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Falling Apart

Thursday, October 6, 2005 1:56 AM CDT

This is awful.
It's worse than I could have imagined.
It's simply indescribable.

I'm falling apart. I can't do this anymore. We're a mess. A mess. I can't think. I can't feel. I can't see.

Kenny had his 15th birthday. Dave's not here. How can that be?

Homecoming, spirit week, football...the things he loved, and he's not here.

I guess the numbness is lifting.

We're struggling. There just isn't room for anything but this grief, this empty feeling. People don't understand. They've already adjusted. Gone on. Kenny, Zach, Kate and I are on hold. Waiting for something that will never come. Trying to grasp that. Living in a world we no longer recognize. A landscape where emotion swirls past us and through us, overwhelming us, making us feel no longer part of anything.

The resilience of children is a gift and a curse. Middle school is the worst. Some of Zach's friends have accused him of being moody and mean and unpredictable. Gee, I wonder why. (For his part, he does admit to being mean, in particular when pushed to talk about things he doesn't want to talk about, and saying some things he regrets...we spent a lot of time on alternatives....) People can't understand. They don't grasp it. I don't think I grasp it. They're back to normal. We're not. We'll never be. There's this huge hole inside of us, and it SCREAMS all the time. All the time. Most of the time I manage it, most of the time the kids do, too. That in itself is a miracle.

I guess I just feel crazy, insane, inside. And I'm pretending to be normal, like a real person. The edges are blurred. The line between real and unreal wavers and falters. I no longer feel sure of anything. I am adrift, without my anchor. Without a place to stand. Without a place to belong.

And I'm angry, too. Angry that we have to face this, that we have to find a way through it. Angry that there are people who don't understand. Angry that horrible people keep living when Dave is dead. Angry that there are people who don't appreciate what they have. Angry at God. Angry that homework and dishes and laundry still have to be done. Angry that Osama Bin Laden didn't get a brain tumor instead of Dave.

There are so many pictures that fly through my mind.

Some of Dave. His smile. His laugh. The spring in his step. His voice. Then...the horrible ones come...him trying so hard to eat...laughing at himself when he fell, trying to make light of something so ominous...clenching his teeth against the suction machine...mouthing words with no voice...whispering "I'm sorry" ...telling his dad after the seizure..."I'm glad it's me and not you." And Bob saying, "You don't know how many times I've prayed the opposite." And Dave saying, "Yes, I do." Before long, I have to force my mind away.

I drift to pictures of other people...

Calling Zach home from Idaho on Saturday, telling him he needed to be here. Seeing his face, when he saw how much worse his dad was in just a few days. Watching the realization dawn.

Kenny, always so frank, "I just see the life going out of him."

Kate, sitting with me on the hallway floor on Friday, asking, "WHEN is Daddy going to get better this time?" Deep breath, "Honey, I'm not sure he's going to." Momentary silence, holding her breath. Then the wall came up. "Oh," she says, "Can I still go to Katie's sleep over?" Me, terrified that she wouldn't face it, she was refusing to see what she saw.

Then Zach came home. And Kate let herself feel. She was waiting for him. Deb came over. We took turns, holding the kids, talking with them, giving them time with Dave, walking through it, answering questions, telling them what they needed to hear, knowing they'd remember this forever. It was such hard work. At the time, I couldn't have imagined anything harder.

The night before Dave died, the boys went to bed. Kate wouldn't. She wouldn't settle, wouldn't lay down, wouldn't budge. Finally, I'm exasperated. "You've GOT to get some sleep!" I shout. "But, Mom, I just want every minute with him I can have." I relent. Dave was running a fever, so we put a cool cloth on his head, rubbed his head and neck, put down the sides of the bed so we could snuggle him. We lit the unity candle from our wedding. And Kate talked.

Mommy, what happens to your body when you die?
Mommy, what is heaven like?
Do animals go there?
Why do people get cancer?
Why doesn't God answer every prayer?
What will happen when Daddy dies?
Why can't we call 911?
Why can't they give him different medicine?
How can it be Christmas if Daddy isn't here?
Will I always remember him?
Does God hear me?

