The following post was written by my husband, Michael, in the wake of our recent loss. His mother, Mary, was on a run with friends on 19 September 2015 when she suddenly dropped to the ground, losing consciousness. She was without oxygen for a half hour before her pulse was restored. Mary was on a ventilator for several days before doctors told us that the damage to her brain was too extensive for survival. The painful decision to remove her from the ventilator was made last Thursday, and she passed away a few hours later. The days we spent in the hospital, at home, between awake and asleep inspired my husband's words. They are incredibly moving, and I wanted to share them through my personal blog.
I was wrong.
I was wrong.
For as long as I can remember I’ve tried to avoid difficult, emotionally charged situations. I typically don’t enjoy conflict, and I especially shy away from any scenario where bad news is assured.
Being logical, my excuse for not “showing up” was simple. In tragic situations, no words have any effect on the outcome, and I certainly wouldn’t be saying anything that countless others hadn’t already said. The entire ritual of consoling the distraught and broken-hearted seemed like an enormous waste of time and energy. One person expresses sympathy and offers support, and the other expresses gratitude for that sympathy and support, all while the issue at hand remains unchanged.
My mother, always the educator, opened my eyes during this horrible experience. In losing her I realized just how important it is to offer support, sympathy, and condolences to the suffering. Admittedly, the words themselves do little to ease the pain. They sound hollow against the reality of what we’re facing. But as a good friend said at some point during this ordeal: “You don’t remember the words, but you do remember the faces.”
The faces. The people who sacrificed their time, donated food, even clothing and shelter, in an honest effort to ease the burden of losing someone irreplaceable. I won’t forget the overwhelming outpouring of support from so many. None of them had to “show up,” but compassion and courage led them to do something when nothing could be done. Courage especially, because their actions made me realize that my inaction in similar situations was not a logical consequence; it was cowardice.
From this single epiphany I could theorize about the natural interdependence of humans, the true measure of a successful life, etc. I mean, did you ever watch the climactic scene in Toy Story 3 (yes, I have a kid) and wonder why the toys were all holding hands in the face of certain doom? Probably not, because when all else is lost and the only variable you can control is whether or not to connect with loved ones, you choose to connect. Every. Single. Time. But those theories are outside of the scope of this little collection of thoughts.
For those whom I have failed, please accept this apology. I should have been there to offer my support and try to ease your burden. I chose to avoid the heartache you were experiencing, and I chose poorly. To those who have been there for me, please know that you are loved and appreciated. My communication may be sporadic at best, but I am keenly aware that I have far better friends than I deserve. Your support and kind words will not be forgotten, and for your thoughts, your prayers, and your vegetable soup, I am eternally grateful.