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If I could dance with my father again.

Throughout life you will find that as people come and go, some never really leave. I was thirteen years old when he passed away. He was and is still the greatest man I ever knew. My popa. In my mind he was the most honest, loving, and caring person to ever walk the earth. He was my knight in shining armor, my Prince charming, he was my hero. Actually, he still is my hero. He served for his country would have proudly done it again. He spent his days hunting and fishing before diabetes ultimately took his site. We spent our afternoons building things in the shed and making messes for my Nanny to clean up. He may have been set in his ways but I can’t recall a time he ever told me no.

To know him was to love him. He was the first man in my life, and set the bar pretty high for what a man should be. I know most kids enjoy spending time with their grandparents, but he was far more than just a “popa” to me. There was an unspoken bond between the two us. I remember asking one time “how could ever get married?!?!? There will be no dad to give me away!” He gave me this silly face and said “well, I wasn’t going to let just anybody take you off! Figure I’ll meet him first and I might let him have you.” I knew from that moment on, he would fulfill any “daddy duty” we encountered.

Sadly, he never made it to wedding day. To honor him, his photo was with us at the arch my husband and I exchanged our vows under. My actual father and I dedicated the “father-daughter” dance at my wedding to him. It was an extremely emotional moment for everyone, but I know that for every second that passed, he was with me. I was able to dance with home again (so to speak). That was the song played. Today he is weighing heavily on my mind and I hope that everyday since he has passed he’s been proud of who I am and who I am becoming.

 

To my popa, my hero, this one’s for you.

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Through death comes life.

I am passionate, I am loyal, I am devoted, and loving. Everything that makes a good pet right?

I have my spent entire life trying to be something that would shock the world. I’ve tried everything from insane hairstyles to convincing my parents I needed to quit school. People seem to think just by living in this small town they know everything about me. Well let me tell you who I really am.

I am loud, and I am angry. While on the outside I come across as this sweet soccer mom devoted to pleasing her family, I have demons just like everyone else. I’ve had a rocky life and experienced more at my age than most in their lifetime. Let me stop here and say that this is not a sob story or a pity party. More like personal insight from a personal perspective.

I knew from early on what I wanted in life. It was simple. If you don’t get married you won’t get divorced. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my happily ever after, I just didn’t believe in it. I’ve watched my mother struggle to build up herself and provide for me. My mother loved me when I didn’t even love myself. She was everything I ever had. For years it was just the two I us. The man I called “Dad” left for the last time when I was a teen. My biological father and I where not close at the time. She may have dated and had the occasional relationship but it would always come back to the two of us. More like sisters, we where the only two we could depend on.

Eventually I found my way out of the darkness and into the arms of my husband. He was the first of my great blessings. Never judging me for my indiscretions and always ready to take on the world. We where like every great love story “Johnny & June”, “Edward & Bella”, even a little “Bonnie & Clyde”. I knew we would survive anything the world threw at us, and we did. That was until my mother got sick.

February 18th, 2012 my entire world and everything I had ever known seemed to have been shaken to the core. I had experienced loss and heartache before. My father suffered a stroke just a few months prior and I had buried several friends and family members. Yet none I that could have prepared me for my mother.

After having “cold like” symptoms, she never seemed to fully recover. On my way back for a second visit, I couldn’t help but feel something was wrong. I couldn’t shake this feeling she was getting worse, I could look at her and see she was fading away. I turned around, dropped my son off with my husband before leaving and half way there I decided she was going to the emergency room. Once arriving I don’t know where the strength and composure came from but I managed to lift my mother from her bed and help her get to my car. All the calm outside, you couldn’t have imagined the fear growing on the inside. I never, and I mean NEVER, for one second though she could actually die.

I called my Nanny (grandmother) to explained and she quickly raced to meet us there. After arriving she was admitted and placed in a room. The nurses didn’t seem to understand how urgent this was. I kept getting this stabbing pain in my stomach, and this voice in my head something’s going to happen. Though I didn’t have the slightest idea of what, I knew it wouldn’t be good.

The nurse refused to help her into her bed assuming she was merely sick with the flu or some virus. Between my aunt and myself we eased her into the bed. By now the doctor has arrived and asked everyone to step outside for a moment while he evaluates her. I of course refuse, and he tells me that I don’t have a choice. Being that it’s clearly visible I am expecting a baby any day now, it wouldn’t be wise to stay there. Yes, because I was over 8 months pregnant and actually experiencing contractions in the room with her I made my way to the lobby.

