A Life Changing Day

May 26, 2010
What would it be like to have your life turned upside down, and not for the better, in only a few hours? Well it’s not fun and I should know because I have been there before. It gives you this feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you feel like you have no control over anything and you just want to curl up and die. Many things can make you feel like your life is spiraling out of control and it will never get any better but for me it was the death of my uncle.

It all started on Friday February 27, 2009. My Mom, Dad, and I were all just sitting there watching a movie when my grandma called my mom saying “Michelle I just got off the phone with your brother and he can barely breathe and can’t talk at all!” My parents and my grandparents left immediately for his house which was about three and a half hours away, leaving me at home by myself to wait for my older brother David to get home from his friend’s house. I was scared and helpless, so when David got home I just ran into his arms and cried till I felt sick. My Uncle Kevin had been battling stage three colon cancer and was at this time undergoing radiation, but he wasn’t as bad off as you would expect, all things considering; in fact, he was scheduled to have surgery to remove the cancer the next Thursday. I went to bed that night not knowing whether or not I would still have and Uncle in the morning. I went to bed just praying and pleading that he would live, after all he was only 45, and he had a seven year old daughter and a ten year old son to take care of since his wife was an alcoholic and a drug addict and was not allowed to be anywhere near them by court order. I didn’t know what the next few days would hold and I was terrified. I loved him.

I woke up the next morning and David hadn’t heard from my parents, so he took me to musical practice just like most Saturdays. As I got there I received a phone call from my mom, and she told me that they couldn’t move my uncle by themselves so they had to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He had fluid around his lungs and he was in the intensive care unit under constant watch but the odds were in his favor. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic! I thanked God that he would be fine. Or so I thought. I talked to my mom a few more times that day and as far as we were concerned, no news was good news. My best friend’s mother picked me up at about four o’clock after rehearsal and took me home. Now this lady is always a reserved sort of person but never around me, so I only took a slight notice to the fact that she hardly talked the whole way home. When I got home my brother was home from work an hour early. He looked horrible; I could tell he had been crying and I could smell the cigarette smoke on him stronger than ever (He only smelled this bad when he had been smoking a lot, like when something was bothering or upsetting him), so I expected the worst. I hadn’t talked to my mom for about two hours, but she never called either to give me any updates. David simply said “Call Mom, she needs to talk to you.” I pulled out my cell phone and my trembling fingers slowly dialed her number then very reluctantly I pushed send. The voice I heard on the other line was not my mothers. She never sounded like that. It couldn’t have been hers, but then I listed to her and the urgency in her voice. My world came crashing down at my feet when I heard her say, “Honey I’m losing him, he’s not going to make it through the night!” then she started screaming. He was her only brother! David heard my screams and came running upstairs and scooped me into his arms as I screamed “NO! Tell me she’s lying! Tell me she’s confused! No! He’s not dying, He can’t be!” As David just hugged me tighter and tighter he handed me my phone so I could talk to my Daddy. On the other line I heard him say “I need you to listen to me, Dylan and Sydney are coming to live with us now. You and David have to come out here with the van to get there stuff and bring them home. We can’t find their mother and Kevin’s attorney said to take them home to live with us because she can’t take care of them. I need you to tell me if you remember how to get here.” I told him how I would get there, but with much difficulty because I had only been there five times and three of them I slept the whole way there. David had never been there. I hung up the phone as David and I quickly went to work gathering what we needed to take with us to bring home their stuff and my uncle’s stuff.

David went to go pick up some stuff from my Grandparent’s house, and I was supposed to start gathering what we needed and calling people who needed to know what was going on. I don’t know how many times I had to say “We’re leaving as soon as we can. They don’t think he will live much longer, but we are hoping to get there in time to say goodbye. Just please pray!” Every time I uttered those horrible words I started balling even harder, maybe even screaming again. People didn’t even know it was me because they never recognized my voice, and they had to ask who it was. I specifically remember calling my youth leader, at that time, hysterical and hearing his voice on the other line say “It’s going to be ok. God has a plan. I don’t know what else to tell you, but I love you, and I am truly sorry. I wish I could make it all go away and make it better for you guys. Tell your family that I love them all and our family will certainly be praying.” All I could mutter between my sobs and screams was “Thanks, love you too.” I remember throwing myself over the toilet ready to throw up after I got off the phone with him. I was physically sick. It had already been a hard year for me. That November my Great Aunt had past away, then a week later my Great Grandma. The week before that horrible day I was living one of my other Great Aunts had died. I hadn’t even finished grieving for her yet. “I can’t take any more God! Why is this happening to me?! Why me?! Why him?! Why us?! Haven’t I had enough?! Where are you?!” I screamed. At this point my brother walked in the door and literally pulled me out of our house as I continued to scream. It was sheer terror. He and I continued to call people the whole way out of our small town asking for prayers and love. He drove to the PA Turnpike while we both continued to sob, and then looked to me for directions because he had no clue where he was going from this point on. Truthfully I didn’t either. I hadn’t been to Carlisle for over a year and I wasn’t even awake that time. It had been at least three years since I had stayed awake and paid attention the whole way there. Trusting that God would get us there I said “Take the Turnpike till exit 12 I think. Whatever it is it’s the Blue Mountain one.”
“Ok…” he reluctantly replied