And a million other questions. We talked until 4:00 am. Talked and talked and loved Dave. We read to him from his bible, we played his favorite music. Finally, her eyes were so heavy. I said, "Baby, it's okay to rest." She said, "Mama, will you watch him?" "Yes, I'll watch him." "Mama, will you wake me?" "Yes, if anything changes, I'll wake you."

She laid down on the couch. I laid on the floor, between the couch and Dave's bed. We slept. I woke at 6:00 am. Dave's breathing was so shallow, his heart rate so fast. He was hot with fever, so I stroked his head, cooled him down, talked to him a bit. Knew it was close. Tried to stay awake, but slept.

At 8:00 am, Kate jumped up and bolted from the couch, leaping over me. She ran to Dave, put her hands on his head and said, "Mommy, is he breathing?" Adrenaline was rushing through my body, I put my hand on his chest, thought I felt a faint breath, put my hand on his throat, maybe a flutter of a pulse, he was still so hot. Then another slight movement of his chest, then nothing.

It wasn't scary, it wasn't painful, it was quiet, and peaceful. And awful, this horrible, insidious slipping away.

I would have missed it. But Kate knew. Jim said that Dave must have nudged her on his way by. Somehow she knew.

The unity candle was folding in on itself. I blew it out. She and I spent some time with Dave, crying, talking. Then we woke Zach. We had some more time together, then Kenny came in from the motor home. We had some more time with just us. The four of us, together with Dave, riding that first wave of grief. The shock, the intensity, the finality. Then a bit of calm.

And my sister and her family came downstairs. The first wave for them. Kenny, Zach and Kate were in a calm state, and were able to hug and comfort their cousins. At one point, Amy was sitting on my mom's lap, crying and crying. Zach watched for a minute, then picked her up, held her to his chest and rocked her until she calmed. Just as he later did at the service. Such a tender moment. Darren, wearing Dave's shirt, hugging Kenny. Jake's blue, blue eyes, full of tears.

We held each other, we cried. Eventually we made phone calls. Ron made the announcement at Cordiner Hall, where all district staff were assembled.

We bathed Dave, annointed him with oil, dressed him in his new Blue Devil football shirt, his coaching whistle and his Goofy hat. Then we prayed.

Later, when the funeral home came to take Dave's body, the children were all at the foot of the stairs, sure they didn't want to be present when that happened, but wanting to be close by. As we wheeled Dave out, I looked down the stairs, the kids were all intertwined, tangled together, holding onto one another, a dozen eyes watching as one. I knew then, they'd be able to count on each other. The worst had happened, and they were making it through, leaning on each other.

I'm not sure why I'm telling this story. Maybe to try to reconnect with that feeling I had that day. The feeling that somehow, some way, it would be okay again. I've lost that feeling now.

Please pray for me. Love, Shelley

PS. Also, please pray for my friend. God knows who she is and what she needs.


  1. ________________________________________
    Your words were read. Again, your poignant sharing of events and emotions is treasured. Your family and you did what you needed to do in such a proud and gentle manner at the time of Dave's death. But now, the fact is that he is gone from this Earth and the emotions are many and varied. I believe this is good (for the situation as it is) because you have the opportunity to find the equilibrium needed in your life by expressing doubts, fears, needs, hopes as they expose themselves--granted big and very important ones first and then more minor ones--and that's the way you'll find your way (think of the path Laurie Klicker wrote about earlier) with the help of those who love you and your children. But the load can become overbearing and the responsibilities seem impossible; that's where you need to take one day at a time, slow down as your life isn't the same as it was. Do just what is really important, koko in a less zealous way; it's OK....we all understand things have changed in an unfathomable way.

    All of us readers on the CaringBridge site need to hear from Diane Phillips again soon. Her gentleness, keen insight and expressive writing soothes us all. And I know she is good medicine for our Michelle. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!

    If none of what I've written has been exactly what is needed, please know that I've tried, Michelle, and that my heartfelt thoughts are with you at this most fragile time as they've been many times in the last number of years.