A few moments later my Nanny and aunt would appear. Anxious, and upset they manage to tell me she started to get agitated and they had to sedate her. Shortly after the doctor appeared and called all of us into the meeting room. Knowing you don’t primarily call the entire family in, I was mentally prepping myself for the words to follow.

“She seems to have a serious issue with her lungs, after sedation and taking X-rays, it’s clear we can do nothing for her. She will be transported by ambulance to the next hospital in the town over. Myself: “Why, do you have any idea what it could be?” Doctor:” Her lungs are saturated they are so heavy, she can’t breathe in her own. She went into respiratory arrest. She’s now in a medically induced coma, and completely ventilated. The word ventilated kept ringing in my ears.

I managed to call my sister, and began the hour and a half drive to the next town. Stopping through the drive-thru of McDonalds and ordering food. I knew if I didn’t eat then, I wouldn’t be able to later. Oddly enough, I managed to eat and hold down everything. Somewhere in my mind I knew I had to eat, not for me but for the princess I was carrying. Safely arriving at the hospital we checked in, and began the wait. Assuming it would be hours before I was told anything, I was surprised when the doctor made his way into the waiting area and called us back. He told us quickly he had “never seen anything like this” and that “my prognosis isn’t good”. We asked a few questions and he responded with “her chance of survival is small 80/20, 80 being bad and 20 being the good. If she makes it through the night it’ll be a miracle. She’s suffering from severe, multiple organ failure. She needs blood, and we’re moving her to the ICU.” I managed to get up, and make my way down to her room. The doctor said it would be ok if we visited with her because her time left was short.

After some few doors down, my aunt asked if I was ok. I don’t really know how the words came out only they where heaven sent. ” He could’ve said 99/1. It could be worse. As long as there is breathe in her body, I will have hope in my heart.” That was the promise I made to myself right then. Hours had passed, more family arrived, our pastor, and close friends. By now she had been moved into her room and looked like she was sleeping peacefully when I made my way to the bedside.

I didn’t cry, oddly, I didn’t feel anything. I kept wondering if I would just have a huge break down or if I was simply in denial. Calmly I spoke words of encouragement and life into my mother. I told her how much I loved her and that she didn’t have to be strong because I would be strong for both of us. She never moved. Not a sign of recognition or life. Other family came and went, hugging her, and leaving hope. Eventually my contractions where so strong I had to leave the room to stretch out and feel relief. Combining several chairs, and a blanket I began to sleep in my makeshift bed. I couldn’t tell you what I dreamt about, only that is was further reassurance we would survive this.

The doctor came in to tell us nothing had changed but since she had survived we where moving into another ICU where patients have more serious issues and get more treatment. After we where moved and set up the tests began. Non stop pricks, pokes, and samples. Something to be taken, collected, and evaluated. Days went by. Time seemed to be moving at a snail’s pace. Everyday I told my Mom “I’m still here, I’m still waiting, I know you’re coming back to me.” Everyday I asked social media to pray for my mother, everyday I begged for her life.

It had been a week. The doctors where coming in teams now. Not one ready to give up. I started to be thankful they where so curious. She was given an official diagnosis “ARDS” (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome). We were told in the beginning it appeared to be ARDS, but unlike any case they had seen. The staff was courteous, and sweet for the most part. Always asking if I needed anything, and joking about me going into labor because this isn’t a baby hospital. Luckily, my doctor’s office was around the block and I had been seen already. They tell me about new tests they’re going to take, I sign the forms, and within minutes a team of doctors, and nurses close off her room and begin. Asking if I should leave, he says no I could stay and even watch if I’d like to. A little nervous, curiosity gets the best of me. I watch as he precisely make his way through her mouth, down her throat, and removes samples from her lungs. No, this was not easy to watch but I had a sense of peace about it. I almost convinced myself that what he had taken had all of our answers.

At the end of the 7th day just before leaving, the nurse was coming in for vitals and told me I could have a few extra minutes. The moment she said it I felt this huge pain in my heart. Deeply scared my mother was going to pass, I began to cry, not a few tears, screaming through sobs “Please don’t leave me! Please! I know you’re in there, I’m begging you. I can’t, I won’t be able to make it without you.” . The nurse smiles politely, never giving the slightest hint my pleas had touched her. Once finished with the vitals she says “I know you want to help, but she can’t hear you. She’s in a coma, no need to work yourself up. I’ll leave you to say your goodbyes before you go. Of course, I’m not sure If I should be offended or outraged. I settle for neither, being ugly isn’t going to help my mother. I lean in and kiss her cheek, a tear rolling off of mine and onto hers. I wipe her face, “I love you momma. I know you’re in there, and I won’t give up. You don’t give up either. Together we’ll get through this. We’ll always have each other. Then I noticed her heart begin to bump up….and up….and up.

