There is always more on my heart than words can say, but I find journaling my thoughts or prayers a great exercise & makes a record to view of memories & our history - I invite you to join me if you can relate to authentic life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

View from 602 - Unabridged Version

My first view of 602 was very different from the room at University Hospital. It was last week when we first stepped in to Allegiance Hospital, Room 602. It was late morning, and yet dark in the room. I put on a gown, mask and gloves and could hear the noises of the medical equipment just beyond the curtain that separated the germs from Joel. 
In January, at U of M Hospital, I visited Joel with much hope of a bright future for him. Not because it would be easy to live with half a tongue, or go through chemo treatments, but because he was young, otherwise healthy, and a fighter. He also had a passion to talk about Jesus, even though it took phenomenal effort. Plus, it was hard to believe that God would take another brother, son, husband and father, so, I chose to hope and trust in Joel’s healing. I chose to fight the dread that told me we were in for a journey we had done too many times before.
Well, God did use Joel and his passion for sharing Christ, it was just a lot less time than we hoped for. Joel spoke far earlier than the doctor’s expected, and even though he was hard to understand, he kept talking anyway. We laughed at him because he wouldn’t be quiet. He was witnessing to the hospital staff while we visited him. My view said that his work here wasn’t done, but, God had other plans. I knew for sure, when entering Room 602 , that Joel’s journey was ending and my beginning view changed.

Here are pieces of my view from 602 the last few days of Joel’s life:

Joel breathing with effort.
My sister-n-law administering drugs through Joel’s feeding tube, then suctioning his traech.
Joel’s daughters hovering about him, anxious to be his caretakers.
Joel’s chest heaving.
Joel telling me he loved me, even though talking was so hard and he couldn’t always be understood.
A brilliant blue colored balloon, lightly bouncing in the corner.
Joel pointing to Mark, trying to get something said.
Joel trying to write something down.
Trying to decipher Joel’s writing, which was actually scribbles from being so weak.
The respiratory therapist giving Joel a breathing treatment.
My big brother Tim walking in the corridor at 2am with his bags, just arriving on a flight from Tn.  My relief at seeing him. .
Gowns, gloves, masks everywhere. Taken on and off, on and off as visitors come in and out of the room.
The IV pump blinking and beeping.
Tim making me feel better the moment he came in with his comforting, caring words to Joel. He has a way of brightening even the hardest circumstances.
 Joel’s brightened eyes at seeing him.
Joel’s legs moving restlessly.
Joel asking for mom and dad.
Long time friends walking into the hospital with mom and dad, after driving down to Illinois to get them. (The same friends who did this for them when Mark died.)
Wishing we weren’t seeing views we never cared to see again.
Mom bending over Joel, wiping her tears under her glasses, rubbing his arm, straightening his sheet, kleenex in hand.
Dad standing at the end of the bed, patting Joel’s foot.
Joel reaching his head over, with more effort than he had moved anything recently, so mom could see he wanted to kiss her. Pain didn’t deter him.
Joel putting his hands together to indicate he wanted dad to pray when he saw him.

Dad always being our spiritual leader. Dad praying with clarity and confidence, unlike the way he interacted with other things due to his lack of hearing and lack of stamina.
Holding Joel’s hand and feeling him squeeze mine.
Tim, Mom and I each asking Joel to tell Mark, Steve, Philip and Jonathan that we loved them and missed them, when he got to heaven, without realizing each other did so until later.
Joel reaching for Wendy and grasping her forearm. Needing her.
The way Joel’s head would go back a little and his eyebrows would rise when we finally understood what he was trying to tell us.
Joel returning his daughter’s  ‘I love you’ hand sign from across the room.

