Wake Up Call

The sound of the phone ringing barely roused me from my sleep at four thirty in the morning. “Hello?” I said, drowsily, hesitantly.

Hearing my sister say just one word, my name, with an edge of panic in her voice, had me wide awake instantly. “Di,” she repeated, and continued, panic rising, “I think Kenny is dead. I called 911.”

At first I had some hope. I kept as calm as possible. I told her to stay on the line with me while she waited for the ambulance. Her fears, her reality, continued to spill out. “He didn’t turn off his alarm. He wasn’t moving. I touched his face. He was cold.”

“I’m sorry, so sorry. Keep talking. Don’t hang up.” Wanting not to believe the unbelievable, that my sister’s husband was dead, suddenly, unexpectedly, at only 54 years old, I tried to offer comfort, to assure my sister someone was with her.

“They tried to tell me how to do CPR. But it’s too late. He’s cold. He is so cold.
Wait…I have to go let them in. The ambulance is here.”

“Don’t hang…” Click.

Shaken, and shaking, I dial my brother. No answer. Probably his cell phone is not loud enough to wake him. I dial my other brother. He answers, groggy as I had been earlier. I deliver the dreadful message. “Stay there,” he says, “I’ll come take you out to Sue’s in my truck.” This, at least, is welcome news. I won’t have to go alone, and I won’t have to try to drive on the icy roads.

I redial my brother. This time he answers. Again, I force out the words I wish I did not have to say. My brother and his wife agree to go to my mother’s house to be with her, to tell her the sad news.

My brothers’ compassion, I know, without words being spoken, is for my sister, but for me, too. They know I am remembering another day, when my husband died too young. Their love surrounds me, strengthening me so I can be there for my sister.

My sister calls back. She, too, had a brief moment of hope. The EMTs had gone in ahead of her. When she walked into the bedroom, she saw Kenny’s head lifted up off the bed. In the split second before her mind registered the fact that the EMTs were moving him to the stretcher, she thought, “Oh, thank God, I was wrong.”

But now there is absolutely no doubt. The EMTs want to know where to transport the body. We talk about it briefly, and my sister makes a decision. I tell her about the conversations with our brothers. I say over and over, “I’m on my way. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Hurry!” she says. Then, “No, just be careful!” We both wish that the distance between our two houses was much shorter, the day already lighter, the roads much clearer.

She talks, and I listen. Pain and sorrow are in every word. The words hurt, but even so, the healing begins with the words. In telling the story over and over. Minutes pass like hours.

Sue’s friend, who lives close by, arrives. I reluctantly get off the phone and start throwing some things together so I can stay at my sister’s. Finally, my brother comes, and we head out to my sister’s house. During the drive, I talk, and he listens.

We arrive. I rush in. My sister and I fall into each other’s arms. For now, no more words…just tears.

The call came. It woke us up.

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19 Responses to Wake Up Call

  1. I am so sad for you and your family. Nothing prepares us for this kind of tragedy. Your writing is beautiful and I’m sure it was difficult to write. I will be keeping you all in my prayers.

  2. Peg D says:

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I can not imagine the pain and sorrow you all must be going through. Beautifully written. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  3. chrisleish says:

    I am so sorry for your sister and your family. My husband has apnea and this is one of my greatest fears.I appreciate your sharing the experience so beautifully and honestly. Keep remembering=keep writing.

  4. Donna Smith says:

    I just cannot imagine.
    I’m so sorry for your sister’s loss, the family’s loss, and the painful reminder of your own personal loss. A prayer and tears for you today.

  5. arjeha says:

    Please accept my condolences. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. I remember how I felt when I got the call from my sister that her husband had died at the age of 50 after being out for a run. Nothing prepares us,

  6. I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I hope that writing and sharing will help bring you peace and omfrot in the days ahead.

  7. Jaana says:

    So sorry to read this, but at the same time grateful for your family’s support at this time. I remember how it felt to lose the person you thought would be with you for years to come. So glad you are there for your sister. Praying for you both.

  8. Kim K says:

    My heart hurts for all of you. Those phone calls- somehow we bolster up enough strength to steer through the aftermath of them. I’m thankful you have support and people to think of you as well. Be there for each other. Thinking of you and yours.

  9. I am so sorry. Praying for your sister and you as you remember your own loss. Thank you taking the time to write your story.

  10. Terje says:

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. Words spoken to you might not lessen the pain really, but I hope that the act of writing your words helped you a bit. Your words carried the sadness but at the same time showed the care of the family. My aunt died recently, and our family has still hard time believing it. I know it is not our place to question, but some things are hard to comprehend. Tears don’t stop easily.

  11. glimpse of something says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your family’s loss. Reading your story makes me realize how important it is to tell our loved ones how much we care and love them. We never know how long we have with our family and friends.

  12. Tara Smith says:

    I am so sorry for your family’s loss. In your grief, you have each other, and the love and compassion you will need to sustain you. In that, you are lucky.

  13. Oh, sad, the tears. I will pray for your whole family and that you can surround your sister in love. You will understand as she grieves, without words even spoken. I am so sorry. xo

  14. Linda Baie says:

    I’m so sorry for your sister’s, and the reminder of your, loss. There’s never a good time, never enough time to be ready. You are all blessed to be close together, to sit and be with each other. Sending prayers for you and the family.

  15. elsie says:

    Your family reaches out to comfort one another in this time of sorrow. You have strength to support your sister. You are in many prayers today. I hope this give you strength. I am so sorry.

  16. JenniferM says:

    Oh, how heartbreaking! I’m so sorry for your losses. Your description shows the closeness of your family though, and that is beautiful.

  17. Leigh Anne says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Words just don’t seem appropriate so I will just send prayers.

  18. So sorry to hear of your loss. This is heartbreaking — to lose yet another family member too young. Your family is strong and you’ll all be there for your sister just like they were there for you when your husband passed on too soon. But still… I wish you didn’t have to go through this all over again.

  19. I am so sorry for your family’s loss, and for the continuing memories of your earlier sadness. You will be in my prayers. I am thankful for the closeness that your family shares, and thankful that you chose to share this. “The words hurt, but even so, the healing begins with the words. In telling the story over and over.”

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