I am raw, grief stricken, and barely functional right now. Please bear with disjointed thoughts and truly awful [worse than usual] grammar. I need to get this out before I have to step back into the everyday. I needed to share the story before the details become muddled by time.
Thursday morning I was enjoying a cup of coffee in those few precious moments I have before I had to get my children up and ready for our ridiculously over-packed weekday routine.
I had left my phone in my room by my bed, but saw a message from my mother on Facebook Messenger: “CALL CALL CALL NOW NOW”
My heart dropped, it was 5:15am.
I learned that my sister shot herself and that she was being taken to the hospital that she wasn’t going to make it.
Save this number in your phone. Use it when you or somebody needs it. National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255. (800-273-TALK)
— Heather Solos (@HeatherSolos) August 23, 2013
I prayed she would hang on until I could get there.
She did. Wonderful friends welcomed me into their home. I cannot begin to express my gratitude.
At the hospital we sobbed. We waited. We watched as tubes were attached and detached. Bandages changed. Medications adjusted.
There is no hope we were told. Well wishers from around the world offered prayers, shoulders, and ears to hear. Family gathered.
Tears were shed. Old grudges dropped. Hands were held.
Wait they said, there is no hope they said, wait through the weekend they said.
Time slowed. There was talking and sobbing and a profound silence marked only with the hiss of the respirator.
I was reminded of my astronomy courses: Time slows in close proximity to a gravitational field. Time also slows in the face of grief.
We faced Schrodinger’s cat and became Billy Pilgrim:
All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.
I was only at that hospital for 5 days, but lifetimes were lived. People don’t age overnight, they age as they wait for news, they age as they struggle with choices. I am a thousand years older than I was on Thursday morning at 5:14am.
The weekend passed and second opinions were given. There was no hope. Bullets are not the same as blunt force trauma. Bullets shred, break apart, and destroy tissue that will not recover. They rip apart neural pathways that define your perception, your very existence.
They sometimes leave other parts untouched, leaving questions to answer that I hope no one needs to consider in that mindset.
Choosing to be an organ donor gives you the chance to give life to those who may not otherwise have a chance.
If you choose to be an organ donor, your responsibility does not end with the check of that box. You need to make your wishes known. Not every traumatic death results in brain death. In those cases it is cut and dry. Were they an organ donor? Yes. The team is organized, forms are filled out, goodbyes are said, and the chances for others are given.
When a loved one will not survive, but is not brain dead, the decisions get harder.
Did you know that from cessation of life support that cardiac death must happen in less than sixty minutes for organs to be viable?
Did you know that all of the matches must be lined up before the decision to remove life support can be carried out? (did you know it is REALLY FREAKING HARD to not accidentally use a morbid turn of phrase right now)
Did you know that in that time, there is a family blinded by grief being told to decide, now wait, now decide, she’s eligible, she’s not eligible, now wait. They want to do the right thing, to make good come from a horrible tragedy, to give a gift so others won’t be in a hospital room sobbing as their own loved one slips away. But that decision can be excruciating when drug out over time.
Be aware that if you check that box, you need to also have a living will that defines your quality of life expectations. What exactly would you define as unbearable? Don’t assume your family knows. We know what Laura wanted, but in that moment where other people were asking our decision we kept asking, were we making the right choice? Were we absolutely sure that this is what was the right thing.
And so we would decide and then there would be another hurdle another decision, a chance for a little misinformation and a little hope and a lot of confusion.
In the end, after it was confirmed that we would not make it through that misleadingly tiny window of time, I felt like a monster saying, “Please send in the respiratory therapist, we cannot bear this any longer.”
And we said goodbye. And we spent three hours dropping old hurts and embracing one another in this hurt that overshadowed them all. And being my strong, stubborn little sister, she took her time.
We laughed that she took forever to get ready to go anywhere, why should this be different. We sobbed when we thought the fight was over for her, but she had one last gift to give. Her oxygen saturation dropped to zero, we cried, we prayed and braced ourselves and then we began to tell stories of her as a child. Memories, funny, sweet, and sad poured forth as her heart continued to beat.
The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever.
When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad condition in the particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is “So it goes.” ~Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse Five
Peace settled over the room.
And for another two hours, we just were, as she drifted peacefully away.
There are many more tears to shed. There are details to attend to and grief to be felt.
While I work on those things, take a moment to meet my baby sister, and please spare your family this pain by having the difficult conversations in the light of day. Choose to give life. Laura is a tissue donor and hopefully many people will live fuller lives through her generosity. She would like that.
Peace be with you.