Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Baseball, Blue's Clues and Goodbyes

Jack had an early baseball game and Karen was going to drop Michael off on the way.  Michael came running up the steps and burst in the house.  “I’m home,” he shouted and we waved to Karen and the boys in the van as they left.

“Come here, pal,” said Rick and Michael Sean came over and put his head in Ricky’s lap.  Rick hugged him.  Mike said, “Mom, can you turn on my shows, please?”

Rick was sitting in the living room in his chair looking out the window; this was his favorite spot to watch the cars and see things coming and going on street. “I’ll get you some cereal,” I said on my way into the kitchen.  I came back and handed it to him.

Just then, Karen pulled into the driveway.  I opened the front door; it had started to rain.  Jack came in with is uniform on and said.  “They canceled the game.”  “Okay, Jack, go change and take those cleats off outside, please,” I said.  “Hi Dad, love you!” he shouted as he ran past Rick and went to change.

I took Rick’s bowl into the kitchen. “Mom, I want Blue’s Clues,” yelled Mike from the den.  “I’m coming,” I said.  This was Mike's favorite website;  he loved playing the preschooler games.  I went in and started to log on.  We could hear the low screaming of the modem as the computer was connecting to our server.  “I know how to do it,” Michael said.  I looked at him and said, “Oh, sweetie, I know you do"  Jack had just turned a program on the television and was settling in on the chair to watch his cartoons. 

I got up and walked to the living room.  Rick was sitting in his chair but he was rather slumped. “You, okay?” I asked.  He didn’t reply his mouth was opening and there was air coming out of his mouth.  I ran to him.  “Rick!  Oh, my god!  Jack, call 911.  Oh, my god, help me!”

Jack ran into the room.  His face was white.  He picked up the phone.  “Mom, Mike is on the computer!”he told.  "Oh, god," I screamed. "GO GET TERESA!”  Teresa was our neighbor across the street.  It was a miracle that she was up and dressed when Jack came banging on her door.  She even had her shoes on.  She came flying across the street behind Jack.

I had gone into the den and was trying to disconnect the computer to get the phone line.  I kept banging my foot on the floor in frustration. The cord of the phone reached into the living room and I was watching Teresa trying to get the chair in a flat position to give Rick CPR. 

This was really like one of those nightmares where everything is in slow motion and every second seems to last for an hour.  The panic was coursing through me.  The computer disconnected and I finally had a dial tone.  I dialed 911.  The operator came on and said.  “This is 911. What is your emergency?”  My head was a jumble and my mouth couldn’t speak.

I had this dream before, where I need to talk or scream but nothing comes out.  I could hardly breathe.  “My husband is dying!  He’s not breathing. Oh, god, come soon.  Get here!  He’s dying!” I was screaming and pleading into the phone.  “Ma’am, calm down.  Give me your address,” she said in a firm voice.  “607 E. Poplar Rd.” I blurted out.  “We’ll send someone right away. Stay on the phone with me,” she said.  “No!” I replied.  I hung up the phone and went to help Teresa. 

While Teresa and I tried to give Rick CPR, I said, “Jack, call Aunt Karen.”  He got on the phone.  “Something happened to my dad.  Come, Aunt Karen!  Come now!”  He was crying and jumping up and down in a panic.  “Where are they, Mom?” he said with pleading eyes.  

We lived less than a half mile from the fire station.  Neither of us could hear the sirens.  He grabbed the phone and called 911 again.  “Where are you!?  My dad is dying!” he screamed into the phone.  They kept him talking on the line.

Teresa and I continued to give him CPR.  Rick is dying.  This is it.  I can’t believe that this is how I will lose him. You can’t leave me, Rick.  I am not ready for this.  I don’t want you to die! How can you leave me alone?  I don’t want to do this.

Karen ran in the house.  She grabbed Jack and Michael and went into the den.  I could hear her voice.   “It’s going to be okay.  The ambulance will be here soon.”  There was terror in her voice.  Jack was crying.

Finally, we heard the sirens and the ambulance and fire trucks pulled up on the street.  The man who walked in my house was the sweet, older man, the EMT from our second trip in the ambulance.  He looked at me with his kind eyes and said, “Does he have a Do not resuscitate order?”  “No,” I said.  The two EMTs pulled Rick off the chair and onto the floor and started working on him.  Teresa had come over to me and had her arm around my shoulder.

They were trying to get a line in his veins put couldn’t find one.  He’s going to be a vegetable.  I’m going to have to decide whether or not to pull the plug.  I can’t do this anymore.  I don’t want to do this.  Why didn’t you sign the paper, Rick?

