Blog Introduction

This blog is the story of how my husband and I faced the illness and death of two of our children. Each blog post is essentially a chapter in the story, so in order to truly understand it, you are going to benefit by starting at the beginning.
I hope you find our story touching, and in some way find comfort and hope through it as you face your own storms in life.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's Over

Michael turned 3 on February 6, 1990.  I often wondered how this whole scenario was affecting him, if at all.  How much can a 3 year old comprehend?  What would he think after his brother was gone?  Would he be afraid that he would go away, too?  He had taken everything so matter-of-fact up until this point.  He didn't understand that his brother wasn't healthy; how would he understand his death? In these early formative years, were we giving him what he needed?  How would all of this affect him?  It was another point of concern for me, and I worried that somehow he would be harmed by the things I could not shield him from.

It was February 13; one week after Mike's birthday.  Rob was doing some chore or activity around the house, and I was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner while Michael ran around playing.  Matthew had been sleeping for a couple of hours already; a longer than usual nap for him, but I didn't pay much attention to it.  Rob came wandering into the kitchen and asked me if I had checked on Matthew recently.  He had just checked the monitor, and said it sounded like Matthew was breathing "funny". I immediately felt my stomach twist into a knot as a feeling of dread overcame me, and thought, "You go look.  I don't want to".  But as the nurse and mother in the house, it fell on me to go and see.
I wished I could have run away in that moment.  This walk down the short hallway to Matthew's bedroom was like the walk a prisoner takes to the electric chair.  I had to force myself to go; all my emotions pushing me to flee from this moment, wishing to run from this much hated reality I was living in. I slowly opened the door to his room.  It was dark because the sun had already set, so I turned on the hall light to offer a soft glow enabling me to peer in at him.  I softly called his name, but there was no movement.  He was lying on his tummy with his face toward the wall, so I couldn't tell if he was awake or not.  I  touched his back, wiggling him gently.  Still no response.  By now, my mind was already grasping the reality of what was happening.  I flipped on the overhead light in the room-  I needed to see what was real.  Matthew was still alive and breathing, but he was unresponsive.  I called for Rob to come to the room, and as he approached the door, I told him Matthews condition.  We stood for a few moments looking at him.  I'm not sure we knew what to do.
Unsure of how Michael would handle the whole thing, we called our neighbor, who was also our babysitter, and asked if she could watch him for us.  A bit surprised by the sudden need, we explained what was happening.  She was silent for a moment, then asked if she could see Matthew.  She walked over to our house, and with tears in her eyes she gently stroked his hair, then his back, and said her goodbyes to the little boy she had become attached to as well.  I felt like I was cheating her out of something by asking her to take Michael and leave this solemn scene.
Knowing without a doubt that this was the end, I called our Pastor.  About 20 minutes later, he and his wife were at our home.  They came in and looked at Matthew, still lying in bed as we had found him.  Did I want to hold him, Pastor asked?  No, even though my heart wanted to cradle him in my arms and rock him to heaven, I didn't want to move him.  I was afraid that if I did, it would make him stop breathing; I would bring his end faster.  I stood by the crib and watched, once again keeping vigil over another little baby whom I could not protect or save from death. The four of us prayed together, and sang a few songs, including Jesus Loves Me.  I was able to force out a few notes, but mostly I mouthed the words as tears once again tried to spill over as I choked them back.  The huge lump in my throat would not allow for both singing and keeping my grief contained.
At some point, we realized we should call Rob's parents, and they were on their way in as soon as we told them. In the meantime, we continued to keep watch over our precious boy, waiting for the inevitable to happen.  I watched his back move up and down with each breath he took.  There would be a pause, and I wondered if that was it, but then another breath would come.  Up and down, up and down, pause, up and down, pause, pause, pause, up and down.  I wondered what Matthew was aware of.  What did he feel as he was getting ready to depart this life?  Were there angels hovering around the room, unseen by us, but waiting expectantly to take Matthew to his forever home?  I wondered.
I maintained my watchfulness over him, monitoring each breath. Suddenly he inhaled deeply, and then I audibly heard the breath leave his body.  I knew that was it.  I knew his battle was over.  I had just heard his spirit leave his earthly body.  I turned toward the others and said, "I think he's gone", to which everyone moved in to see, looking to confirm the words I had just spoken.  As we gazed at him, it was obvious the life inside of him was no longer there.  He was still; just a shell remained, and the sweet spirited little boy I loved was gone.  A prayer was lifted up.  Nothing more could be done.  The battle was over. 

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