Joel’s mouth opening as wide as he could get it and his chest heaving so he could get as much breath as possible.
Joel motioning. His daughter finding the ‘nurse call’ button for him. He wanted it close, just in case.
Joel’s furrowed brow, rarely easing.
His daughter putting a cool cloth on his head.
Joel with a shower cap on that actually shampooed his hair.
Joel saluting the policeman friend of his when he entered the room, and then putting his wrists together as if being handcuffed.
Jan rubbing Joel’s beard and speaking to him in her big sister voice when she first got there to see him.
Joel pointing at me when he was hoping I would be the one to understand what he was saying. Me knowing what he tried to say, maybe because a sister gets a brother ,  - -  “Where’s Wendy?”  “She’s the only one who can help me”  - -  Joel feeling anxiety that he would need something and no one else would be able to understand. Us understanding that panic,  since choking,  low oxygen and a partial tongue was what he was up against. Us feeling pain from the look of distress on his face.
Joel needing propped up in bed so he could breathe better. Joel soon slouching uncomfortably, with no strength to change positions.
Wendy knowing and sensing Joel’s needs before his indication most of the time. Me being amazed by her.
Wendy rubbing Joel’s feet, legs, hands, rarely leaving his side.
Dad reciting the 23rd Psalm while standing by Joel, then  all of us joining him.
Keeping track of Joel’s medicine schedule as he kept needing more and more pain meds and breathing treatments. Wendy advocating for Joel’s needs.
My kids each coming and telling their Uncle Joel they loved him and kissing him.
Josh, Allyson, Alan, Nate and Zach trying to comfort their cousins.
Jan’s and Debbie’s tears.
Josh putting his arm around me.  Me not knowing how much I needed it until he was there.
Josh standing alone, looking at Joel, undoubtedly remembering when it was his dad that was dying.
Joel’s pastor reading Psalm 91.
Taking turns washing up in the hospital bathroom.
Sitting in the quiet hallway, talking at midnight with a friend of Joel’s. 
Looking around Joel’s room in the middle of Friday night and seeing Jan dozing in the chair, Wendy’s head resting on Joel’s bed, Tim sitting at the end of the bed, myself sitting with my head against the wall….all watching over Joel, ready to help with whatever he needed.
Me saying, “This hospital stinks”. Jan saying, “It’s probably us”. Oh yeah.
Mark reading his Bible for Joel.
My husband telling my brother he loved him, grasping his hand, saying his goodbye before he went to work in case he didn’t make it back in time.
Allyson and dad holding hands while they took a walk around the hospital.
The way Joel folded his hands in front of him that looked just like dad – and Joel’s girls or Tim (can’t remember which) had to take a picture of it.
The way Joel’s hands and mannerisms were so much like Mark’s and Steve’s.
The memories of past experiences, so similar to this one, that none of us could keep from returning.
Me kneeling at Joel’s side, using the chair and holding Joel’s hand while praying. Me praying up close, for him alone to hear. Me telling him I will always be at his wife’s and kids’ sides. Did he know how much I appreciated his big brother protection when I was younger?
Joel’s very gorgeous eyes (so all the girls say) looking so intently at me, (maybe questioning me?), when I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my cheeks.
Wendy speaking close to Joel’s ear, ‘ He will keep you in perfect peace, Joel, whose mind is stayed on Him.’
Wendy’s dad rubbing her back, comforting his daughter.
The crazy man who was threatening the nurse loudly in the hall, 2 nights in a row, and telling his imaginary friend to shoot open the door to his hospital room so they can get out.
A nurse running down the hall yelling for security.
Talking and laughing in the hall. Then thinking Tim set off an alarm with all the buttons behind him, but thankfully, it wasn’t us - it was the crazy man trying to escape from the emergency exit.
Our kids making a late night run up to the hospital, bringing us pop. (And, a cooler and a bag of ice that started dripping down the hallway, which we quickly cleaned up! The kids going above and beyond what we asked)
Joel’s fever rising. Jan, Wendy and me trying to keep Joel cool. Jan’s familiarity and experience obvious in the way she worked and talked.
Nurses showing up with hospitality carts for our family. Thankful for refreshment. Me not eating anything sweet because I could feel how low my blood sugar level was. Hardly eating anything due to nerves and being over-tired. Wendy not being able to try anything.
Wendy whispering to me, ‘it wasn’t supposed to be like this’ .
 Joel’s son spending alone time with his dad.
Tim’s strained voice that so obviously showed his love for his brother who was hurting.  Joel turning to Tim, looking with worry, questioning. Tim saying, “It’s ok, buddy. I’ll be fine”
Nurses asking family and friends in the hall to use the waiting room a couple of times, because they couldn’t stay away and kept congregating outside Joel’s door.  Oops!
Family talking, remembering, hugging in the waiting room, with computers, phones, blankets, Kleenex and food about.
