Posted by: 1of10boyz | August 31, 2014

It is a Sunday night, the last night that my life was “normal”


I remember some things from that moment in my life like it was yesterday and others I don’t remember anything. This night and the following hours are a hodgepodge of mostly disconnected memories and moments. The moments are mostly painful and have not gotten better or less painful with the passing of years. It has been nearly 36 years since my Mother died and the shock still blocks many of the memories. I have almost lived without her longer than she lived.

I remember that “tomorrow” is an important day for me, it is the beginning of basketball season and I have been looking forward to this day since the beginning of summer. I spent time with a basketball that summer; I was on the court and in the gym regularly that year. I had a successful experience at a summer camp at Brigham Young University, the team I participated on won our age group and I was given individual awards. This was going to be a great year, my Freshman year in High School. I had already earned a starting position on the football team and had every intention of doing the same on the basketball team.

I remember that I was lying on my parents’ bed after dinner and the chores were done. My head hung over the edge of the bed as I talked with my Mother as the family was getting ready for bed. I don’t remember the words that I said or that she said for that matter. I know we talked about basketball and school things that must have seemed important to a 15 year old boy. But, I don’t remember much that would give me any detail about what would prove to be the very last time that I would be able to hear her voice. I am certain that if I had known it was the last time I would ever speak to hear I would have certainly talked of other things. Things that today I am much more aware of, advice that I would need as I grew, searched for a wife, raised a family, chose an occupation, things that I will never really know how she felt or the advice she would give. But, those there are things that a 15 year old boy will never consider or really know or understand; it is those things would have never have crossed my mind. Those are many of the things that I have wished that I had talked with her about over the past 36 years.

I remember waking to my grandmother’s voice in the morning telling me I needed to get up and take care of the cows because Dad was in Salt Lake City, UT with my Mom. I am sure that I wondered aloud, why and I am sure that she said something about Mom and something about having a problem with the baby. I think I probably wondered for an instant why they just didn’t do that in Afton, WY like the last two but never likely considered anything like that beyond a fleeting thought. I know that my brother Allen and I did the chores and milked the cows just like we would have if Dad had been there. We knew what to do and were more than just the help, we had often been required to do this in the evenings when Dad was delayed from returning from work. We knew that if he wasn’t home by a certain time we had to get started; he would come and help us finish as soon as he got home from work. I am sure my young mind didn’t recognize the magnitude of the problem that had just happened in my life. My mother had had 6 kids to that point, and this was going to be the 7th. I had never really known anyone who’s Mother had died. I had been old enough to remember the births of at least 2 of my brothers and can even scrape together some likely image or memory of a third. So why would I even think that the 7th son was going to be a problem? There was nothing to cause me concern because I couldn’t know or likely even accept that my life at that moment had changed forever.

I don’t remember anything about that day in school; nothing, a complete blank. I wonder if I was just a little more lost in thought or did I still believe that my life was normal and things were going to continue as they had? I wonder what was going through my young mind as I went through the day. I hope that I was at least a little concerned about what was happening with my Mother and new baby brother, but honestly I cannot say that I had any thought about it. I don’t know if anyone asked about her. It is a pretty small place where I grew up; some of my teachers knew my parents when they were classmates together and in some cases were even their teachers. I am sure that most of them knew that something was wrong. It is a well-known fact that people in town and our parents knew what happened or what we did often before we did it. The communication system was as strong as The Force in Star Wars in our little group of communities.

I remember standing in the west end of the gym in a line doing drills and looking up as my aunt ran into the gym from the east end. I knew at that instant that life was no longer normal. I don’t remember much of the next few minutes, I am sure that I didn’t pass out, I was conscious the whole time. I don’t know if she went over to the coaches or if she came right over to me. I don’t know how I was told or even who told me. I don’t know if they whispered in my ear, or called me from the group to talk, or if it was blurted out before God and everyone. I know that I asked about my brother and was told that he too had died. I do know that I knew and felt the change from “normal” to what I feel now, even some 36 years later. I don’t know what or how to describe how I feel but I do not think it can be described as “normal”.

I remember some minutes later, standing back in the line. I must have decided that I was staying in practice in some process that escapes me now. I know that I was given a choice to leave practice if I wanted to. I know I chose to stay in practice. I likely had no idea what I would do if I left and determined to stay in practice because that was “normal”. I remember my classmates offering condolences as best that 14 and 15-year-old boys can do. I likely didn’t continue practice with the intensity that I would have if life was “normal”. I am certain that I was distracted and I likely got some slack from the coaches because they knew more than I what had really just happened.

