|steps leading out of the Cathedral chapel at the USAFAcademy Chapel|
Less than a week from my last post, our world turned upside down. I always said that my life could be a soap opera. What I would give for a normal life.
Dec. 4th. My sister called my husband in hysterics-- her husband, J, suffered a gun shot wound. Chris had no idea where she was calling from and what condition J was in. I called her back, hoping she would answer the phone. She was home.
When I got to her apartment, the cops were blocking her doorway, and my sister sat slumped in front of her car, wearing someone else's clothes. Her own clothes were too bloody. No one would give her answers. J was already taken to the trauma center. We drove there and were met by one of their close friends who just happens to be a physician. He pulled us aside, tried to calm my sister, and asked if she wanted to see him. "He only has a little time left," he said. My sister collapsed to the ground and screamed J's name. We were able to get her a wheelchair to the trauma room where he lay.
I always thought that when an emergency arose, my nursing instinct would kick in and I would be calm, clinical. Boy was I wrong. Seeing him laying on that gurney with blood dripping down to the floor... hearing the breath get knocked out of my sister... I couldn't help but sob. I had only enough sense to grab a chair for my sister and hold her up as she cried out his name and grabbed his hand. Their pastor, who followed us to the hospital, sat by J's ear and read scripture. J's mother, also a nurse, stood on the other side, humming a lullaby. The respirator breathed for him, monitors above him showed his vital signs.
He was 29. I've known him since he was 15 and lived in the house across from ours. He was just the punk kid dating my sister. A few years later he became one of our closest friends and even moved into my home and lived there for almost a year. He was a groomsman in our wedding. He videotaped my daughter's birth. I never referred to him as my brother-in-law, always he was my brother.
He died at about 2:23PM. The last thing I remembered doing was wiping a trickle of blood from his ear.
We were going to put our tree up early this year. We were going to do it that weekend, in fact. Instead I spent the next few nights with my sister, staying up on watch, making sure she was eating, drinking, even taking a shower. Christmas shopping be damned. Luckily, we had a few things ordered early for a few people. The kids should at least have their presents.
I said I wouldn't let fear or discomfort get in my way again. But did I really need to be tested so soon? For two weeks I was surrounded by prayer. I watched as their pastor spent hours on end consoling my sister and J's family. I stood there as people prayed all around me. I even attended their church for a sermon dedicated to J. Ironically, I missed my friend's burial that day. I knew she would forgive me, knowing that I had to stand with my sister on her first day to church without J.
I used to tease my sister that she joined a cult. I have never been happier that she found religion. It was the one thing that truly held her up during this ordeal.
The day before the burial, I was at the cemetery for J's private viewing. I knew R was buried there and asked for directions to her grave. When I looked at the piece of paper they gave me, I thought that maybe I was remembering some things incorrectly. We drove up to her grave. Sure enough, it was in the same area that J was to be buried the next day. As I got closer, tears began to well up. Could it be? The freshest grave was kitty corner to J's. As I reached J's grave, I walked a few steps and looked at the flowers on the nearby grave. There was the wreath my co-workers and I ordered for R. There was her name plate. R.G. 37 years old. What are the chances? Yes, it was one of the newer areas of the cemetery. But for the corners to be touching?
J's father came by. They wanted to see where J was going to be buried the next day. Their family was confused. Why was I crying on this other grave? When I told them about my friend, he said, "There is no such thing as coincidence."
We put our tree up on the 21st. Audrey was excited to find that Santa got the presents she "always wanted!" There were tears on Christmas day. But there was also a lot of laughter. We'll miss you, J. We'll move on, but you'll always be in our hearts.