    Take care.
    Wendye Bren
    Walla Walla, WA - Thursday, October 6, 2005 10:24 AM CDT
    If we could only take a bit of your pain away, you know we would. If we could advance you down this path of grief, you know we would. If we could write words that delivered relief, you know we would.

    We can let you know how much we love you. You know we do.
    Evy Haroldson
    Seattle, WA - Thursday, October 6, 2005 9:03 AM CDT

  2. ________________________________________
    Oh Michelle, as I sit here crying reading your journal, my heart aches for you and the kids. Im SO sorry that you are going through this. Your right, it isnt fair. Its so hard to understand why things happen the way they do. I dont have the right comforting words for you but Im holding you close to my heart. You are in my prayers Michelle.
    Love, Kari
    Truman, MN 56088 - Thursday, October 6, 2005 2:32 PM CDT
    True honesty is a gift few of us have and even fewer of us know how to share as purely as you do, Michelle. Thank you for that.

    I think God allows us to let go of some loved ones more easily (less painfully?) than others, perhaps depending on the space and energy of our lives they consummed in their time on earth.

    Well, we all know Dave filled every corner of the lives he touched and for each of you in his family, every part of your insides, outsides and soft centers. Heck, his smile alone took up kilobytes!

    You are in my heart, where Dave still dwells, and in all my prayers, even the ones that silently creep out of me when I least suspect it.

    Love, Cindy
    Cindy Widmer
    Walla Walla, WA - Thursday, October 6, 2005 12:41 AM CDT
    Here I am again. Reading your journal with tears running down my face. Not knowing what to say. Nothing I can say. I Just want to give you a big Hug to help absorb some of your hurt. And then I think 'how presumptious of me'. How close of a friend do you have to be to give a person a hug?
    And then I think..... Dave would never have asked.

    Steve Jordan
    Walla Walla, WA USA - Thursday, October 6, 2005 10:57 AM CDT

  3. ________________________________________
    Dearest Shelley,

    Praying for you, still, and always. You do not need to ask. Middle school....its bad enough when it is normal....this isn't normal....poor Zach...hold them close long as you need to...nothing makes sense now....someday, it will....somehow, it will...until then...we pray...we listen..we hold you ...we love you....
    Cathy B.
    w/o Lou dx inoperable gbm 10/04

    cathy beres
    chicago, il - Friday, October 7, 2005 0:40 AM CDT
    Michelle, I'm sure many of us sit here today, reading your journal, that you so graciously share with us, and cry. We want to have the perfect words to ease your pain, even if it's just a little. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say we don't even feel justified to say anything to you, not having experienced your pain and suffering. I agree with the other posts here... please don't apologize for your anger. I think we all at one point thru Daves journey have been angry that God didn't heal him but keeps others, the "bad" people as we say, to stay here? It doesn't make sense and it's not fair. Please know we SO MUCH appreciate your seering honesty and willingness to keep this site going. A counselor told me once, "numb is worse than anger, at least with anger you are still feeling." Please lean on us whenever you need to, but most especially God, He loves you and so do we.
    Michelle Gentges
    Jacksonville, FL USA - Thursday, October 6, 2005 6:17 PM CDT
    Oh heart just breaks for you and the kids and ALL that you are going through. It's not fair that you should have to worry about the lack of understanding on the part of some kids......and others.....None of us know (unless we have experienced what you have) what you and the kids are going through right now, we can only imagine, and I'm sure that what we imagine isn't even close to how horrible it really is. Please know that we have not moved on. You and the kids and the rest of your and Dave's families are in my thoughts and prayers daily. Don't ever be afraid to share your pain and don't ever apologize for the anger. It all part of the healing process and it is NORMAL. Thank you for sharing your last moments with Dave with the rest of us. You are teaching us all so much through your entries.....most of all to be honest with our thoughts and our feeling. Don't forget to lean on those around you when you need to.....that's what friends and family are for.
    Ginny Streeter
    Bend, OR - Thursday, October 6, 2005 4:25 PM CDT

