Chapter Seven: Life Shifts
Steve’s step dad had just returned to California, so it was just us three women that day, the day the chaplain prayed for Steve. His two dads had been amazing at taking turns taking care of us. His step dad would fly in and stay a few days, feeding us, collecting medical information, checking with doctors across the country to make sure Steve’s treatment plan was the correct one, and making us feel safe. Steve’s dad would arrive just as his step dad was leaving, taking over the next shift. He fed us, brought us some much needed comic relief when we needed it the most, held Steve’s hand when we were too tired to, and, again, made us feel safe. The messiest day, the day Steve was teetering, neither dad was with us. It had just somehow worked out that way. They both had to get back to work, So, we had been left to fend for ourselves.
When Steve’s mom and sister arrived at the hospital that messy morning, I told them what Dr. Murphy had said. We all entered Steve’s room like we did every morning, took his hand, rubbed his feet, and kissed his head. He slept the induced sleep, as still as he could be. His silence was unnerving that day, more than any other day.
I remember the first week in ICU, the first week the ventilator was in and he was in his deep sleep state, how I longed to hear his beautiful voice or look into his eyes. I needed to feel his reassurance and his love. The man who had comforted me for over twenty years was now silent at a time I needed comfort the most. His dynamic personality had been quietened. I missed him, deeply.
I sat by his bed, starring at the IV monitor. It told me the date in big red lights. It was May 21st. I watched each minute slip by as I held Steve’s hand. It was a quieter day than usual. His mom, sister, and I didn’t know what to say.
The day slipped by, moment by quiet moment. Around 7:00pm Dr. Murphy came into the room with a new doctor, a doctor who was an expert at reading MRI’s. Dr. Murphy quietly told us that this latest test had revealed a very disturbing new symptom. Steve’s pancreas was inflamed and shutting down. I will never forget his words, “We just can’t seem to get a break. He now has pancreatitis. He is failing to thrive.” The doctor with him confirmed the new findings and we were then lead out into the hallway by the nurses station. Dr. Murphy, with a shaky and very tired voice, told us how Steve would die. He told us it would be quick, that bodies, when they begin to shut down, shut down one organ at a time and that the process of this doesn’t take long. Steve was now in the throes of shutdown. He then told us we all needed to go rest and he would call us when anything happened.
Like robots, we left the hospital, doing what Dr. Murphy had instructed us to do. We were in a daze. There was no dad there to make us feel safe, so we called the only two dad representatives we knew, our good friends Rick and Kimall. They had been so loving and present for us this entire journey and we needed them now more than ever. They arrived an hour later as we sat in our Taylor house room wondering how to cope with this new information.
We talked for over an hour. They tried to comfort us. We cried, one by one, telling our stories of how much we loved Steve and how we could not envision a life without him. At one point, someone said that maybe it was his time to go and if it was it was his choice and we should honor that. For the first time, I got angry. Not at the comment, but at the situation. When did I get to choose what I wanted? Why didn’t I get to have a say in how my life was turning out?! It wasn’t fair! I have always allowed what would be to be, but this time I didn’t want to be so allowing!! I wanted Steve. Period!
The anger helped me sleep, even if it was a restless sleep. For the first time in a long time the anger made me feel like I was in charge of something and I so desperately needed to feel in charge.
I woke up the next morning different. I woke up softer, feeling nothing but gratitude. Everything changed after that.