Out from the Abyss - Positivity and How it Helps
July 7, 2012 -- A beautiful, hot summer day in Rhode Island for a 24 year old who wanted to enjoy every second of it. There was not a cloud in the sky, and I did not have a care in the world. It was a laid back day and I was off from work. My friends and I went to a local coffee shop in our town where we would lounge outside and talk about girls, becoming wealthy business owners, and what our plans were for the upcoming week. Everything was great. Around 5 PM, I received a text from my father: "Hamburgers on grill, champ. Come eat." I left the coffee shop and headed home. When I pulled in the driveway, I saw my father barbecuing outside, still in his suit after getting home from work. My mother was in the kitchen setting the table. We all sat down and enjoyed the food as well as each other's company.
After we cleaned up, I headed upstairs to get ready for a night out with my friends. I was getting dressed when I saw my father walk down the stairs out of the corner of my eye. He was heading outside to cut the grass (this was one of his favorite activities). I heard the rumble of the tractor and could smell the fresh cut-grass through the open windows of my room. A few minutes later, my life forever changed. My mother had walked outside and witnessed my father lying on the ground next to the tractor. She immediately became frantic. As I was dressing up, her footsteps could be heard pounding on our front porch. She began to frantically ring the doorbell and screamed for me to call 911. I was in complete shock as I saw her face through the window of the front door. It was a face of pure terror that still haunts my dreams. I immediately called for an ambulance and ran outside where I saw my father lying on his back.
He wasn't breathing. I attempted to gently slap his face as I was frantically screaming, "Dad! Dad!" I began to administer an extremely vague knowledge of CPR in any effort to save my father's life. The neighbors could hear my mother and I screaming when they began to run over. Walter, our neighbor, continued the process of CPR on my father until the ambulance had arrived. While the paramedics placed my father's lifeless body on their stretcher, I witnessed his arm fall off from the side - I knew then, he was gone. An awful feeling had come over me. However, I tried to tell myself that he was going to be okay. In the midst of all of this turmoil, I had sprained my ankle quite severely trying to remove my dog from this unfolding situation in our front yard. I was unable to drive to the hospital where they had taken my father. My neighbor offered me a ride and I had arrived there 20 minutes later.
As my mother and I were in the waiting room, the doctor had walked in with a Catholic Priest. He sat down next to her and simply said, "We lost him." My father was 58 years old. He was completely healthy in every sense of the word. Sudden cardiac arrest. I will never forget this term for as long as I live. My mother's world ended that day. I witnessed her soul ripped from her body at that very moment. They had loved each other completely and effortlessly. I shed a tear for the first time since I could remember, but I had to keep it together for her. As our family and friends began to pour into the Emergency Room, the doctor had asked me if I would like to see him. I refused. I refused to see him like that. My torture was not over.
After returning home that night, our whole world had been flipped upside down. My mother was speechless. She sat at the table as if she were nothing but a mere shell of what she once was. Our family and friends were all around us, but offered no relief as to what had happened a few hours earlier. As they began to leave, I walked my mother upstairs and told her we'd begin to deal with this in the morning. I'm not sure if she slept at all that night - I could not even blame her if she hadn't. Sunday morning came, and I was awoken to my aunt stating that the ambulance was back at my house. My mother was having severe chest pains.
My first thought was that I had just lost my father, and now I am going to lose my mother. They had rushed her to the hospital where she was exhibiting symptoms of a heart attack. However, luckily, when I had arrived, they concluded that these symptoms were what was known as Acute Stress Cardiomyopathy or it's common term: Broken Heart Syndrome. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/asc/faqs.html), this "...is a condition in which intense emotional or physical stress can cause rapid and severe heart muscle weakness (cardiomyopathy). This condition can occur following a variety of emotional stressors such as grief (e.g. death of a loved one), fear, extreme anger, and surprise…" Not only was I dealing with the death of my father from the previous day, I now had to witness my mother in the intensive care unit of the same hospital that I was in the night prior. I stayed with her for as long as I could, and felt awful leaving her side. She did nothing but view pictures she had of my father on her cell phone. I remember telling her that we would be okay. That we would pull through this, together.
My closest friends had offered to stay with me for the next few nights while my mother was in the hospital recuperating. In between my visits to see her, they never left my side throughout that entire ordeal. They did nothing but show complete and utter compassion and care for both my mother and I, and I will always remember and be grateful for that. We all knew that this new path would not be easy for us, but we had to keep moving forward. I was now the man of the house - the protector, the rock.
Have you lost a loved one through a similar experience? How did you find peace?
It Is What It Is
"It is what it is." His trademark statement. The funeral came and went, and I said "see you later" to my father. I refused to say goodbye. Seeing his casket sitting in the chapel as we drove away from the cemetery provided me with the realization that he was gone. He was not coming back. I asked myself, how can we move on from such a traumatic event? Where do we go from here? There was an immense outpouring of support shown to both my family and I. People whom I've never met would send their well wishes, stating what a wonderful man my father was. I already knew what kind of man he was. He was my dad. In a way, it would upset me to hear them say these things, but I had to stay positive. For myself and for my mother.
When I returned to work the following day, a friend and co-worker once again offered me his condolences. He finished his statement with, "You're a soldier." I will never forget those three words, because that is what I had to be: a soldier. Now, here we are, three years later. The wounds are still fresh. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries have come and gone, but they never get any easier. Yet, I still keep a smile on my face. You have to progress, because life does not stop for anyone. Only certain aspects of life end, and death is the ultimate end. There is no turning back. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not is up to you. I like to think that my father is somewhere enjoying himself to the fullest. Riding his Harley above the clouds.
I came across an online article a few months after his passing, which offered me a bit of reprieve. I have not been able to find this article since. It tackled the issue of death from a scientific standpoint, stating that death is not the ultimate end. Humans are comprised of energy. Whether that be your soul, atoms, molecules or what have you. The article focused around Albert Einstein's quote stating, "Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another." We are only transformed from our physical world, yet our energy lives on under this premise. But, where does it go? Where does it end up? We will never know until it happens to us. In the mean time, enjoy life to the fullest. Cherish your relationships, your favorite foods, travel the world, love, laugh -- because it can all be taken away from you in the blink of an eye. Never stop smiling.
Does Death Not Truly Exist?
To Sum It Up...
- Stay positive.
- Surround yourself with happy, positive people.
- Tell those close to you how you're feeling - don't bottle it up.
- Keep pushing forward... It will get better.
- Smile as often as you can.
- Life is what you make it. Be happy!