help and safeguard my means this night

no.

stop it.

i don’t want to be THAT GIRL.

well, crap. look at that. i’m that girl. the girl who starts crying in class. to make it worse, to the rest of the class it looks like i’m the girl who starts crying in class looking at pictures of the tsunami. at least the lights are off… the projector’s not casting light on my face is it? shit, dave saw me crying for sure.

yeah, i was that girl today. but it wasn’t the human suffering and loss of life, property, and livelihood. it was that picture. not a video of people being dashed and broken and killed into concrete pillars by racing rivers of debris. it was that picture. the picture of the woman with her head on her loved one’s chest.

the picture that looked just like my sister putting her head on my dad’s chest after we turned off the ventilator, saying, “bye daddy” while i held his hand that wasn’t covered in tape or pulse oximeters. then it looked like me when i laid my head on his chest and said “i love you my little daddy.” i brushed my hand across his cheek, still so warm, still so soft. i put my hand on his heart and felt it trying to beat to rush that oxygen-filled blood to his body. but there wasn’t any oxygen. he just wasn’t breathing anymore. his brain didn’t know how to tell him to breathe. he had been in a coma for a day and a half by then. but something happened between saturday and sunday. between the time i left saturday night and came back sunday morning it was so abundantly clear he was gone. he didn’t look any different. but i could tell he could hear i had finally made it in to town on saturday. but sunday, he was gone.

my mom had already talked to the doctor around 4 am sunday, and knew that he wouldn’t come back – recovery wasn’t a possibility at all anymore. so i picked her up at the hospital, and took her home. my mom, sister, and i each showered, put on our nicest clothes, and wore that scent that we all wear.

would be be dressed too gaily when we went to meet with the doctor to discuss our options? my sister said it best, “the person i’m dressing up for won’t be able to see me anyway. it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” when we got to the hospital the doctor was waiting for us. our options were simple – disconnect the ventilator, or keep him on it indefinitely. the second option wasn’t really an option, the three of us knew that we’d have to take him off the ventilator today or tomorrow, or wait for his heart to stop beating on its own. that wouldn’t be too much longer, anyway. i think that of all our family who was there, the three of us were the ones who knew that he was going to die. i knew it when i got the call saying he was hemorrhaging in his brain, i knew it on the plane to vegas, the plane to california, on the ride to the hospital. i knew it when i walked into his hospital room.

so we waited for all my aunts and uncles to arrive and disconnected the ventilator.

my sister and i touching his face and his hands, my mom keeping her hand on his heart until she couldn’t feel it’s weakening efforts.

we signed some paperwork and went home.

what else are you going to do from that point.

if pressed, i could have told you this whole story. but i hadn’t thought of it, of the way my mom looked with such strength, such faith, such sorrow painted across her face. of the way i couldn’t look anyone in the eye for a week.

but i chose not to. i chose to think about things in the abstract. telling random people “my dad died this weekend” as if i were trying out the words to see if i could live with how they sounded. but not hearing it. not understanding.

i’ve had glimpses of understanding the sorrow. when they pronounced his death. when we picked the picture of the three of us – his houseful of women – to bury with him. at the church when i first saw the casket. when they lowered it into the ground.

but i haven’t been able to see it. tonight i can see the full picture. will i be able to see it tomorrow? in ten minutes? i don’t know.

and all this came flooding back in alarming clarity, with alarming pain, because someone snapped a picture in aceh in december.

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4 responses to “help and safeguard my means this night

  1. this is a good thing that i’m glad i read.

  2. me too. hf, you’re doing really good.

  3. very touching, very moving. It’s so interesting what opens up the door to our grief—we can think we know where it is (thus know how to avoid it if that’s what we need to do)—it’s safely put away, and then something seemingly totally unconnected can swing wide the doors….
    it’s okay to be that girl.

  4. wow. beautifully written. i’m sitting here at work, with tears running down my cheeks. i’m that girl. thank you for sharing that.

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