About half way down the Turnpike David started crying all over again and as huge tears rolled down his face he said “I’m trying to be strong for you, I really am, but I can’t have it together all the time. It’s impossible, no one can.” I started crying too, and I knew I would never forget that because at that moment I didn’t see a 21 year old guy talking to his annoying 14 year old sister, I saw a kind, caring, mature adult who only wanted what was best. I honestly don’t know if we ever stopped crying the rest of the way to the hospital, but I do know that neither of us said anything more than to clarify directions the rest of the way there. As we were about ten minutes away from the hospital my phone rang; it was my Dad. “Where are you guys” he said
“Just passing Sheetz” I said
“Ok, that’s fine just come straight up to ICU when you get here. That’s where we’ll be.”
“Ok Daddy, I love you.”
As we pulled into the parking lot beside my Grandma’s car, David and I looked at each other as if to say “Oh boy, this is going to be really hard.” Scared and worried we jumped out of the van and ran up to the door where my Dad was waiting with our two cousins. I gave him a huge hug and then immediately scooped up the sweet little seven year old bundle named Sydney and hugged my innocent cousin and silently cried for her, for me, for our family, and for her Daddy. As I put her down and got into the elevator my Dad came up behind my brother and me and whispered “He didn’t make it he died about 20 minutes ago.” We were too late! I missed him! I never got to say goodbye to my Uncle Kevin and now I would never see him again! It was 8:30 so at about 8:10 when he passed, I was directing David back onto the main road because I missed a turn. Why did I have to do that, we could have made it in time? At this point I was pulled back to reality as I felt my cousin Dylan pushing me out of the elevator. I ran into my Mom’s arms as I let the tears pour down my face. I cried like there was no tomorrow. I gave everyone a hug as I continued to cry, and then I began to call all those people back to tell them the severe news. I will never be able to explain the hurt I felt when I had to tell all those people what had happened, and I pray that I will not have to experience it again in the near future.
As the minutes dragged on we all left the hospital and headed back to my uncle’s house to get the kids clothes and favorite toys because their mother was not allowed to know what was going on because she was not allowed near her children by court order. In a matter of an hour we had to throw all of the important things they needed and the things my parents would need into garbage bags and load up both cars full of it. I don’t know how many trips I made back into the house and saw over and over again where all the furniture was moved to in order to give the paramedics access to the bedroom. I listened over and over to my Grandma’s sobs as she and my parents cleaned out the bedroom once belonging to my uncle as they looked for the kids birth certificates. Then, just as quickly as we got there, we left for home again. I will never forget watching Dylan and Sydney walk out of the door of their house for the last time and hearing a seven year old girl scream “I miss my Daddy!” and then hearing her ten year old brother say “It’s never going to be the same again without Dad!”. How do you respond to that. Well there’s not much to say, so instead we just loaded up the cars and were on our way home to the start of the new chapter of our lives. I rode home with my dad, Dylan and Sydney. Both of the kids slept most of the way home, but I stayed up to keep my Dad awake. A lot of the way home the two of us, with tears rolling down our cheeks sang a quietly sang a song entitled “For the Moments I Fell Faint” The chorus says “Never underestimate my Jesus. You’re telling me there’s no hope. I’m telling you you’re wrong. Never underestimate my Jesus when the world around you crumbles He will be strong He will be strong.” Never since that fateful night have I been able to hear that song without crying. It just summed up everything I was feeling so well and gave me the comfort I needed at that time.

I know what its like to have your life turned upside down in one day, and as you can see it has its effects on your life. I am not going to tell you that it is any easier a year and a half later. It’s only different, not easier. I still have to deal with the grief and flashbacks. I have to continue to become accustomed to the younger siblings I know have living with me. I especially have to learn to accept the constant court battle that is always pending between my parents and my aunt. I have however; gotten used to accepting what I can’t change and asking for help when I need it. I was talking to my youth pastor about the year anniversary of my uncle’s death because I was having an especially hard time with life in general and he said to me, “I once had a youth pastor who told me [He went through a very similar situation in his life when he was my age] ‘Your life can be shattered in one day, and it could take years to pick up the pieces.’”. I sat there and just looked at him in total disbelief. That’s not what I wanted to hear, but it is what I needed to hear. Tim is very good at telling what you need to know not what you want, and that’s just what he did that day. It’s good for me to know that I have a lot to deal with emotionally because of that day. Sometimes I need to know that it’s alright if I am just having a bad day because what I have been going through for the past year isn’t something you can brush off easily. I hope and pray with all my heart that I don’t ever have a life changing day like this one ever again.

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JamieStarr said...
Jun. 21, 2010 at 3:10 am
i loved this i am really sorry for your loss. i hope you are takeing this ok now cause i just lost my dad to diabetic acoma and i cry every day. i was a diddys little girl and i wasnt there for him when he died and i blame my self because i could have saved him. :,,,,,( please reply back and tell me how u r doing
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