In memory of my son, because every life leaves something beautiful behind...
Sunday, November 29, 2009
One year ago today, we buried our son. When Calvin passed away November 16, 2008, I went into shock. After we held our son in the ICU and he took his last breath in my arms, we returned to my hospital room upstairs. I developed a severe headache. I threw up and started shaking uncontrollably. During the hours following our son's death, I developed a medical emergency. My bladder stopped working. I was still making urine but I was unable to release. By the time the doctor decided to take action and give me a Foley catheter, I had retained almost a litre of urine and my bladder was in danger of bursting. Once the catheter was inserted, the bag filled immediately and had to be dumped, I was crying and numb and in shock. I spiked a fever and was told that I would not be released from hospital until my bladder was working properly again. The goal was to keep the Foley in for twenty-four hours and then remove it to see if I could pee on my own. When it was removed, I was still unable to urinate and was retaining almost 800ml by the time it was reinserted. The doctors were puzzled. They told me sometimes the bladder undergoes trama during a c-section and becomes paralyzed but this was seven days later. I had also experienced a worsening of my pelvic pain and was requiring more medication to keep the pain under control. This too was puzzling the doctors. They told me I should no longer be requiring narcotic pain relief. At that point, I just wanted to be discharged.
From my hospital bed, I called my friend Carrie who was working at a funeral home here in my home town. We arranged for her boss to make the five hour drive down to Vancouver to pick up Calvin's body and bring it home for us. We would make the funeral arrangements when we moved home. Finally, three days after Calvin's death, I was discharged with strict orders to check in with MFM the following day. My doctor was afraid of letting me travel if I continued to have trouble with my bladder but I assured him that things would be fine and that I needed to go home to bury my son. Shane's mom and dad and his sister Susan were at the house in Vancouver helping us pack and looking after Lorelei. The goal was to be packed up and ready to leave Saturday morning, one week after Calvin had died. I think being around Shane and I in our grief was too much for his parents to handle, so after loading Shane's truck with some of our belongings, they set out for home on Friday, leaving Shane and I to finish packing up for the trip home Saturday.
I remember feeling detached on the drive home, wishing that we had chosen to bring Calvin's body back ourselves. Shane couldn't do it. I had suggested that I could hold Calvin for the drive back but he just couldn't bring himself to have our dead son in the van with us for the entire drive back, even though the hospital social worker had told us that several families chose to do it that way. As we pulled into our driveway upon returning home, everything felt hollow. I didn't want to be there without Calvin. I hated that we were coming home without our son.
The next week we met with the funeral home and made Calvin's arrangements. We had numerous family members who wished to come to the service from out of province so we chose to have the funeral on the Saturday of that week, thirteen days following Calvin's death. Truthfully, I don't remember much of the service. I was in extreme emotional pain and was suffering physically. During a follow up doctors appointment when we returned home, it was discovered that I was suffering from a massive e.coli infection in my uterus and bladder. I had probably taken four or five percocet the morning of the funeral. I was terrified that I would start howling great sobs during the service and that I would be unable to control myself. I don't even remember who came. All I do remember is that the chapel was full of our friends, and Shane's family. My family never came. It hurts me to this day that not one member of my family bothered to come.
Calvin's service was beautifully performed by a retired minister who is also a twin. Shane carried our son's casket out to the car to be transported to the cemetery and then carried Calvin from the car to his tiny grave. It broke my heart to watch my husband carrying our boy's casket, knowing that this would be our last good-bye. After a small graveside prayer, we returned to the funeral home. I couldn't bear to watch my son's body be lowered into the ground so we asked the minister to stay with Calvin until he was buried and we went back for refreshments.
That night I developed severe anxiety that Calvin hadn't been buried, that the minister had left him there on top of the ground. I was worried about animals or people defiling my son's body and couldn't sleep until I made Shane go back to the cemetery to make sure Calvin's body had indeed been buried. It gave me nightmares for weeks. Even though Shane assured me that everything was fine, I was still horribly worried that something would happen to him, that worry reinforced everytime I heard the coyotes howling in the night.
Today when I think of that day, I feel sad. I feel sad for all that we went through at that time, all that we've been through since. It's such a lonely, empty feeling to attend the funeral of your own child. It's something I hope to never have to do again God willing. It's something no parent should have to do. Today I remember my son one year after that sad day without the anguish, only a quiet whisper of sadness at the memories.
I have decided to write about my feelings following the death of my only son in November 2008. I'm learning that grief is a process with good days and bad, a lonely road with new beginnings and unavoidable endings. It is my hope that through writing I can come to peace with what has happened to us and our beautiful boy.