May 27, 2013

One Year. May 27th.

One year ago yesterday I went to work.  I called them ahead of time to give them a heads up I might need to leave, should I get a call from my mom.  If I got the call, the call, I would know it was serious.  Serious enough to go.  A couple hours in I thought I was in the clear.  Then the phone rang.

I remember what I was wearing.  A black tank top, black blazer, black tights, black flat slip on shoes and a stretchy pink skirt.  I had a gold owl necklace and my long red hair was in curls, parted down the middle.

What was unusual was the winter parka.  My biggest and warmest, and needed this May 26th.  I ran to my car, or tried.  The weather made it hard.  The wind.  The gloom.  Was it raining? And the slipping.  Slipping all down a sidewalk the length of one long city block.  Berries had fallen off the trees overhead and it was so slippery.  I shuffled and slipped and surprisingly didn't fall the whole way to the parking garage.

I think the sun was out at times during my drive on the freeway.  I kept talking to him, out loud even, telling him to hang on.

What I remember most is the sound of his breathing.  Labored and loud and unlike anything I'd ever heard.  I remember the circle of family around his bed.  It was strong and safe and sacred unlike anything I'd ever felt.  The wind was getting louder.  The universe was howling and orchestrating for our story.  It was crying for us.  It was taking him.

"Seven Spanish Angels" was played over and over.  I don't know if I will ever listen to that song again.  When my family began to tell him to "Go to God" I don't know if it was the fact they were releasing him, or the thought of not knowing what was meant by talk of this God that bothered me more.

I slept, the wind screamed, and the circle around him was the eye of the storm.  I've never felt so solid as in that space and so aware of the elements out of control around us.  We would not budge.

I went home.  I woke up in peace the morning of May 27th, in sunshine, the earth had stopped spinning wildly and it was silent.  Purple pajama pants.  A flannel shirt.  My hair was still long, still in curls.  I was on my way back.  Back to the same, I was sure.  But this time it was different.  I would never go back to the same.  What had been was no more, and just like that, it was over.

I'm stopping here for now, as I've exhausted this story for one year.  One year today.  I don't know what I expected to feel, what I should feel, or even how I feel.  I am here, you are here, he is not.  It feels like yesterday.  It feels like this morning.  Yet a lifetime passed me, taught me, broke me, and healed me in this year.  The year of firsts.

The year of firsts is now complete.

Maybe that's all there is to say today.

May 1, 2013

Thumbs Up

This is the month.  On the 27th it will be the one year mark.  One year since Chuck left.  There's one story I've had and haven't been able to share.  I've wanted to, I just couldn't write it.  I wanted it documented and out in the word but could never find my own words to tell it.  So, I asked my mom.  It took her awhile to be able to do it, but over the weekend, she did.  Here is a very special story in her beautiful words.  May is definitely going to be about honoring our Chuck.

Thumbs Up

I want to share with you a small moment in my family’s life, that made a huge impact! Maybe I should say a moment between my daughter and my brother.  My handsome, humorous, brother Chuck, left us last May. So here we are at almost a year, still contending with shooting pains in our hearts.

What a unique guy my brother was, and I mean that in a most loving way.  Chuck was the prankster of the family, how he came up with some of the jokes he pulled on us is still a mystery.  We were his personal guinea pigs! This teasing also extended to his nieces and nephews.

I’ve told Deena she takes after her uncle Chuck that way.  The have the same humor, and they shared an invisible, mighty bond. 

Chuck was so proud of Deena, from the day she was born, until his last minutes on this earth.

As I ride that hideous roller coaster of sadness, certain memories linger.  One of my favorites happened while he was in the hospital for the last time.

Chuck was rushed by ambulance to the emergency on May 10th, 2012.  He would be in the hospital for the next two weeks, all but one of those days in the ICU.  There the medical staff hovered over him and did their difficult jobs, and there were many.

Now my Chuck, this bigger than life guy, was on the brink of death.  He lay in his hospital bed, intubated and unconscious.  He was our sleeping giant.  This was a hard part for my family, we hugged and cried and dealt with our crumbling hearts. 

I existed in my stupor, wearing boots made of lead, seeing through gray lenses, and carrying an internal ball of fear.

That was how I functioned last May. 

Around the fourth or fifth day, the doctors decided it was time to wean him off his medications.  This would help determine how sick he really was.  This is the time the silent worry began, if he did wake up, would he be our same Chuck? Had he been oxygen deprived?

The nurses encouraged us to talk to Chuck and touch him during this time.  He began to turn his head toward the sounds of voices.  Or any loud noise.  He became restless, letting a leg hang off his bed.  But we needed more! Please Chuck, just open your eyes! Please give us a sign!

This process lasted maybe two days, it felt like years. 

Deena was on her way to the hospital when I suddenly had this feeling or premonition.  There was going to be a connection between Deena and Chuck! I JUST KNEW! Deena knew it too, she felt it as she walked down the hospital corridor. 

Deena walked into the room, stood at the foot of his bed, and said, “Hi Chuck”.  He raised his arm in the air and gave a big Thumbs Up! Oh my god! Did he just give us our sign?! He had reacted to her after all! I KNEW IT! That darn thumb caused so much emotion and elation at the same time!

Deena and Chuck were truly connected!

My mom burst out crying, which caused a slight domino effect.  But they were tears of joy!

Later mom would say it reminded her of a fairy tale, when the Prince awakens the Princess.  In our case, it was the niece, that woke her uncle!

I can only tell you, that in my minds eye, I relive this miracle moment, over and over. 

And so, to my daughter and big brother, I give you both, a Thumbs Up!

- Lauren Manzanares 
April, 2013