After reporting it at the nurses station, we leave and head to the hotel. Telling my husband and Nanny the story, they smile at my enthusiasm. If either of them had doubted my faith, they never let on. The next day I wake up super pumped and ready to hear the good news we would get. The nurse came in to greet us, stating that they had cut back her paralytic to see if she could handle the pain her body was under, she did well for a while and then they had to increase it. To me, this was still a sign from God. They wouldn’t start bumping down the levels of sedation if they didn’t think she had a chance to make it.

We went through our normal daily routine. Cleaning her, listening to the news, eating lunch, getting any information from the doctors. and talking to her. Late that afternoon, they had taken her dose of paralytic way down, and began to ease the use of the ventilator. Before leaving I held her hand and felt its warmth. For the first time in 8 days, she seemed to be alive. I told her nurse to say a prayer and that tomorrow was an especially big day because I was expecting a miracle. I also asked Facebook and all of our family. I kissed her goodbye and told her “I’ll be right here. If you need me, call my name, and I’ll be right here.. With closed eyes, I swore her eyes moved. I told her nurse We’ll always have each other, Mommas love you when nobody else will. Mommas love you when you don’t even love yourself.

That night in my hotel room, as I tried to sleep I couldn’t seem to close my eyes without hearing the sound of the ventilator. In and out, up and down, finally I woke up realizing I was dreaming. My husband held me like a fragile child, assured me it was a bad dream and I fell back asleep. At 5:30 that morning my Nanny began calling out for my mother. I woke her and explained she was in the hotel asleep. She told me she dreamed my mother was running away and she couldn’t stop her. I began to get dressed as fast as possible. Fear that she didn’t make it, and excitement that she had pulled trough began the battle on my mind and heart. I grabbed my cell to all the hospital when the phone wrung. Heart in throat I answered slowly and she says <em>You better come quick, your mother is awake, she removed the tube on her own and she is calling your name</em>.

I’m pretty sure maniac is an understatement of my driving mentality back to the hospital. A quick 5 minutes later, and three flights of stairs, ( the elevator was too slow!) there she was. She was sitting up, wide eyes, and not so patiently waiting for my arrival. Bursting with excitement I hug her, ask if she’s ok, if she’s scared, and what she needs. Her response “I just want to go home. Y’all take me home. After explaining what had happened and convincing her 9 days had passed, she was still a little reluctant to settle in. After a short time I realized she was very different. Very much the same, but very different.

I asked her why she called my name an she said because I knew you’d come, and you told me you would. Regardless of what some believe, including that nurse, she heard me. She heard me and she held on. Somewhere in those 9 days my mother had changed. I talked to all of the doctors and each of them assured me it would take some time to get her to her state of “normal”. As we enjoyed the long-awaited reunion, other friends and family came by and of course sent love and prayers. Eventually the time would come where she was moved to another room and began eating normal foods all on her own. As time would pass she would show more improvement and gain mobility. Things really seemed to be getting back to her normal, just as the doctor said.

By March 5th she would be making her way home and not a moment too soon because the very next day I was admitted into the hospital to give birth to the absolutely perfect Princess we had all been waiting for.

On the early morning of March 7th, 2012 shortly after 4am our Princess made her debut. It was the most fulfilling and uplifting experience of my life. Words can not explain the relief of knowing she was healthy and finally here. We prayed for this child long before this moment. I prayed through all the trials and at last we had triumph.

When I almost lost my mother, I lost a piece of myself. Something I will never get back. Things will never be the same, and others will never understand my struggle. A small piece of myself died the day I thought my mother had. There is nothing that can save that part of me and nothing that can bring it back. It’s simply part of who I am now. However, with the birth of our second child I did gain so much more. I vowed to love more than ever, and try with everything in me to have that same bond with my own children. It is a daily struggle. Others can’t see how something that turned out to be an enormous miracle could bring so much burden. For the first time I’m willing to be honest with myself and admit that I have been broken.

When you see a person, try to understand. You don’t know their story. More often than not people compliment me on how well I take care of my children. The same people also criticize me and say I spend entirely too much time worrying over trivial things. When you have almost lost your mother you don’t take for granted your role as one. My mind and heart battle daily on everything from my parenting skills, to the lunch box menu. We live in a world where being different is frowned upon. If don’t know the struggle, if you haven’t been on the journey, don’t share your judgment. Just like everyone else, I’m a work in progress.

A piece of myself died that day, but another part was born.