Age:[ 25 ] Gender:[ M ]
I find that it is hard to remember exactly what I was doing on the afternoon of August 9, 1997. I am pretty confident, though, that I was cutting checks that were to be mailed out the following Monday. As I think about it, that is precisely what I was doing when I received a phone call, from my little brother, at approximately 3:20pm. telling me that my father had been rushed to the Baylor emergency room. He had suffered a heart attack at work. My first reaction was not that of grief or sorrow. If anything, I was mildly annoyed at the inconvenience of having my work interrupted. My father had suffered heart attacks before. Although they each did some significant amount of damage to his heart, he had always pulled back and continued life, for the most part, as before. What was significant about this one was that, after his last attack, his doctor told him that although his overall health and prevention were improving dramatically, his heart had weakened to the point that his odds of surviving another attack were minimal at best. My father had given me this news a few weeks earlier, on the way to drop me off at work. At the time, I told him that I didn't feel ready to take care of the family. After all, I was just twenty years old, without any formal education, and with very little practical work experience. As I was being driven to the hospital, though, on that unseasonably gray August day, I began to see that this responsibility may very well be upon me much sooner than I had ever expected. At this moment, I had a realization that, whether I was actually ready or not, I would be compelled to take on any responsibilities that would come from my father's death. For the first time in my life, I had reached a moment in which I was actually unafraid of a responsibility. Looking back, I should have realized, also, that I was being strengthened, whether by myself or by an outside force, for the realization of one of my greatest fears. At that moment, my father was lying, naked except for boxer shorts, an oxygen mask on his face, intravenous tubing coming from his arms, on a cold emergency room table. The doctor and nurses were surrounding him, giving their last efforts at resuscitation before he was declared dead, at 3:30pm. All this occured as I was riding down Preston, contemplating the situation and trying not to become overconcerned. I arrived at the hospital at 3:45pm. I went in as quickly as I could through the automatic doors into the emergency room. The feeling of sickness, which surrounds any hospital, especially the emergency room, was only intensified by the gloom from the rain outside. My mother and the secretary from our church had just arrived and were standing at the nurses' station, awaiting information on my father. I reached the counter and gave my mother, obviously distraught, a hug and kiss. I asked my mother about my brother and sisters. She told me that our friend Tina and Leslie, our previous pastor, were watching them at our home. We then asked the nurses if we could see my father. By this time, our assistant pastor and very good family friend, Milton, had arrived and was there with us. The nurse guided us back to what appeared to be a consulting room with two couches, a coffee table, chair, lamp, and phone, and told us that the doctor would be there shortly with information on my father's condition. She then left us in that sterile room which would do very little to ease the storm of emotions that we found ourselves in. It seemed as if hours passed before anything happened, although, in reality, it was probably only about ten to fifteen minutes. During this time, Maxie, the assistant pastor of our current church, and his wife arrived, along with another close friend of my mother's from the church. At approximately 4:00pm, the doctor came in wearing dress shoes, slacks, a smock, and a very somber expression. My mother's hand, around mine, tightened steadily in anticipation of any news about my father. The doctor asked whom the wife of Jimmie was and, after I indicated my mother, positioned a chair across from us and sat down. "At 3:15pm today, your husband had a massive coronary. One of his coworkers attempted to give him CPR..." My mother's hand continued to tighten around mine, like a steel vice, as the stark realization of what was being said began to seep into her mind. "...but was unsuccessful in reviving him before the paramedics came. The paramedics were able to get a pulse, in the ambulance, on the way to the hospital, but lost it before they arrived." "Oh my God! Oh my God! What are you saying? This can't be happening. Oh my God!" Like a mantra, my mother could say nothing but this, for this was what was consuming her mind and spirit. "When they arrived here, we immediately began resuscitative procedures, but, after a shot of Adrenaline and Ephadrine failed to inspire a pulse, he was declared dead at 3:30pm. I'm sorry we were unable to do more." The doctor then excused himself and left us to absorb the news which he had just given us. My mother continued to half-cry, half-mumble, her mantra of disbelief. I instinctively blocked out any emotions and simply accepted what the doctor said as fact in order to console my mother more fully. Our friends were around us, attempting to console us. In reality, though, it was my mother and I sitting, alone, in a cold hospital, trying to understand how the man whom we had just eaten dinner with, and kissed good night the night before, could possibly be gone. I cannot even speculate as to how long we sat there, embraced, as time had stopped for me. A consuming void had opened