I am part of a strong, loving family. We live all over the place (though currently all in the US). We are fortunate to have a place we can all call “home”, even if we don’t, nor ever have, lived there ourselves. It’s a small town in upstate New York.
Last year was a traumatic one for my extended family. It all began on the morning of February 27. My cousin’s husband called out that something was wrong and then collapsed. 911 was called and he was rushed to the hospital. It was found that he had had a combination of strokes and aneurisms. These left him awake, yet paralyzed. The official diagnosis is “Locked in Syndrome”. He was 51-52 years old.
My mom’s youngest cousin happened to live in the same town, so she and her husband rushed to the hospital to be of comfort to my cousin. While in the waiting room with her, this cousin, once removed, receives the devastating news that her older sister has just died, unexpectedly.
10 days later, my brother in law attempts to call my sister, who is working a night shift at the hospital where she is an RN. Because of hospital policy, her phone is turned off. He isn’t feeling well. He phones his mother who lives states away. In the middle of their conversation, the line goes quiet. He has just died. My sister and nieces are, as are we all, completely caught off guard. The autopsy later shows a never before diagnosed problem with his heart. It literally just stopped beating in mid-beat. He was 51-52 years old. This is early in March.
Jumping ahead to late June, I find myself driving to an overnight stay near a conference I must attend the next day. I am looking forward to this drive, because I know that as soon as the meetings are over, the next day, I will continue on to drive to that little town in upstate NY, we call home.
While driving on the FL turnpike, I receive a call from my mother. I joyfully answer it. My mother lets me know that one of my dear cousins has just dropped dead. He had been sick all week; had gone to the doctor’s and hospital emergency room several times, only to be told that he had a stomach virus and sent home to drink liquids. He collapsed at home and they never were able to resuscitate him. This was June 27th. Exactly 4 months after the first family tragedy.
A few days later, we held his funeral. Many attended. The graveside service was so ludicrous with the torrential rains and hail, that we couldn’t help but blame it as a final practical joke from him. He was 51-52 years old.
His birthday would have been a few days after the day of his funeral. On that day, my father receives the news that one of his especially close cousins has died of a heart attack. This cousin of my dad’s was at my cousins funeral just days previously.
You see, 2014 is a year we, as a family, will always remember as a year of trial and sadness. Yet, there were triumphs in that year, as well. My cousin’s husband was told he would not survive 4 months. It’s been 11 months. He was told that he would never be able to move voluntarily again. That he would need to breath with assistance. That he would never be able to do something as simple as swallow, again.
It has been a long battle. A battle against an uncaring and inflexible insurance company. A battle against his own body. But, he soon was breathing on his own; able to swallow. Little by little he is moving, ever so slightly, his appendages. Just this week he has begun to move his arm against gravity ie. Swing it up from a down position. He can move hands, feet, arms and legs. He speaks through a computer pad, spelling words with his eyes. He can manipulate and direct a specialized wheelchair with his slight head movements. The battle isn’t over, but, he won’t give up. And neither will we.
Another joy, is that he and my cousin have become new grandparents in the past couple months.
I can’t speak for each family member, as to how they have been able to cope with such great lose, this year. As for myself, and many others, it is our love and faith in God. A God who calls us to come to Him when we are weary and heavy laden. He promises to give us rest, and follows through with it. (Matthew 11:28)
God also promises that we will seek Him and find Him, when we seek Him with all our heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
One example of coping with such great pain comes from my Aunt. She has lost her oldest son and watched her oldest daughter wear herself thin with all the battles she and her husband have fought this year. She also lost her own cousin and has been solace to her husband who has lost a cousin of his own. How did she manage to make it through this past Christmas season? Besides placing dependence solely in God, she has used her gift of sewing and, using my cousin’s shirts, made teddy bears for each member of her family. (I counted 14 in the picture.)
Why did I write all this? Because if I can help just one person know that there is a future waiting them. No matter what you are going through, right now, there is hope and a future for you. Even you.