(I’m not sure what sort of “content warning” to preface this with, other than it’s about death and dying.)
When Shawn’s pulse spiked and I called 911, my immediate internal reaction was, “Don’t you f’ing dare.” So many wonderful things had been blossoming in our lives that the idea of it being yanked from us was too unfair.
The EMTs took his vitals and suggested they take him to the hospital to run some tests. I walked across the road to the neighbors to let them know what was happening, went into the house to get my purse, and by the time I got in the truck, the ambulance had already left.
On the drive over, I thought about my “don’t you dare” reaction and realized that it wasn’t my choice. What if this is actually “it” and Shawn didn’t survive? Who would I need to be to deal with it, both for myself and the kids? I found my fear dissipate, becoming more present in each moment.
When I arrived at the hospital, the ambulance hadn’t arrived yet. I was surprised, wondering if it were a good sign that they weren’t in a hurry. Some 15–20 minutes later, the ambulance drove up. One of the EMTs cautioned that they’d been doing CPR on him, and I might want to look the other way as they brought him in. This was my first indication that something was wrong, but I thought the EMT meant that they had been performing CPR, that Shawn had been stabilized. I took care of the insurance stuff with the clerk and asked when I’d been allowed to see him.
I thought they were getting him set up in a room so they could run those tests.
When I was finally invited back, they were still trying to revive him. One look, and I knew he was gone. I found out later that his heart attack had hit almost as soon as he got into the ambulance. By the time I’d started considering the possibility that “this may be It,” he was already dead.
But because I had accepted the possibility, I wasn’t blindsided. I was filled with love and gratitude beyond measure. I called the neighbors and friends to bring the kids. I knew who to call and how to tell them. I wrote a heartfelt thank you note to the hospital staff for all they’d done to try to bring him back. After the kids were taken home, I stayed with Shawn’s body, waiting for the coroner. I sat beside the bed, holding his hand, and I wept, asking him to help me help the kids the way he’d wanted to. Throughout it all, I felt filled to overflowing with grace.
Last week, our kitten swallowed something bad. She was vomiting fluid, alert but not active, and perhaps most worrisome, she wasn’t purring. When I was finally able to get her in to see the vet, they took x-rays and confirmed that there was something going on.
[NOTE/fast-forward: Kitty is doing well and curled up sleeping on my chest as I type this.]
I took her to a 24-hour emergency pet hospital down the hill, then went to Grandma’s house to wait for the doctor to review the x-rays and come up with a treatment plan. After a few hours, I realized I hadn’t heard anything, so I called them to check on my kitty’s status.
The person who answered asked to put me on hold while they checked.
Time passed: two minutes… three… four….
(“I’ll meet you at the hospital”)
Curled in on myself, wracked with sobs that ripped themselves out of my chest. I was on hold long enough that the wave had more or less passed through me before the receptionist came back on the line to say that kitty’s vitals were good and they were still waiting on the doctor.
The thing is: both my initial response of serenity and love and this later sledgehammer of grief were 100% authentic in each moment. Being human involves being complex and contradictory, glorious and messy. It is what it is — and I am grateful for once again purring kitten.