It's funny how a day that will change your life forever generally begins like any other day. It was another hot, humid, Texas morning, a routine day for me. I was late to work, heading to the post office to check the box for mail, following one of the two routes I always take. That day I took the route that goes down the main street in town. When I take this route I always honk as I whiz past the place where my niece works. I did not honk this day. Her car was not there and although I was curious as to why she was not at work, I didn't give it too much of a second thought.
I finally made it to the office. Lights...ac...I turned everything on and sat to open the mail. As usual, I was not really thrilled about spending my time at work. I love my job but I can always think of 101 other things I could be doing or would love to be doing beside work. My phone rang. It was my niece. I thought I'd be witty as I answered, "And why aren't you at work today, young lady?"
She was crying, out of breath and her voice was not its calm peaceful self.
"Well, I had this emergency pop up."
"What happened?" I asked not at all prepared for the answer.
"Dad was at Dr. Hannas this morning and Mom got a call that he collapsed. They did cpr and chest compressions for like 20 minutes. Mom and I are here at the hospital waiting on the ambulance. I thought we left at the same time, but they aren't here yet. I don't know what's taking them so long."
I heard the faint wail of sirens approaching. "I hear it baby. They are on their way. They are on their way, baby girl." I didn't know for sure it was the ambulance carrying my brother but I hoped it comforted her in some way. In all reality, it probably was not his ambulance as they probably took the back roads to the hospital which wouldn't take them by my office. On second thought, though, how could there be two ambulances trying to get to the hospital at the exact same time in our small hometown.
"I don't know if you want to tell Grandma or just wait til we know more."
"We'll see. I'm going to pick up Uncle Ron and we will head over there." My voice cracked, "We'll see you there soon."
Keep it together, I thought. You don't know what's going on, I told myself. He's done this kind of thing before...he's always ok. I hung up and tried to find a way to concentrate on getting something to my boss that I probably should have done when I first arrived at the office.
My hands went to my face covering every inch of it as if I could stop time by doing so. I tried to calm myself, but my soul knew better. My brother was gone. I wailed. The tears flowed and a cacophony of sorrow escaped. I did not want it to, though. I gathered myself. I stood to go undo all of what I had done when I first got there to the office...lights...ac. Again, I covered my face but this time my body could not withhold what it knew. I wept, I grieved, releasing long wailing cries in protest of what was to come.
At some point I fell to my knees. "NOOOOOO! Pleeaaaaaase, God, no! We aren't ready for this this, Lord. Sweet Jesus, please help me." I was begging...pleading...hoping against hope it was not true. And just like when my brother, Chris, died, a calm came over me. I was able to get it together, call my husband, call my mom and call my boss to let my him know I wouldn't be getting the information he needed and I left.
That morning I stepped in through that office door same ol', same ol'. All was right with the world. I stepped out into a different world, a different person...forever. A whole family never to be the same, grappling to find a new normal.
It has been a long two and a half weeks. Occasionally, by the grace of God, I have a moment like I did this morning in front of our dining room doors. On those occasions, I can step outside the emotions of this world...I imagine, I pray and I take comfort in the hope that at the very moment that I was wailing and his family was painfully and anxiously awaiting his arrival at the ER, he was walking through the doors to his new world, filled with a light like that streaming through our dinning room doors this morning. I see him grabbing the knobs, pulling the doors wide open and just basking in the warmth and the love and the peace of the light of God.
Rest in peace my brother. I look forward to seeing you again on the other side. I love you.