It was a very tough day. A very, very tough couple of days....three weeks, actually. Sunday, March 20, 2005. Angelia’s birthday. Angelia was my husband’s first born daughter. His beloved “Sassy”. The year before, on her birthday in 2004, we did not get to see her. She and her husband had been separated the year before, and had recently gotten back together, so they were doing something just themselves for her birthday. But, we did send her a card and gift for her birthday, for which I am eternally grateful, since it was the last birthday she’d ever have. For it was just three weeks later, on Tuesday, April 13, 2004, just two days after Easter, that she left us.
We did not see her at Easter that year, either. She and her husband had gone camping. We had our usual family Easter celebration at my sister-in-law’s house. Almost everyone else was there, except Angelia. After leaving my sister-in-law’s house, we drove by Angelia and Ricky’s place to leave her an Easter card. Angelia was a constant worry to everyone, mostly because of her husband’s troubles. But, she was a big girl, and we, the entire family, were powerless to stop her from her determination to keep her marriage together. We knew she was depressed and exhausted and anxious, and we all worried about her constantly.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. Tuesday, April 13, 2004. 11:48 A.M. I was at work, hubby was at home putting in a new garbage disposal. I answered the phone at my desk. It was Jessica, Angelia’s oldest daughter. Jess was crying and nearly hysterical. I managed to get out of her that Angelia had been sick for the last few days and Jess had to call 911 to bring Angelia to the hospital. Now, my first thought was that Angelia maybe had a bad sinus or respitory infection, possibly even pneumonia. In other words, something fixable, something curable. Then, Jess said something about “Mama was blue.....fever of 108.....eyes rolled back in her head”. I tried to get Jess to calm down and see if someone else could get on the phone and tell me what was going on. But she said all the doctors would tell her is, “they’re doing the best they can”. Whatever was going on, Jess did not need to be there alone with her mom. Ricky was at work, I assumed, and Adrian was in school. I found out what hospital, and told Jessica we’d be there as quickly as possible. I went home to get Pete and we left immediately for the hospital. It was about a 30 mile drive. I remember being on the phone with various family members the whole way down to the hospital. I spoke to my husband’s oldest son, who was at the time a medic in the Air Force, and he said that fever of 108 does not sound good. My mom, a nurse, said the same thing when I had talked to her. Mom was quite hesitant, not wanting to tell me what she knew would be the truth, so she only said, “well, she could suffer some brain damage from a fever that high”. When I relayed that to my hubby, his immediate reply was that we (he and I) would simply bring her home to our house and rehabilitate her there with us. I wholeheartedly agreed.
I remember arriving at the hospital and parking. As we began to get out of the car, I grabbed hubby’s hand and asked if we could pray for Angelia. We took each other’s hand, and he lead us in a deep and meaningful prayer for Angelia’s recovery. As we both said, “Amen”, and our eyes opened, my eyes landed on the dashboard clock. It was 1:23 P.M.
We left the car and made our way into the hospital. We were eventually led to a waiting room and were told someone would be with us shortly. Opening the door to the room, there was Ricky, with Jessica on one side, and Adrian on the other. All three, hugging and sobbing. Hysterically sobbing. I reached down and touched Adrian on the shoulder to let them know we were there. Adrian looked up, and for some strange reason, I remember vividly noticing the new color on her braces: neon green. I remember thinking that was an odd color to have in your mouth. So it took a moment for it to sink in, what she said: “Momma’s gone”. What? Huh? Gone? Gone where? To another hospital? What do you mean? But gone she was. I found out weeks later after receiving her death certificate that her time of death was 1:23 PM. The exact time her father and I had said, “Amen” to our prayer for her recovery.
I grabbed hubby’s hand and was astounded by the hollow, sinking look in his eyes. Denial, no, it can’t be. He could not speak. Could not find his voice. I don’t think he breathed. I roughly pulled him to me, to try to jolt him out of not breathing. I held him. The tears began. I cried. Hubby was just repeating, “no, no, no, no....not Sassy, no, no, no”. Over and over and over again. The little he moved, to hug and hold his granddaughters, he moved very stiffly, very woodenly. He was pale yellow. His eyes, sunken. I remember his beard stubble looked very black against his yellow face. His hazel eyes were tiny and red. His voice, rasping, over and over again. “No, no, no”. Next: confusion sets in more. People arrive, the phone in the family waiting room starts ringing. Ashley arrives and starts making calls. I remember thinking how brave, how "take-charge" she was being for such a young woman. A counselor comes to talk to us. A doctor comes to explain what happened.Staphalcocus aureus septisemia.
Eventually, we went to say our good-byes. Angelia, laying there on the bed. A vent tube still in her mouth. Her hair was oily and stiff. Her skin, pale and waxy and lifeless. The tube made everything very unnatural. Her whole body looked very small and tiny. I held her hand, talked to her, kissed her. Told her how very much she was loved. This is not real, this can’t be real. She is not gone. They have to help her, have to fix her, have to make her better. I cannot say good-bye. After some time, I left the room. I remember feeling like a horrible person for leaving her in that room, alone. To go through what lay ahead of her, by herself. Surely, there must be some mistake. The rest of the family, most of them anyways, was gathering. Phone calls, decisions, tears. I lot of this is a blur. Hubby had to get out of there. Ricky had disappeared with the girls. We went outside to our car, and saw them, the three of them, sitting on a concrete parking wall. Huddled, sobbing, hugging. The three of them. Angelia’s little family. As much as the family had problems with Ricky, it was hard to not feel sorry for him now, left alone with his two daughters, without his beloved Angelia, the sweetest, gentlest, kindest, most loving person you could ever want to meet. I remember just standing there, looking at them, and my heart began to break, never to be whole again.
We got in our car, and headed to my sister-in-law’s house. A lot of the family gathered there, and again, while most of it is a blur, I do remember a verbal argument going on between several of my in-law’s, along the lines of, “I thought I would be the next to go”, “no, it’s probably me”, “naw, I figured I was next in line”, etc., etc., etc., with everyone listing out their various ailments, aches, pains and illnesses. Just absurd. It really irritated me. I started looking around, and everyone was just sitting there, ignoring my hubby, who was a zombie, a wooden statute by now. Numb. A big block of pain and nothingness. No one was comforting him, paying attention to him, helping him. Everyone was so self-involved and worrying about their own miseries. It just made me so mad, and hubby and I looked at each other, and almost simultaneously, we got up and left. No one protested much. I guess they figured we needed to be alone. But it’s like we both knew we had to get out of there, before one of us blew a fuse.