Bruce, our newly adopted brother-n-law/son-n-law, bringing everyone pizza. Then, Fazoli’s. Helping reserve hotel accommodations. Sitting with us.
Deb making sure there was soft Kleenex, because our skin needed the relief!
Jan and mom on the  phone, keeping updated on the traveler’s on their way, and updating other out of town family.
Josh and Allyson being the way they always are together – keeping us laughing.
Hilary bringing my kids to Jackson 2x.
Deb sharing her devotional that day with Wendy.  Loving Wendy with true empathy. Me wondering if she was thinking of all her time by Mark’s side not that long ago.
Holding my phone up to Joel’s ear as it was playing ‘Mountain of God’, the song he and Wendy danced to on the radio when he was excited about having a strong day.
The nurses telling our family how they loved our closeness, and how our family was unique and blessed.
Us appreciating the nurses (Except the one who was rough and caused unnecessary pain to Joel.)
Conferring in the hall. Trying to support Wendy the best we could.
Helping Wendy decide that there should be no more treatment, because of the doctor’s advice.
The new purple bracelet added to Joel’s arm with just the letters, DNR.
Joel’s daughter asking what ‘DNR’ meant.
Joel’s wife and kids (Wendy, Jonathan, Courtney, Carrissa, Cosondra) spending precious moments with Joel – just their family together for the last time.
Wendy saying, “…he was fighting to live. He fought so hard”  Her heart wrenching pain from feeling like she was giving up. Afraid to not fight with every medicine possible til the very end.
A morphine drip being used to finally bring Joel some rest. The relief at his peace. His girls suddenly realizing that he would never look at them again. Never talk to them again.  Pain.
After lying down in the early morning hours Sunday morning, each of us still sitting up to listen for Joel’s breathing off and on. Wendy being the one who woke at just the right time. Wendy being the one who heard his last breath.
Wendy feeling Joel’s chest. Jan feeling Joel, and getting the nurse. Me shaking slightly, holding my blanket tight. Nervous. Fearful. Knowing.
The nurse checking Joel all over for signs of life.
Me, Tim, Jan and Wendy surrounding Joel’s bed as we realized he was not taking another breath.
The nurse hugging Wendy.
Wendy leaving to go to the house to tell her kids that their dad was gone.
Me not wanting to call mom. Mom expecting the news. Her tight voice and amazing strength.
Walking with dad toward Joel’s room one more time. Dad bent over, walking with no balance. His back and legs acting up again. Holding on to dad. Dad patting my arm, saying he thought he was doing ok, but that was no reason to let go.
Dad tearful and prayerful when he said good bye to Joel. Dad sitting quietly next to Joel. Talking to God, I think. Staying there while others came in, as if keeping watch. Allyson sitting down by him, holding his hand. Me loving that she knows how he loves that and was offering her comfort.
Watching mom look at Joel and touch his body. Me wondering how a mother can take looking at a son she nurtured and raised, dead. Remembering she has had to several times. Hurting for her. Me in awe of her beautiful attitude.
Mom telling Joel that she was so glad for him that he was with his brothers. Mom reminding us of the reunion we will all have one day.
After saying goodbye, mom walking out the door, hand lifted, saying ‘Til we meet again, Joel’.
Courtney laying on Joel’s chest, sobbing.
Carrissa sitting down, looking at Joel, tears streaming down her cheeks, crying hard.
Cosondra letting her tears out, touching Joel’s head, saying ‘Goodbye, daddy’. That sight making me hurt.
Allyson fighting back tears every time her cousins were overcome with grief. Many hugs between them all.
My boys putting their arms around their cousins.
Allyson remembering aloud how Uncle Joel had brought us loads of groceries last time he was over and threatened to hurt the boy who was taking her out, if she needed him to.
Jan walking Wendy through these moments like only one can who has been through it before.
Me having a private moment with Joel, feeling lonely for my brother’s presence already. Sobbing just a little bit, keeping some control, scared to lose control.  Realizing we were facing another Thanksgiving with one more loved one missing.
Holding his cool fingers and being grateful he was finally resting with Jesus.
Holding his cool fingers and wishing he would squeeze mine back.
Kissing his cheek. Not because he felt it this time, but because I wanted to.
Turning to look at him 3x on my way to the door, because I didn’t feel ready to never see him again.
Leaving Room 602 with a peace and strength that only came from God. Leaving with the knowledge that Joel is ok and didn’t need me anymore. I might need my big brother, who stuck up for me, cared about me and loved me, but,  even though Joel hadn’t wanted to leave, he would remind me that I still have Tim. Joel would also say that I should trust God to take care of any void he’s leaving behind , because He can do it. He has done it. He still is doing it.

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