Day Zero

March 11, 2010

Not long after Dr Bringardner told me that they had done all they could, I went back into the room. Her body, covered in a faded green operation cloth, blood-both dried and fresh left trails on her lifeless exposed flesh. Her body had been bloated for days now. The sounds of the oxygenator had ceased- this machine that filled the room and hallway with sounds of a train at full speed-it pumped pure oxygen into her lungs multiple times a second. When I go back, I still hear the sound of that machine that made her chest rise and fall rapidly for more than 24 hours- only one in a team of machines that kept her body alive since her heart first stopped 2 days before. Her body was already cold, not from death but from the doctors lowering her body temperature to prevent brain damage, the day before. I remember her eyes, closed but just looking like they were going to pop open from the swelling. The dialysis machine had been removed to allow room for the final attempt at saving her.

I knelt down beside her and told her to haunt me, it seems so silly now, but it made perfect sense at the time. I held her hand and just cried, making promises to be the best father I could, asking for her help and guidance. Not many days later, I would write “Ember”

-I just watched your fire go out-I screamed your name but there was no more flame-And I cried while you looked down-I just soaked your hand with tears of a lonely man-I just want to feel your ember-Burn my skin and bake my bones-I just want to feel your ember-Cause I’m cold and alone-I wore your love just like a badge-A shining star, it burnt my heart-And your love shown like a flame-Now, I’m on my knees for all to see-I just want to feel your ember-burn my skin and bake my bones-I just want to feel your ember-Burn my eyes and take me home-I just watched your fire go out-I screamed your name but there was no more flame.

After I left her room, I knew I had to face a crowd of people waiting, wanting to offer their genuine condolences, say that they love me and support me. But, how could I face anyone? One of the most vivid memories was in the immediate family room. Carla’s family was there but I asked everyone to leave except Josh and I asked someone to go get Seth. We sat there, us three. I asked, “What am I supposed to do now?” Its kinda funny when I think about the position I put them in. I remember that I broke the silence with that question and we all broke into tears. What could they have possible said? I respect both of these men, what they represent and who they are. I am glad that they were there for me. I told them that I didn’t want to stay at my house or go out and talk to people. “What am I going to do with Linen?” “I am going to have to quit my job!” “Where am I going to live?” It was so strange asking for advice when I don’t take advice from anyone. That’s so me to want to have all the answers and have everything figured out and in a system as quickly as possible- how foolish I was.

I did go out and face the crowd, although I don’t remember much about it. I remember this really cool fruit flower bouquet thing that one of my bosses brought to the waiting room. Linen had just started walking so she wanted to explore everything. I took her and we got into the elevator and went exploring- This gave me an opportunity to escape. She ran and played and pointed and jabbered and I watched and cried when she wasn’t looking. Still thinking, “How can I go on?” “Why, God, do you want me to raise Linen alone?” I am glad that Linen was there, though. I am glad that she was only 18 months and not four or twelve. After we got back upstairs, I just wanted to leave. I had been wearing the same clothes for almost 4 days. I had been holding, in my hand, the shirt that Carla wore to the first hospital. I heard people laughing and telling stories.” How could they be laughing about anything?” I now believe that I should have been laughing and sharing stories, but then it just made me mad and confused.

I remember the huge lobby of CMC and walking through those glass doors. It was dark outside and I was numb. It felt like Carla was just going to be on vacation or something and that I would see her in a few days, even though I knew that wasn’t true. We headed to our house so that I could get some clothes. I remember getting there and walking into our bedroom and just collapsing on the bed, balling-the reality that I would never hold her again. I would never hear her voice, never see her hold Linen. Our beautiful marriage was over. I would be married to collections of memories for the next year, but that night I had no idea the weight and tears and anger the following days would bring. After, peeling myself off the bed, we made the trip back to Charlotte to Cliff and Stephanie’s house. For the first time in 8 years, I felt completely alone. I remember getting into the shower, replaying the memories of the week, continually shaking my head like it wasn’t real. “How can this be?” Like a nervous tick, I couldn’t stop taking deep breathes and that went on for months. When I finally lay down, I cried myself to sleep. Day zero would end with tears, disbelief and a sense of being completely lost.

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