Anniversary Syndrome

It's been creeping up for several months. But the past few weeks have been even worse. Suddenly in a single moment it all comes crashing back. The smell. The trees and presents. And once the cold air hits my face I am brought back to that wintery night last December. It's freezing, but I barely notice. I think I am numb. But I can feel that my heart is racing. I think to myself "this can't be happening".

We've done this dance before. Many times actually. The phone rings. It's late. It can only mean one thing. I grab Shawn's coat and keys for him while he jumps into his shoes and then he's out the door. He flies down the street to his parents while I make arrangements for the kids and follow right behind. We rush to his side. Ambulances come, maybe a few days or weeks in the hospital and then he's home again. It's how it always goes. It's the dance we do. And it always begins with a the phone ringing at some unexpected hour.

But this time it was different. It was Christmas Eve.

And everything about it felt different. The urgency in my mother-in-laws voice spoke volumes. "TELL SHAWN TO GET HERE". That's all she said and the phone went silent. I knew this time was not like the others. I raced to a neighbors and started frantically banging on their door. And within minutes I too was racing down the street.

By the time I arrived, Shawn was out of breath from doing CPR and was sitting on the floor hugging his knees. It was a furry of activity. Firemen, EMTs. Chris's dad had heard the call and dispatched all available units. Betty was so shaken she couldn't even stand. This was definitely different. So I went outside and paced. Waiting for Amy and Kristine, I tried to make sense of all of this. This could not be happening. NOT on Christmas. WHAT would we tell our children? The thought was unconscionable.

The rest seemed to happen in slow motions. Walking into the hospital. The looks of sympathy. Being escorted into a "private" waiting room. The waiting room you know is set aside for grieving families, now our family. And then being in the trauma room. The only room big enough for the whole family to come into and say our goodbyes in.

It was around midnight when we stood around his bed. Trying to understand why this time was different from all the rest. Hoping we'd all wake up from this terrible dream. We hugged, we cried and we wished one another a solemn Merry Chrsitmas.

Hours later, we were be back home again. And the kids soon to wake. We would play this charade Christmas Day. Pretending that nothing had changed, when in reality everything had. But the kids deserved to enjoy some type of Christmas before we broke the news.

When talking to Alex later that night she was sad, but still didn't seem to really get it. Then all of the sudden her expression changed and she had the biggest most excited smile. She said "Mom, Christmas is Jesus's Birthday. And Grandpa's with Him now. That means Grandpa gets to celebrate Jesus's birthday WITH him!" She thought that was pretty awesome.

The wisdom of a five year old!


Unknown said...

Hugs and prayers going your way. I cannot even imagine all that it brings up for your family this year.


Jodie said...

I am amazed at the wisdom of little children. And Alex was right. What an incredible gift. I have been thinking of all of you this week, especially Betty. I pray Christmas is happy for all of you.

wsweden said...

You have such a way with words... it is no wonder Alex has the same gift. She knew the right words to bring you some comfort.

Your family will be in my thoughts as you remember those not with you this holiday.

Paulette said...

I am so sorry-- we too lost our little boy in the days before Christmas... having the bigger kids and their amazing wisdom to be able to relate in such an incredible way and their need for normalcy was probably the only thing that helped us though. Although the pain never goes away, time does heal and getting through the first anniversary is the hardest. My continued thoughts and prayers for your family during this very difficult time.

Jen said...

Hugs! No words...

Deb said...

Kids know just what to say at the right time. They are truly a blessing from God in our times of need.
So sorry the holidays bring these memories back so real. I pray with years they become a bit easier to handle. Although I know it never goes away.

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