June 5, 2015, that was the day my heart died. On June 5th, I buried my son. Oh, the official service was not until the 12th but the burial took place way before that.
You see, when I received the news that my son, Joseph, had been in a car accident, immediately my heart stopped. I know, because I felt it when I happened to look up from the phone call and saw the expression on my daughter’s face, as she watched mine. And when it stopped, I stepped out of myself, and saw it pounding on the floor, placed at the bottom of her feet as if it was snatched from me and put there for my eyes to see. Then I picked it up as I found the strength to hold her and pray that all would be well with my son. But I lost it again.
As I made my way scrambling through the Chicago airport back to New Jersey, I had to go back a couple of times, to pick my heart up again, as I had left it in a few places: the cab on the ride to the airport, the restroom stall, on the seat in the airport lounge, and even on the airplane. Then when I arrived in New Jersey, after experiencing the longest plane ride of my life (although just short of an hour and a half). Somehow when your heart stops, so does time, it seems, or takes longer to pass, however you want to look at it. But when I arrived, I had to pick it up again, because I needed the strength to grab my luggage from the baggage claim.
I waited for a friend to pick me up and dropped my heart there at the terminal a couple of times, only to pick it up when she arrived and I embraced her as if I wanted to steal her heart and the life it had in it. Only I could feel her heart was broken too.
All I wanted to do was to see him--- if I could just…. see him. If I could just lay my hands on him and tell him I love him and how much I need him---- how much we all did… he will be okay, I thought, in spite of the prognosis I heard from the doctor, telling me from a New Jersey hospital that I needed to start my way back home from Chicago.
I saw my husband first, and as I saw the pain in his eyes, my spirit ran to hug him, and as I did I realized I didn’t hear his heart either. Apparently both of ours had stopped.
And so I picked mine up again and asked to see my son. If only I could….
As I walked into that room, 312A, they said… my heart stopped again as I saw wire by wire, plug on top of plugs, needles side by side, and machines, machines everywhere. And I picked it up again as I reached out to lay my hands on him. If only I could… I reached out to hug him (be careful, somebody said, “watch out for the wires.”). I held his hand, I kissed his forehead and I gathered up the strength to speak to him, words of life, (the Word is your life, I heard). “Joseph, it’s your mother. I know you can hear me. I’m back from Chicago. You can wake up now… You don’t have to be afraid, it’s gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay. We’re all here with you.” And I felt my heart flutter as I saw his eyelids jump---- “He hears me,” I said aloud. “Lord, just open his eyes.” I stood there for a while, unaware of anyone else, continuing to speak life to him, speak life over him, recalling the things he had done--- then the words he had spoken to me, last, “I love you mom.” And I felt my heart race as I remembered, my last words to him, “I love you too, Joe.”
The doctors came in and I chose to leave the room, taking my heart with me as I went into the private waiting room they had given us to “wait” this out. If that was possible, I remember thinking. In that room I saw faces of hope, faces of belief, faces of love--- I saw some who had their hearts ripped out as well, trying desperately to hold on to it, as I mustered every piece that was in me to speak words of hope to them. We shared stories of God’s goodness, how He healed this one, how He saved that one. What He was doing in the life of another, and then I told how I was diagnosed once and shared a blog about it--- Diagnosis: Devil Is a Liar--- there would be a part 2 to that blog I said…
That was the longest night of my life--- as I went back into 312A several times--- heart stopping --- heart revived with every movement of his eyes--- “It’s involuntary” they said. But I believed otherwise. I saw a raised eyebrow, I said. I even saw a teardrop. Then how could that be, I asked. It’s involuntary, they said again. And my heart would stop again.
How could I keep dying and come back so many times, I thought to myself. “Lord how many times can my heart stop and I keep on living?”
I found myself in the bathroom and the questions came--- and the doubt came, along with the whispers--- “every day Joseph would not leave your presence without you laying your hand on his forehead and praying over him--- every day. Every day, he would rub your stomach, call you “big mama” or some other nickname he happened to come up with; every day, he would touch your hair, hug you from behind or simply say, “I love you mom… can I have a hug?” And I interrupted my thoughts with “Lord I WILL NOT bury my son!” And my heart would stop again… “I got him…” “Keep believing,” I heard Him say.
I mustered up my strength after my heart got going again and I would go and look at him, speaking life to Him, again… holding his hand, kissing his forehead (carefully, not to touch the wires, I was told). Refusing to see what I saw with my natural eyes, but each time that machine alarmed, forced to see what was there. And my heart would stop again.
Friends came and as much as we resisted, convinced us to go home and rest. Not much of that happened, even though it should have been easy to do so, when your heart has been ripped from your soul.
Getting up the next morning was easy since I never really slept, and we made our way back to the hospital, hearts in hand, as heavy as they were to carry. Placed it back in my body as I saw friends who needed to be encouraged… but as I saw my Joe, lifeless, I lost it once again. But quickly picked it up to let that nurse have it for not watching over him, for not tending to him as the prior one did. “You are not by his side,” I told her, “you are NOT doing all you can… the other nurse never left him, and the second that alarm went off, she adjusted whatever needed adjusting.” And my heart stopped again, as she tried to explain “But I am.” Yet I refused to believe her, choosing instead to pick up my heart where I left it and continue to share it with my Joe… “Joe, you can hear me… that’s enough now, you can open your eyes…” recalling and quoting every Scripture, every Word that I have ever heard before concerning, life, living, healing and the promises of God. “You shall not die, Joe, but live to declare the glory of the Lord.” That’s what I said to him.
Hours went by and we were summoned into 312A again, and the doctor said, after performing the three tests to determine if your son was alive, he failed all three. Then the words that no mother (or father) ever wants to hear came out of that doctor’s mouth… I’m sorry, your son is dead.
And so was my heart. It completely stopped. I believed I died too in that moment. I stopped living. As I heard my husband wail, I quickly picked it up as I comforted him. I don’t even know if I had the strength to let out a whimper. I just remember thinking about all the talks I had with God. “This wasn’t supposed to be God. You said you had him. You said to keep the faith.” And since I couldn’t rely on God, I had to shelter my family from the hurt myself. So I kept my heart beating this time, for them, for Joseph. My husband and I gathered what strength we could from each other and we went and told our daughters and those in that waiting room with us… Grief shouted from the rooftop, piercing sounds, wails, screams, was all I heard in that room. No one was immune, that I saw, except me, as I just had a yearning to comfort and support. I hugged, I grabbed, as I felt my heart trying to get away from me again, but it didn’t.
And in that moment, I felt a peace that I know only God could have given me, as I felt my heart lock into place. “I got you,” He said. “Breathe. Just remember to breathe.” And those were and have been the very words I spoke to others who have loved Joseph, who have come to me since, distraught and broken. Breathe. Just remember to breathe. Inhale, exhale.
June 5th, that was the day. I buried my son. And I buried my heart. June 5th that was the day, God gave me a new one. That’s what He said when He told me to breathe.
This new heart still hurts though. It doesn’t quite fit like the old one does, but it works. Each time I am reminded of what happened on that day, it tries to escape my body, but God wrapped it so tightly in His love that it can’t. And I remember to breathe. “Just breathe,” God said.
June 5th, that was the day. The day my Joe died. Yeah, June 5th, that was the day my heart died. And my life will never be the same. “But it will get better,” God said, “as I remember to breathe.”
Because God is real.