying down. About five minutes later she was back, took my blood pressure again and asked me to get back on the scale for a moment. I was up another 10 pounds from the first time on the scale, less than 30 minutes previously. This really freaked me out. This time the nurse asked me to lay down and specifically on my left side. The doctor would be in immediately. The next hour is a bit of a blur, I know I was never left alone, that my blood pressure and weight were both climbing at an alarming rate. An ambulance was called to take me to the hospital. My husband was called to let him know I was on my way to the local hospital. He could meet me there.

I have very few memories of the local hospital. Everything was moving so quickly, including the decision to deliver the baby. I was 25 weeks along, the local hospital did not have neonatal services I was going to have to move hospitals. The decision was made to send me to Walter Reed Army Hospital, more than 45 miles away. raceNo ambulance this time a helicopter was called. Oddly, I was not feeling bad/sick yet, but the concern of the doctors was contagious, I was scared to death.

I use humor a lot when I am scared, and I remember joking with the police officer who rode with me in the helicopter that he should write my husband a ticket now so that when he shows up at Walter Reed shortly after us the ticket would be waiting. The officer laughed as intended. But the joke was on him, I do not think I had been at Walter Reed more than maybe 10 to 15 minutes when my husband appeared. The officer was still there with me, and walked out laughing when he saw my husband. The next little bit was a blur as I was prepped for surgery, C-section delivery.

My husband’s first trial or heroic act came right before I was wheeled into surgery. The surgeon asked my husband for a decision, that if only one of us could be saved, me or the baby who should he work to save first. My response was the baby. My husband said to save me. He was adamant, me first baby second. We could try for more kids, or adopt, but he needed me to survive. What an epically horrible thing to ask anyone. Yet, there was no hesitation in his response, just a decisive statement. Save my wife. I hated that decision. But, if our roles were reversed, I know I would have made the same one. I was too drugged, and too emotional to make that decision which is why the call was my husbands. Took me a long time to understand that this was the correct decision.

Our son, Cody, was born weighing one pound 15 ounces at 12 inches long. He was struggling for life. On about day six it was decided that he needed still better medical care and he was transferred to Georgetown University neonatal intensive care unit. The doctors did not have much hope for his survival yet everyone was still fighting for him. I was at Walter Reed, our baby in Georgetown, my husband and mom had finally gone home for the night to eat and sleep after spending the day bouncing back and forth between two hospitals. It was late and I was suddenly convinced that something was wrong, seriously wrong. I called home, and asked my husband to call Cody’s hospital. He assured me that if there was something wrong the hospital would have called, but he would call them anyway, I needed to sleep. A very short time later, I looked up as my door opened, my husband, and mom were following my nurse in to the room. I knew before the words were spoken. That night Cody had passed away. I came very close to following him.

To say I freaked out is to understate the issue. I was still on the critical list, my blood pressure still out of control. That night all my alarms were ringing, the crashcartcrash cart was pulled into the room. Medical professionals were pumping my IV with meds to calm me down, everyone talking at once preparing for the worst. I am not sure it was a conscious decision on my part but it was almost like I was willing myself to die with my son. All those medical people in that room could not have saved me.

My husband, he saved me. He and he alone was the only voice I finally heard in those moments. He was pissed. I remember the words he shouted at me very clearly. Shouted while sitting on the bed facing me shaking my shoulders and shocking the hell out of everyone present. “Damn you, you will not die on me, I lost a son tonight, and I will not lose a wife too. Live damn you. You will live!” My hero! Seriously, he is my hero. Still, I am pretty sure you are not supposed to scream at a dying person, but he gave me something to focus on outside of myself and my pain. I locked my eyes on his, and knew he would keep me safe. I took a deep breath and let the morphine take me under, let myself begin to heal. Twice he fought for us in this hell week, and twice he won for us both, that is a true hero.