  4. ________________________________________
    We are so used to human trauma and graphic depictions of tragic things on t.v. and in the movies...sometimes it is overwhelming and the way we all handle it is to clam up, shut down, harden-letting very few things penetrate our conscience and move us to tears, or to action. Yet, for me, the first time I heard about your family, it was not a distance tragedy that made me think, "Oh, isn't that sad?", instead, especially with the journaling on this site, it became of personal consequence to get down on knees and pray daily for Dave and you and the kids. Your lives have touched me beyond imagining.
    Strangely, I didn't meet you until the day of Dave's memorial service. I didn't ever meet Dave, but was still introduced to him through his parents and grandmother and by watching the devotion of his extended family and dear friends on that amazing day. But it has been your writing of this story that makes you so real to those of us that only know you "from a distance", that invites us close in to your most intimate challenges, victories, and losses that involves us to the point we want desperately to take some action, to ease you and make it better for you. With your words, I can, on some minute level, understand your struggle, drawing on some personal experience that lives somewhere inside of me to try to relate. I can imagine your pain, but cannot truly know the abyss in which you live at this time in your life. I know all I can do is to honor what you have asked us to do for you and that is to pray. I surely am in prayer for you -it is a joy and blessing to do something, anything...and in the most profound way, praying is the simplest, most effective thing that can be done. Daily intercession is my commitment to you and your precious children. I hope today is better than yesterday and even more so tomorrow.

    Jennifer Boyer
    Lewiston, ID - Friday, October 7, 2005 2:25 PM CDT
    Michelle, I am so sorry for the pain, I know how hard it is to loose someone so dear it will someday be easier, I lost my mom when I was 19 and I know the pain your kids are feeling, cheated of all the years to come, its so hard when someone passes away at an older age but when they are young it is so hard to understand why they were taken when they had so much going for them, God must have had a reason for taking them so soon but it still makes you very angry, I just want you to know that I think of you and the kids often and love you guys....take care
    Kathy Person
    Walla Walla, WA - Friday, October 7, 2005 12:20 AM CDT
    I am so sorry for all the pain you and your family are dealing with. I have been following your journey and am so grateful to you for your strength in sharing your experiences. God Bless you.

    Jeanine Webber

    Jeanine Webber
    Spokane, WA USA - Friday, October 7, 2005 1:55 AM CDT

  5. Hon~

    I don't sign your guestbook as often as I should. I check in daily. My heart breaks for you and your amazing children every day. As horrible, terrifying and heartbreaking as it is to have a child with a brain tumor. And as hard as it is to see her siblings through it and worry for all of them...and for our marriage...I just can't even imagine being in your shoes. I know all of the things that I hate to hear, you're so strong...I don't know how you do it...What choice is there?!? Everything will be OK...uh huh...kind of hard to see that right now...and it doesn't make it OK right now. I'm just so sorry that you...that anyone has to deal with losing a loved one to a brain tumor. They are nasty, nasty, nasty...I think of you everytime I start to complain...I won't lie...I am angry, i am scared, I am tired...but I think of you and know that you would deal with all of this...the MRI's, the chemo failures, the chemo pukies, the hemiplegia, ataxia, drug side effects and on, and on, and on if it would bring your Dave back. I do try to remember that we are blessed to have our Hadley with us even if we KNEW it was only for today. Thank you for sharing your journey, for opening up the most tender and personal moments of your life for all of us to learn from. I really wish that I could just run on over to your house and hug you and hang out with your kids and love on them too. I know that you are all surrounded in love...but, I do worry about you...I do pray for you, all of you. I so wish that I could take it all away from you and you could hold your dave in your arms again. I will never understand this...and I don't really know that if there IS any logic to it that I ever WANT to understand it. My love and prayers are always with you and yours.

    With Love and Hope
    Hadley's Mama

    Alameda, CA USA - Friday, October 7, 2005 11:08 PM CDT
    I just talked to Patty Harmon and she mentioned the Homecoming game tonight. I immediately thought of you, the kids and Dave. He LOVED homecoming. Go tonight, enjoy the game, enjoy your memories, grieve for what you have lost....and CHEER ON THE BLUE DEVILS for Dave Meyer!
    Ginny Streeter
    Bend, OR - Friday, October 7, 2005 6:49 PM CDT


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