Departed: Sunday, June 27, 2010
Certain dates stand out as historic because of the impactful event that happened. September 11 is a significant date for Americans old enough to remember the events that transpired at the World Trades Center, the Pentagon, and with the flight intended for The Capitol, Flight 93. Thousands died. Millions mourned.
Always is the death unexpected of loved ones tragic. If they are sick or aged, that knowledge is in the backs of the minds of their loved ones that death could come at any time. If the person is healthy and young, death almost seems like it is an impossibility, a cheat. Cruel. Evil.
A dark day scarred across my mind in the flaming fluid of life is June 27, 2010.
Sunday started as one of those days when we didn't think we would make it to church. The Johnson family attends church each Sunday. So, we had to push it through! Zipporah, a 21-month-old cherubic princess, morphed into a wild child that morning. The other five followed suit. Small stuff, unimportant stuff pitted my wife and me at odds escalating into the most egregious matters on the planet!
We would not have known if the world ended because we had all-out battles getting to the family van to go to church, with scowls on our faces!
Putting on the best faux smiles, we walked into the church building to start three hours of forgetting arguments and ignoring health problems. My wife, almost full-term pregnancy with number seven, looked and behaved as if she had no business out of bed, and she didn't.
My wife's pregnancy woes caught up with her, annoying me to no end! After six other pregnancies, reason stands that I would have more compassion. She needed to go home. So, home we went--Zipporah tagging along with me to drop her off. Her instructions to take ice from the QuickTrip service station on the way home from church caused me to pause--out of irritation more than anything else.
I don't normally shop on a Sunday. "What if Church members see me, or what if the kids questioned the action," I protested. I had a leadership position at church and needed to set an example.
As quickly as the words left my lips my wife gave me a pitiful YOU-did-this-to-me, and the-ox-is-in-the-mire look. Her look also revealed that unless-YOU-want-to-be-in-the-mire-too-YOU-better-go-do-this. I relented, irritation dripping from my face like sweat.
On the Way Home
Zipporah would not leave the nursery class with me after meetings ended a church. Zipporah clung to the nursery leader with all her might, not willing to let go of him, a brawny police officer with a heart of gold. He and his wife voluntarily taught the class. With a sick wife at home, a painful body myself, and a whining 21-month-old, I embodied impatience.
She ran away from me when I tried to take her hand, crying as if I were a stranger. Being in pain, I did not take kindly to this tantrum of hers. I could tell she needed a nap.
My oldest daughter, Naomi usually helped convince Zipporah to go quietly but she left church with her grandmother that day. Zipporah went noisily. She went to sleep as soon as we settled in the van.
Sariah, my second daughter, gave me a lecture about purchasing on Sunday when we stopped to get the ice at QuickTrip. I told her, "Mommy needs the ice. I have to make an exception for this one day." She told me to repent.
If heat exists in hell, it came out to play that day. The ice started melting in the bag as soon as I left the QuickTrip. I rushed home to get the ice to my wife. I fell on a leather sofa in the TV room in pain (peripheral neuropathy) and passed out. I sent all the kids to bed for a nap.
Trial of Faith
I awoke from my nap groggily, painfully. My wife asked me to go to the pharmacy and retrieve a prescription for Zipporah who had been sick the past several days. Grumbling in response that I would, out into the glaring heat I stepped.
What was my surprise when I saw Zipporah in the rearview mirror of the family van? I started laughing and asked her, "What are you doing in the van, sneaking around?"
No response. It was odd that she was in her car seat. Normally she could not do that. Calling her again as I reversed the vehicle into the cul de sac, came no response. She was not moving or breathing.
Panicked, I snatched my baby out of that van leaving it in the cul-de-sac running. I experienced a myriad of emotions, sheer horror and incredulity entangled with shock!
A desperate, agonizing cry left me though it seemed that it wrenched from some other grieving person. Zipporah was not breathing. I entered the house crying out to any that would respond, "Call 911!"
I lifted up my hand to bless the child after performing CPR. My wife heard me falling apart and ripped her pregnant body from her sickbed. She called 911 and snatched the baby from my arms administering CPR herself.
Remembering my faith, by the power of the priesthood and in the name of Jesus Christ I planned to command that body to receive back its spirit, but the words would not come! They seemed to stick in my throat. That began the end for me, emotionally.
I lamented in the gall of bitterness while my pregnant wife sat numb. I lost my faith--not in God. I lost faith in myself as a father. I let my daughter die. I blamed myself and so did the media. I had never been called such horrible things. No one knew my name or my face, but they knew what happened.
The new bishop of my congregation, sustained that day, received his first assignment, which was to see to my family's health. He held me like a child as I sobbed on his shoulder. All of the comfort in my soul fled.
Grief and Hope
It took prayer, counseling, meditation, and the power of God for me to say I love myself after June 27th, and I am worth loving after that. I will see my daughter again in heaven. Faith lends me the strength that I will have her association again for eternity with the rest of my righteous family. Death tests if you really believe in God and the resurrection of Jesus.
God gave me time to heal enough to live. I miss my daughter. Each day the memories of her are less sad and more nostalgic.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2012 Rodric Anthony Johnson