Why I Feel Lucky

Guardian Angel Cartoon

My family  has been incredibly lucky over the past year. I know it is hard to believe that I would say something like that after losing my brother, my grandpa, my uncle, the unexpected death of my grandma’s sister, and the four year old son of a cousin in the past six years. Honestly, it seems like it has been much longer than six years when all of this tragedy started…

I can still hear the swish of my uncle’s wind pants coming down the hallway at work, my brother’s boisterous and infection laugh, and the my grandpa barreling down the hallways at work not caring if we are in an important meeting or on a phone call.  At the time, these little interruptions would sometimes irritate me as it meant a break in my work but now I miss these interruptions tremendously.

My first brush with death was when I was pregnant with my daughter when I was 18 years old. My grandpa who had suffered through years of heart conditions, lung issues, eventually died of cancer of the lungs that was detected when they did his autopsy. He was too young, just 61 years old. He was sick for so long but he held on as long as he could. My daughter was born just a day before he would have turned 62 about 10 days after he passed.

So why do I feel lucky? 

I have so many guardian angels watching over my family, which has been apparent in the past year as we have narrowly escaped numerous additional tragedies. I like to think that one of all of my passed on loved ones are watching over our family.

Recently a drunk driver plowed into the building my son was in. They normally are in the exact spot in the back of the building doing workouts where the drunk driver completely immersed his entire car into the building. The exact spot. There was eleven teenage boys in that building that day that would have been there had not one of the kids had a jammed finger. Instead, the instructor decided to adjust their workout so he could participate, which meant no weights at that time.

My oldest daughter, just having her license for a few months, was involved in an accident where she was hit on her driver’s side. She walked away with no visible injuries.

Another child was a witness to a crime last summer, which for legal reasons, I can’t divulge at this time. Let’s just say, thank God, she was just a witness and not the actual victim of the crime. Sometimes made her run away before she could be victimized.

When I think about how many times that we could have lost my brother before his untimely death, I believe we are incredibly lucky he survived as long as he did. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck at birth.  When he was about four, he almost drown in my grandparent’s pool, riding his trike into the pool and being submerged during a family gathering. He rolled and totaled a van the very first day he received his driver’s license, escaping complete injury for him and his unbuckled passenger. Then there was the time that he was trying to outrun the police and instead of shooting him dead, an older officer had a feeling that something possibly wasn’t mentally right with him and urged the trigger happy younger officers to use non-lethal force. He escaped death that day by just being tased and pepper sprayed. On a side note, he always told us being tasered was much more preferable to the pepper spray.

When you think about all he went through and those are the just the incidents that I actually know about, there are possibly others, I feel incredibly lucky that he made it to 28 years old.

Maybe, just maybe, one of my passed on loved ones is watching over my children, which is not just luck, it is being cared for and watched over…I like to think that though…and if so, my family is definitely giving them a full workout.

Grandpa Tom

grandpa tom and billie

If you knew this guy (Tom Turkey, Uncle Tom, Tommy, Tommy T, Get ‘er done Tom, perhaps a few that we won’t name, and to me – Grandpa Tom)…you would know how great of a guy he was! Always the entertainer, willing to help anyone out who needed it without asking for anything in return, he was a friend to those who had no friends, he was a hard worker, and all around cool guy to hang out. As young kids, Tabitha, Billie, and I spent a lot of time as the oldest grandchildren at grandpa and grandma’s house. We lived close enough that we could ride our bikes over there as we got older.

These are some of the best childhood memories.

I’m actually surprised we survived some of the things we were allowed to do! “Oh, Nan, let them have their fun,” he would say! Even if it meant jumping off the roof into the pool or working on some kind of mechanical thing that we were clearly not qualified to operate or whatever the case may be (though, I’m not sure I ever really did that one!)

Some of our fun activities: Spray painting, mowing (while he supervised the activity the entire time!), driving the duster down the runway way before we had driver’s licenses, playing in the camper, creating our own garden in the greenhouse, playing in the shop, cleaning the shop, cleaning the duster, looking at his airplane, discussing all the conspiracy theories, and so many many more!

So many Grandpa Tom stories where he helped someone out or said something that made you laugh….as I have received so many of them in my inbox, Facebook, and via text. He was one of those unique characters that comes around once in a lifetime. Anyone who met him, always remembered him. He loved entertaining us, even during these past final days.

Our family is not the most expressive family about our feelings as often you would go in for a hug and either get a handshake or a pat on the head but we knew that grandpa loved us and cared about us because he wanted to spend time with us and teach us how to do things (right). He used to always call me on my birthday…he called me using my extension at work several times to talk to me about things all on his own – which completely surprised me, and was a regular visitor at the office – though, he didn’t mind if you were in the middle of a business meeting or a phone call! 🙂 He was often the winner of the JA award (those of you in the family know what that stands for!) but he always kept life interesting for those around him.