I remember that there were chores that still needed to be done when I got on the Activity Bus that would take the students home that remained at school to participate in after school activities. I likely sat there against the window of the bus like had during football season, trying to get some of my homework done in the hour that it would take to snake our way through the valley to my stop. I wonder now if I did any homework or if I was lost in thought as I watched the world pass by that window, appearing to be just like it had not so many weeks before but suddenly and tragically different that day and every day after that.

I don’t remember much of that evening, I am sure that the chores were done. I am sure that we were fed. I know that my grandmother put us to bed just like we had done for the entirety of my known life. I don’t remember finding it hard to sleep. I don’t think I thought of anything that would have caused me to lose sleep. I am sure that sleep found me soon after my head hit the pillow.

I remember waking the next morning to my Dad’s voice telling me it was time to go do chores. Life went on, but life wasn’t the same, it wasn’t “normal” and really hasn’t been since then. Sure that house full of boys managed, with a lot of help from aunts and grandmothers, a “village” that knew what 6 little boys and a widower were up against, but it was never “normal” and there was always something missing. That missing piece left a shadow in our lives that affected us emotionally, physically, and mentally. Some days I wish I could remember every minute and the things that were said and done; and on others I am grateful because I can’t. I don’t think that I would be very kind to myself for seemingly wasting those last moments of my life with my Mother. Sure, I didn’t know that then. Who could? But that wouldn’t prevent me from over analyzing those moments again and again.

They tell me that there was not much that could have been done to save her when she arrived at our little hospital, Amniotic Fluid Embolisms are still mostly fatal even today even in the most advanced hospitals. By the time she got to the hospital on November 5, 1978 there was nothing that could be done. Had they been able to diagnose the problem immediately, my brother Isaac could have survived as they could have performed an emergency C-section. They transferred her by Life Flight to Salt Lake City, UT and were able to diagnose the cause there several hours later but it was November 6, 1978 by then. By that point the only thing that hadn’t been poisoned were her corneas. I am told that those were donated to someone that was living in Southern Utah at that time.  I still like to think that someone there is enjoying my Mother’s eyes to this day.

It hasn't gotten any easier even after 36 years.

It hasn’t gotten any easier even after 36 years.

Now, I would like to say that I have done better with the moments that I have with my family that I still have because of this experience; but, I know it isn’t always true. I still let “stuff” crowd out the things that are really important to me. I still prioritize the wrong things. It doesn’t mean that important things are any less meaningful, but it can often give that appearance to others. We are often judged by our actions rather than our words. In some cases we are judged by our words not our actions. What it really comes down to is how we feel and how we make others feel. Feeling has never really been my strong suite, part of the shadow cast on and in my life by the death of my Mother.

As I look back at the moments I can remember about the last minutes I spent with my Mom, I take one thought and feeling away from that moment with my head hanging off the side of her bed. I knew and felt that she loved me. While I would go through some very trying and challenging times without her these past 36 years I have always known that she loved me. I know that she would have done anything to make those moments less painful and trying for me if it were possible.

If I were given the chance at this moment to go back to that crossroad of my life and live it over again with her in my life, it would not be a simple decision. I recognize what I have learned and in some cases forced to learn or at least experience because this happened; there is value to this knowledge. As difficult as it has been not living “normal” I am not sure that “normal” is better than whatever “now” is. I would love to talk with her about so many things and to get to know her better. I would love to have her spend time with my children and their children. But, if that were true then there are so many other things in my “now” that wouldn’t be in “normal”. I don’t know if I could really make the decision to have “normal” over “now”. There are just too many variables between “normal” and “now” that really make it impossible to say one would be better than the other.

Really, when it comes right down to it, the way it has turned out will eventually be the best way. You see, I believe in the eternity of family. I believe in the resurrection. I know that I will get a chance to talk with my Mother again. While it seems that it has been a long time, and hopefully as much time or more will pass as already has, I will get to speak with her again. I will then get the opportunity to tell her how much I love her and how grateful I am for the example that she set and for the things that she taught me in the short time we spent together here on earth. So I will get to keep all the nice things about “now” and get the advantages that would have been with “normal”.

And when we are done talking about all the things that are really important I will have a whole list of things that I would like to know. Like what did she think of Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Hitchcock movies, why stuffed green bell peppers – did she really like that, did she really hate hearing her 4 boys under the age of 8 trying to harmonize “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” for 8 hours a day 5 days a week like we imagined The Osmond Brothers would do, why chocolate cake wasn’t a good breakfast, and so much more.

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