One year ago today (a Saturday) at 6:25 am, I received a phone call that shattered my heart, and my life. I was told Tom had started hemorrhaging and would not survive. I continued to talk to Dr. Rutland while getting dressed. He wasn’t sure how long Tom would hang on and I wanted to be there with him. I called my mom a moment after hanging up with the doctor. Nothing is real until I tell my mom. She said she knew when the phone rang that it was not going to be good news. Pulling out of the driveway, I called Tom’s sisters. I don’t even remember what I said to them – we all were distraught.
I stayed with Tom in ICU all day. We were able to talk briefly early on but then he just slept. I made sure he was as comfortable as possible. I was blessed to have two dear friends, Nancy and Becky who came to the hospital and waited with me until my family arrived. My sweet minister also came up and prayed with us. Other friends came to the hospital. Some I saw, some I didn’t.
Tom stayed with us until 9 pm. His sisters and I were with him when he passed away. I was holding his hand. I called my minister and he prayed with us again. We got to stay with Tom another hour or so. Tom’s good friend Dennis came by and also his cousin Andy.
My parents had left the hospital about 8 pm to go home and take care of the dogs. I will never forget seeing my dad when I got home. He gave me a big hug and told me he was sorry.
I’ve heard others say the days following are a blur. I remember them pretty well. The phone rang early Sunday morning – it was the funeral home. They were calling to schedule an appointment to make the arrangements. I remember thinking – wow, what’s the hurry – and it’s Sunday?!? Anyway, we all got ready and my parents, Tom’s sisters and I headed to the funeral home. I didn’t expect to see Tom again but we had that opportunity. I’m glad I did and I wish I didn’t all at the same time. From there we went to the church so I could show his sisters the Prayer Garden, where Tom’s ashes would be interred. Cathy and Debbie headed home later that afternoon. Mom, dad and I just sat around – what else do you do?
Monday was Christmas Eve. I called the church office to arrange a meeting to secure our spots in the columbarium. It was weird to me that the church was “open” on Christmas Eve, however, they had 5 Christmas Eve services scheduled that day so there were a number of people around. It was my parents and me picking out our final resting places. It was crazy to me. We were too young to be doing this! I don’t think I cried – I just went about it as a task that needed to be done. We talked about when to hold the service – there is just no good time around the holidays. I felt bad asking my minister to work and friends to sing. I’m sure they did quite a bit of rearranging of their holidays to do that for us.
Honestly, Christmas came and went. It didn’t really seem like Christmas. My sister came up the day after Christmas and helped clean the house, coordinate food and all kinds of things. Tom’s sisters came back and we picked some Bible readings and songs. I wish there had been more time to think about the service but I just didn’t feel like it.
Losing Tom’s dad in October was another unexpected blow to the family. I am thankful to Mary, Mike and her family who took such good care of him after her mom died. It is comforting to me that Tom and his parents are together in Heaven.
Quite a few people have told me that “once you get through the year of firsts it will get better”. I don’t know who came up with this – or if people just say it because they don’t know what else to say. I can assure you that tomorrow it is not going to be “all better”. Every day is a first day without Tom. I am just learning to live with sadness. There are joys too, though. I have been to visit family and friends in Memphis, Phoenix, Chicago, Delavan, Carrollton, Conyers, and Louisville. Our family has been and will continue to be my rock. My co-workers have been a wonderful support team – Nancy, Becky, Laura, Bud, Matt, Kevin and Susan. They listen to me talk, hug me when I cry and make me laugh. I have dear friends, near and far, who have sent cards and messages throughout the year. My neighbors still come over every day and let the pups out to play. My Spiritual Leadership Team at church has been amazing. This is a group of 7 folks that I really did not know in January and have come to love and respect in the past 12 months – Linda, Andy, Scott, Mike, Chris, Hal, and Jeff. My minister, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, is an incredible friend and counselor.
My faith has certainly been tested – throughout Tom’s illness, death and every day since. Thankfully my God is a big God, a forgiving God and a grace-filled God.
– Isaiah 42:16
I cling to these comforting words and so many others from the Bible. They are helping me build a new future of hope.
Thank you all so much for your thoughts and prayers for me and Tom’s family.