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“Mommy, Mommy”, I can’t see”.  The howl echoed through the hall.  I stumbled my nine-month pregnant body out of bed realizing the pressure of my bladder and the surge of fear.  As I made my way down the hall, following the cries for help, my gut knew my life was about to change.

The extended family had gathered the night before. Duck hunting season was here and the fall tradition had ensured.  There were Aunts and Uncles,  first, second and third cousins.  The merriment of gatherings wafted through the house.  Laughter, memories, competition, comedic jabbing and mostly love.  Trey was enjoying the crowd and let it be known that he wanted to name the soon to be born baby, “Tenille”.  Insistent, even though he did know if it was a boy or girl.  His prophetic request became a namesake.

Everyone fell into bed that night sleeping fitfully anticipating the morning festivities. A cold October fall morning.  Flannel and gloves.  Hot chocolate in a thermos.  A boat ride into the Puget Sound, a shotgun, the evening meal of duck mulligan stew.

It happened for years, serving generations.  The men went out, mentoring the children in the art of patience and provision.  The women would pluck the duck and learn the preparatory process of cooking the luscious meal. Home-baked sweets and savory dishes.  I broke tradition a bit. When I got married part of our prenuptial agreement was, “NO PLUCKING DUCK!”.  I would cook, but I would not pluck.  Another piece of trivia.  I got my husband a shotgun as a wedding gift.   October of 1996 also broke tradition in the most profound way.  The nightly dinner with the family happily gathered around, did not happen for some.

I made my way to Trey’s bedroom. By then the household was bustling with worry.  Trey was trying to find his way to the bathroom as his bodily functions dysfunction-ed.  His head was pounding in pain,  this eyes had lost their sight, his bladder had released and he stumbled along.  A sense of terror was fully intact, mine and his.  “Mommy, Mommy, please…I have to go to the bathroom.  I can’t see.” He repeated again and again.  “It will be okay, honey.  I love you.  I love you.” I held him in my arms, trying to bring comfort while my mind raced with the next step.  “Call 9-1-1.”  I placed Trey on the bed and proceeded to do what I had done hundreds of times before, take his blood pressure.  I could not find the upper number.  I’ve never known such utter fear, yet strangely balanced with peace and strength.“Someone go get Doug”.  My husband had left before dawn for hunting.  “Let him know he needs to hurry back.”  Doug arrived, the ambulance screamed to the house.

The hospital room was cold…they always are. When the body is emerged in emotions,  it becomes an icebox.  How can a room bustling with activity, nurses, doctors, aides, mom, and dad, seem so alone? Once stabilized, Trey was airlifted to Children’s hospital.  

Once he was in his room, he seemed normal again.  He was tired, but we talked of the Mariners and his favorite baseball player. He said,  “let me sleep” and he did peacefully.  In a few hours, he was moved to another room.   His blood pressure began to rise and the nurse proceeded to give him more medications.  I begged her not to and asked for time to let him settle.  “Doctors orders……..” and the medications were pushed into his I.V.  “There,  see his blood pressure is coming down”, the nurse stated in excited assurance.  “Oh God, my God, his heart is slowing!”, I said in disbelief.   The flat-line alarm reverberated in the room and the call “code”  was made.  Every light in the room began to blink and the room became a mass of blue uniforms and my little-gowned boy.  

He lay there motionless.  Twenty-one years later and the tears flood my face.  They flow and I remember.  The blows to the chest and the resuscitation bag did nothing to call this little boy’s soul back to his body.  I stood at the precipice of life and death.  Before me lay my little 10 ½-year-old son and I felt the baby in my womb meander and turn.

October 14th was the day.  We made the choice. The family stood around, some friends and the looming “pulling of the plug”. We prayed for the resurrection of the dead.  This prayer would not be answered. We said our goodbyes and then walked out of the room. Within a couple of minutes, we were informed he was gone.

How does a woman scheduled to have a surgical birth in a few days, with five little children, a life to maintain, a burial and a memorial service to orchestrate, go on?  The resilience of heart and mind, and the determination to take one step at a time. It is an act of faith and deep-seated love and honor for the one who has departed.  And you just do….. Grief puts time at warp speed and in slow motion.  It is a wisp.

The details of the following events are for another time.  The coffin laid in the ground, the celebration of life,  the birth of the baby girl we named “Tenille” and the grief process of 21 years. What I recall now is this.  I was strong in the midst of pain.  Love carried me through trials.  Rebound is possible, propelled by trust in the Cosmic purpose of the world from the cradle to the grave and a deeply held belief that all things work for good, even the bad.  I remember with thankfulness this soul imparted to me for a short but impactful time.  He taught me profound lessons and was an example of fortitude and Moxey.

Grief is an energetic process, weaving to and through for the rest of our lives. Processing life and events without those we love and facing our own immortality are part of it. Many believe that we exist forever in some form.  Called “Heaven”,  “walking streets of gold”, “sitting at an eternal banquet table”, “Nirvana”, “to fully know or be fully known,” ” seeing Jesus face to face.” The description does not matter.  What needs to be embraced or at least surrendered to is the process of grief.  It is okay to cry, laugh, to remember.  It is okay to wish we would have done things differently.  It is okay to remember we did things right.  

I have experienced grief.  I have walked with those experiencing grief.  I have observed grief.  I hold that grief is a guru of eternal significance.  My heart is for those that have lost loved ones, especially children. I believe we are never separated from them.  The significance of their existence is present for life.  At any moment we can call in their love and it will bring comfort and yes, pain.

Grief is like an Afghan that has a loose string and it unravels.  The pattern of what disappears.  The heart conceived ideas of what we thought to be true and the love we once knew in physical form changes form.  In the process of grief, a new pattern is woven, a new level of understanding.  Grief lasts a lifetime.  With each passing year, another stitch is woven into a new Afghan. I believe on the other side of this human existence we will see the completed pattern in all its beauty and we will be wrapped in the warmth full understanding of one of life’s greatest mysteries, life, and death.