"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, December 29, 2013

When Liam Died

Liam, me, and new baby Presley on June 22 of this year.

I hate starting a post that way.  The last time I did, it's when my brother was killed.  It's surreal.  It's cruel.  And I hate it.

I haven't posted anything in almost two months.  Throughout the month of November, it's because I was very busy and didn't have time for it.  Then the unthinkable happened on Saturday, November 23rd.  After that, life tasted far less sweet and it felt almost wrong to post anything mundane, as if nothing had happened.  My heart was shattered.  He wasn't even my baby, yet it hurt more than I had ever hurt before.

When Joseph died, it was horrible.  I remember it being horrible and four and a half years later I have my occasional break down and cry myself dry.  Has it been so long that I can't recall the exact pain that kept me up at night and made a grenade go off in my chest every ten minutes?  It was really horrible, I know that.  He was my baby brother and I loved him more than words can say.  But something about Liam's death was different.  Right now I can barely type because of the emotion.

It had been a very difficult week.  Liam had finished round three of high-dose chemo and developed RSV because of his weakened immune system.  It was touch and go but he was in the "best" place on earth for a sick child to be.  But then the RSV turned into pneumonia and he was a sick, sick, sick little boy.  But everyone stayed positive and despite his fevers so high they were un-registerable on the thermometer, he beat every odd.  Every single odd, just like he had for the last seven and a half months.   Yet I checked my phone every five minutes to see if there was an update from Carli.  Every time I saw her name appear on my phone, my breath would catch in my throat.  And then I would jump on his FB page and update with something and tell everyone to pray and stay positive and to be happy because he was going to be fine,  When really, I was scared to death.  And my FB inbox filled every day with messages from strangers asking me for updates as if I knew something that wasn't posted...all of them freaking out.  And I stayed strong and I was happy to be there for my friends. 

I had just talked to Carli for an hour on Friday.  We talked about Liam, but mainly we talked about other things.  Funny things, stupid memories, and just life in general.  She was laying in bed with Liam and every once in a while I could hear his sweet voice.  I remember him asking for something to drink.  I didn't know it would be the last time I'd ever hear that voice.

Suddenly Liam's monitor started going off and Carli hung up on me.  I was scared, but that stuff happened before and I figured it was just his monitor being super sensitive.  I was right because she sent me a text a few minutes later and told him his O2 had slightly dipped but he was fine and she would call me later.

That night I was laying in bed with my little boys as they fell asleep.  I dosed off and woke back up around 10:00 that night.  I turned my phone on and the blinding light hit me hard in the face.  Carli updated something about Liam having a small scare but that everything was ok and he was stable and she had headed home.  I immediately texted her and she responded that his O2 had dropped again and he was having a hard time breathing, but they upped his O2 and he was okay.  My heart calmed down.

The next day was one of those rare Saturdays when our family of seven had an open calendar.  That never happens, but we tried to take it all in and we stayed in bed extra long.  Everyone in the house was still in their rooms.  I rolled over in bed and grabbed my phone that was freshly charged on the nightstand.  I opened FB and the first thing I saw was a post from Carli. "Oh God, please help him!"  At first my heart sank, but I reminded myself that I had just talked to her the night before and I knew from experience that when she said something like that on FB, I probably knew that backstory.  In that moment I truly figured that his fever was high again and he was having a hard time getting comfortable.  I tried to put it out of my mind and I made a mental note to call her later in the morning.

I got up and started cracking eggs.  I was going to be a good mama and make my kids a full breakfast.  Eggs, pancakes, sausage, the works.  Again, it had been ages since we'd had a Saturday like that.  As I was scrambling eggs, my phone alerted me that I had a text.  My hands were busy and I decided to let it go a few minutes before I checked it. 

Ten minutes went by and I remembered to check it.  It was from my friend/neighbor Jessi and it said "My heart hurts so much for you and your friends.  Hugs."

That was weird, I thought to myself.  Jessi?  Why would she say something like that.  I went back to the eggs.

And then my heart dropped clear to the floor.  What??!!  No.  No.  No.  No.  No.  I flipped open FB and was hit in the face with posts from a hundred people all saying things like "My heart goes out to the Webb family.  May Liam rest in peace with Jesus."  My newsfeed was completely filled with messages like that.

I can't explain what happened next.  But I will say that I had never experienced such a volatile, painful, physical manifestation of emotion.  It erupted out of me like hot lava.  I began screaming and breaking things and Cody came running out of the back room to see what had happened.  I remember that I couldn't get the words out.  And I remember looking around to see my five frightened children, three of them crying in confusion as the $%#@ hit the fan.

I did and said things in the next hour that I am not proud of, but it was the only thing I could do.  There was a monster coming out of me and I had no idea how to control it.  Seven and a half months of immense pain and suffering.  And God let him die anyway.  He truly was effing with all of us, with Liam.  It hurt more than I can ever put into words.

That afternoon at 3:30 Cody and the kids dropped me off at the airport and I was on a plane to Houston.  I was in a deep fog and the feeling in my chest was unbearable.  As I waited for my plane I locked myself in a bathroom stall and cried deep, engulfing, heaving sobs.  I'm sure the people outside the stall thought I was crazy or possessed or something.  Oh how it hurt.  I can't even explain it.  I drank more rum and vodka while on the plane and laying over in Pheonix than a person should admit to.  It was the first time I had done something like that and suddenly I knew how a person could develop alcoholism when going through a tragedy.  It dulled the pain, and made it worse in a way.  I will say that crying when under the influence is more painful than crying sober.  Why am I telling you this?  Because it's part of the experience and I don't want to forget about it, and I'm not ashamed.  I was raw and vulnerable and didn't know what to do with the shards of glass all in my chest.  I'm human and if you cut me, I bleed.

It was midnight when I finally got to the rental car place in Houston.  As I drove away through the dark city that I had called "home" for nineteen years, I was overcome with grief.  Even more so than I had been that morning or traveling.  Maybe it's because I was sober and felt my feelings and it was like pouring vinegar in the wound all over again.  I thought of my friend Christian who would never play ball with his boy.  I though of Kennedy who would wake up the next day without her best friend and kid brother.  I thought of Carli and how she'd laid in bed with Liam's body for hours after he had passed.  I thought of Presley and how she would grow up not knowing or remembering her courageous hero of a brother.  I thought of myself and how I had just held him in June.  I remembered walking into their house that day and being greeted by Liam and how he hugged my neck and called me "Eronica".  And I remembered standing in the grocery store on a cold January night when I got a text from Carli with a picture of a positive pregnancy test.  And she was scared and asked me if I saw what she saw because it hadn't been planned.  And that second line was Liam.  And I remembered feeling him kick in her belly.  And I wondered if the world would ever be the same without his light to fill in all the dark places. 

And the last seven and a half months came flooding back to me and I had to pull the car over and cry and scream.  Liam was dead.  He was gone.  It was a nightmare and none of us could wake up, but somehow I made it to my destination for the night.

At this time I can't go into details of the horror of the week.  Maybe I will do it in time, but not now.  I saw and experienced things that most people can go their whole lives being unfamiliar with.  I can't get certain things out of my head and not a night has gone by since he died that I haven't dreamed/nightmared about him or his parents or my own children in some way.   I "think" I know what it's like, through proxy, to lose a child and of the details involved with laying him to rest.  It's something that is almost too horrible to talk about.  There are no words. 

Maybe tomorrow I will write more, but tonight it's raw all over again.  I need to end this for now.