It’s now Day 14 without him.
Grief comes like waves in an unpredictable tide. It washes over me with all the rage and destruction of the vast ocean. I scream and cry and gasp for the air I know is right above the surface. I know it’s there but my despair is too heavy and anchors me to the bottom of the sea.
But then suddenly, with no warning, I’m breathing again. Sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours, and maybe even for those first few days while I was still in shock. I inhale huge gulps of air and somehow keep going. But then the waves hit again and I’m crashing back onto my knees, unable to even see the surface, much less reach it.
Fourteen days ago Vance called me as he was leaving work early. He hadn’t felt well all day and wanted me to stay on the phone with him while he drove home. Neither of us knew he was having an escalating heart attack and that it would be our final conversation. He died while we were on the phone. I didn’t even know. I thought he’d pulled over to be sick. I hung up. He never answered when I called back a few minutes later.
The next time I saw him he was in the ER, dying. There were tubes and machines and people doing their damndest to save him. His eyes, his beautiful blue eyes, were open, but he was gone.
At one point, I was told that I needed to make the decision to keep going or to stop CPR. I couldn’t do that alone asked that they bring in one of my parents. As soon as I was left alone, I turned around, collapsed to the floor and screamed like I never have before. It was more a wail than a scream. It sounds hyper-dramatic, but it really was like in the movies. I lost all strength to stand. My life was across the hall and it was ending. My kids were in the waiting room, not knowing if they would ever see their daddy alive again. They wouldn’t. Two hours after my phone rang, they pronounced him dead at the hospital.
When the doctor came in to tell us, I slid down the wall. For only the second time in my life but the second time in that hour, I was unable to stand under the weight of my grief. I couldn’t even hold my kids. I could only cry that ugly, teeth chattering, rocking back and forth cry that has become all too familiar over these last days.
Our family and our friends filled the hospital waiting room, mourning with us and lifting prayers on our behalf. I couldn’t pray for days. Honestly, I still can’t. I can only whisper the name of Jesus over and over. Rich Mullin’s “Hold Me Jesus” is on repeat. It’s all I have. All I can hold onto. It will be enough, I know that. But from the bottom of the ocean, it sure feels like drowning right now.