After all the years of helping everyone else without asking for anything in return, we were finally able to help him the final weeks of his life.  He was very appreciative of the all help and allowed us to help him when he was unable…and really we all felt so helpless.(A tommism – We? What do you mean we. You got a mouse in your pocket!) When I think back on that time and the past few years in general, it has  shown me how important family is and I’m lucky to be part of such a close, loving, and fun family.

I will miss him dearly and things do not seem quite right without him telling us how to do something the “right” way! A few more Tommyisms:

So what do you think, Bri?

Get ‘er done.

Watch, watch. We?

You got a mouse in your pocket.

We’ll get ‘er.

<insert anything> DOT COM

Ah, we will finish it tomorrow.

From the Mouths of Babes: What Does Death Feel Like?

Most days I’m able to “fake” it through the day.

I stil have those days where I just want to curl up in a ball an die.

Am I suppose to pretend to be happy?

It was just a few months ago that the one person I grew up with DIED. Am I am just suppose to pretend to that it never happen? that he never existed? that i wasn’t some how part of what happened to him.

I miss him every day.

some days it is easier than others to pretend. but it is a struggle every single. day.

especially on days where my youngest child asks me…

“i wonder what being dead feels like.”

“Dont you mommy?”

“No I don’t.”

“I don’t know want to know”

well, sometimes I do wonder.

what does being dead feel like.

5 Minutes

Why does God allow some people to suffer for months, years, or decades and take others so quickly? I’m really struggling with this as I wish I just had five minutes to say goodbye. Just five minutes would have been enough to say the things I need to say.

What would I say in those five minutes? What I struggled to say those final moments when I wasn’t even sure if you would hear…the words I could barely get out over my tears…I love you brother…

You were special to me. When you were born, I was disappointed because you weren’t a sister. I was still fascinated by you. Dad was so proud to have a boy.

You would later claim I would pull on your eyelashes while I was holding you. Really, I was just curious and amazed at the little package.

You always kept us entertained. You kept us laughing. You were kind and caring. Your nieces and nephews loved you. You remembered everything. (I want to hold onto every single precious memory but I don’t have nearly as good of a memory as you.)

You were so worried about having to deal with grandpa’s death that you didn’t even consider your own.

Yes, you annoyed me. That’s what little brothers do. But I love thinking about every minute of it and wish I could have that back.

Tonight, mom sent me a text and wondered if I had the “infamous” International Harvester video. I was so happy I found it in an old photobucket account.

RIP Loving Brother Billie

I can’t promise to be happy about everything. This doesn’t feel right. It isn’t right. It’s unfair. A life cut way too short.

Last night after we got settled into our bed after a high school basketball game, my dad called. Instantly it felt weird because he had called right after we had seen them at the ball game. I didn’t want to believe what he was telling me and blacked everything out after his first two sentences. Screaming. No, no, no. You are lying. Anything but this.

My brother, who is just 28, was in full cardiac arrest. My dad said it didn’t look good and prepare myself for the worst. The paramedics were there and he was going to the hospital. Everything after that feels like it happened to someone else. I’m just a person in a shell.

We raced to the hospital which is only 10 minutes away but it felt like the longest 10 minutes ever. We arrived at the hospital before the him which didn’t feel right.

My aunt and cousin were already at the hospital. A friend had seen the paramedics at my parents house. Things do travel fast in a small town. It is good to have all the support you can.

Finally, he arrived at the hospital. There was nothing we could do but wait. Slowly, family members trickled in.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

Finally, my parents were able to go back and talk to the doctor. Not good, they were having problems keeping stabilized but he was going to go via life line to Methodist. Father Kinnamon arranged for a few of the rest of us to see him off before he went on the helicopter ride.

It was painful waiting for them to wheel him out. Finally, they did. I eeked out an I love you Billie. He looked horrible. I didn’t have any hope. Except they were life lining him….there had to be hope right?

During the one hour drive that felt like two hours, I convinced myself that we would get to Indianapolis and he would be fine. Then I was going to kick his butt for freaking us out like a good big sister would.

Not a chance.

I knew as soon as they ushered us into the room that my family knows too well over the past years that it wasn’t good news. Not good news when the doctor’s come out with the chaplain and the social worker.

The doctor starts by saying tell us what you know about what happened to him. I am screaming in my head “TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW *&%#&##.” But I didn’t want to know because I knew what he was going to tell us and I wasn’t going to like it.

Crying. Wanting to scream. Wanting to punch, kick, or hurt something. Crying.

Hugs. Prayers. Crying.

Trying to be strong for my parents.

My youngest brother, who is just eleven years old, witnessed everything. My mom had to give CPR to her own son just minutes after calling 9-11. He was breathing when they got home. Then he stopped breathing after they called 9-11.

It doesn’t feel real. This isn’t happening to him. He is only 28 years old. He was a loving and kind brother, uncle, and son. He loved his nieces and nephews and especially his girl Sofia. They had become really close over the past couple of weeks. He was a big teddy bear. He came to my office everday when he got off work and sometimes I was annoyed with him and mean….but mostly we laughed and joked with each other.

I can’t be going to plan my own brother’s funeral today.

He looked so peaceful. Rest in Peace Baby Brother.

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