within me which eclipsed any semblance of outward emotion. It left only logic and stated facts behind, and there was no need for time in this remotely controlled consciousness. I could do nothing more than tell my mother that yes, this really was happening, yes, my father, her husband, the man whom she had loved and stood by for twenty-three years, was dead and would not be coming back. Some time later, a nurse came in with the with the number for the medical examiner and told us we would need to call to make arrangements for the body to be picked up. My mother requested to see the body, but the nurse advised against it, as it was still in the same condition as it was when they declared him dead. My mother again requested that she be allowed to see the body, and this time I told the nurse that we would see the body, regardless of the condition. The nurse opened the door of the consulting room and pointed to an adjoining hallway, across the hall and slightly to the left of where we were, and told us to follow that hallway to the first right. He would be in the divided section to our right. As we walked down the hallway, turned right, and turned right again in front of a table, I felt a bit like Alice running through Wonderland, trying to get information, but failing to understand anything that I was seeing. My father was lying on the table, in a body bag. The oxygen mask was still on his face and there was tape on his arm, where the intravenous tubing had been. My mother looked at him, her body began to quake, and a sob began to rise out of a part of her soul that no one but she and my father would ever know. I held her, as I knew that nothing I could say would alleviate the pain that she was experiencing. When she was finished, she ran her hand across his brow, smoothing his hair, and gave him a kiss on the forehead. I felt his arm, slightly warm, but obviously lifeless, almost rubbery to the touch, and, in my thoughts I said goodbye to the man I had known as my father for all of my life. We then went back to the consulting room and made preparations to go home and tell my brother and sisters. I rode home with Milton, the man who had been our assistant pastor and a mentor of sorts to my father, and we discussed who would be the one to tell my brother and sisters that their father was dead. He offered to do it, after all, it was one of his duties to console people in times of need, so he would know how to word the news in a soothing manner, if that is even possible under such circumstances. I would not allow this, though, as I felt that it was more importantly my duty, as their brother and as my father's son, to tell them what had happened. We did not speak a great deal on the way home, other than in recollection of the time we had spent with my father. The silent trip allowed me time to prepare for what will probably be remembered as the most difficult speech I would ever have to give. We pulled up in front of my mother's house at approximately 6:30pm and went in. I could tell that my brother, Travis, as a result of my mother's state, was beginning to understand what had happened, but he declined any comment, in hopes that he might be grossly mistaken. Leslie sat on the piano bench, to the left of the couch on which my mother's friend Tina, my sister Jamie and my sister Brandie were sitting upon. My mother was sitting in a chair to the right of the couch. Travis was half-sitting, half-leaning, nervously against the chair which was next to Milton, who stood by the door. I pulled a chair out of the kitchen and set it in the middle of everyone. All eyes were upon me as I began to speak to my brother and sisters. "At three fifteen, today, Daddy had a heart attack at work and had to go to the hospital. The people he worked with and the paramedics tried to bring him back, but they couldn't. At the hospital they tried to give him a shot to wake him up, but it didn't work, and at three-thirty he went to Heaven to be with Jesus." I had heard people cry, but never a sound as sorrowful and empty as the cries that came out of my sisters' mouths. My brother ran out the front door and Tina followed him. Jamie was in my mother's arms, and Brandie was lain out on the floor, crying, as Leslie and Milton attempted to soothe her aching heart. I could do little more than sit and reflect upon the fact that I had just told three people, who trusted me more, almost, than anyone in the world, that their father was dead and would never be coming back, would never kiss them again, never hold them again. I felt as if I had reached into my body and torn my own soul out. A few short minutes later, I had followed my brother and Tina out the front door and into our garage. My brother was punching the wall, violently, as if it would somehow undo what had happened. I began to cry, unable to comprehend the pain and anger that I felt I had caused. I put my hand on his shoulder and turned him to face me and attempted to hug him. At first he braced himself away from me, but I again attempted to hug him. He then released himself to me and we spent the next few minutes crying on each other in the symbiotic bond of emotion and release that only two brothers can properly give each other. At long last, we calmed down and I was able to compose myself. We went back into the house, where my mother and sisters were sitting, again, on the chair and couch. We didn't clutter the moment with words. We simply sat together, expressed our love for each other, and attempted to understand this change in our lives that had been so unexpectedly thrust upon us.
Thu Aug 23 22:48:05 2001 back to other Contributions page