My mind was gone.  I was looking at this but it didn’t seem like I was there.   He’s dead.  This has been too long.  He can’t survive this. Oh, I can’t take anymore!  The EMTs moved Rick’s body to the stretcher and then to the ambulance.  They continued to work on him in the ambulance.

Karen had the boys in the den.  Jack was crying and Michael didn’t really know what was going on.  I walked into the den.  “Go with them," Karen said.  "I’ll bring them to my house and then I’ll follow you to the hospital.”  I turned around to leave and I heard Jack say, “Is it going to be alright?  Is my dad going to be okay?” “Everything’s going to be okay, Jack,” I heard Karen say.

My “motherhood” kicked in.  Oh no!  EVERYTHING’S NOT GOING TO BE OKAY!  I turned around and went back to my baby.  “Come here, Jack,” I took him into the living room and sat on the couch.  I said, “Jack, Dad is probably dead.  I have to go to the hospital with them so the doctor can look at him but Dad is dead, Jack.  It’s going to be okay.  I’ll come to Aunt Karen’s and get you.  Take care of Michael.”  I kissed him and I kissed Michael and then I walked out the front door into the sunshine to the ambulance that was sitting in my driveway and hopped in the front seat.

It was a very long ride to Loudoun Hospital. These people are crazy.  This is an ambulance.  My husband is dead. Get out of the way.  We pulled into the emergency entrance and they backed the ambulance in.  I got out of the truck and the men told me to wait a second.  Nobody moved toward the back of the ambulance.  Then a well-dressed woman came outside and walked toward me.  “Hi, Mrs. Roszel, I’m blah, blah, blah.  Come with me.”

So this is what they do when your husband dies…they bring someone out to “handle” you. I walked with her and she led me down a hall to a door that opened into a small room with two love seats and a chair.  She sat down with me and said, “The doctor will be here in a minute to talk to you.”  He’s dead.  Would someone just tell me he’s dead?  Karen came in and the woman got up and left.

Calmness was settling in on me.  I knew that Rick was gone and I was beginning to feel a great relief.  Rick will not have to suffer anymore.  He will not be in pain anymore.  He will not go to NIH.  He will not have to suffer through a bone-marrow transplant that probably will not work, no more radiation, no more chemo, and no more medications.  Okay, God, I can handle this because he is with You. This is not what I wanted but Rick won’t suffer anymore.

The doctor opened the door and walked in the room.  He introduced himself.  He sat down and said, “Mrs. Roszel, we tried everything that we could but Richard died.”  I looked at him and said, “I know; it’s okay."  Karen was crying very hard.  We held each other and the doctor left. 

We were talking but I don’t remember what we were saying.  Paul was on his way to the hospital and they were trying to find Stephen.  I kept thinking of my babies.  I wanted them.  I wanted to comfort them. I wanted to hold them and not let them go.  We would be okay but there would be a huge hole in our life.

An older priest walked in the door.  I’m Monsignor Kelly, I’m the chaplain here.  I am so sorry for your loss.” “Thank you, Father,” we said.  He came in and sat down and started to chat with us.  A nurse knocked on the door and came in and asked if we wanted to go see Rick.  I said, “Yes.”  Karen wanted to wait for Paul and so I left her with the chaplain.

I was calm.  I want to see him.  I want to be there.  We have shared life every day.  We made a family, two beautiful boys.  I want to see him now in death.  I walked into the area with the curtains surrounding us.  Rick was still.  He was dead.  All I could feel was peace.  This was the first time in months that his body wasn’t racked with pain.  I held his hand and put my head on his chest.  I will miss you, my love.  I didn’t shed a tear.  I was okay.  I kissed his hand and walked back to Karen

Paul came and Stephen finally got the message.  Watching each of them bear the sorrow and grief of their baby brother’s death was hard.  I went into say goodbye to Rick one more time before we left.  Several hours had gone by and Rick’s ear had begun to turn bluish.  I had to keep that picture of him in my mind.  I would go back to it many times in the months and years that lay ahead.  Now, I was going home to my babies.


  1. My daughter passed your blog on to me. You have peppered your grief with humor while exposing your very raw emotions. I am grateful that you have let us peek through the "hole in the ceiling" because I've often wondered...how would I deal with a loved one's pain, suffering, theirs/my possible financial collapse, accepting the generosity of others, relinquishing control, physical and emotional exhaustion....just to name a few. Yes, it all comes down to faith in God/a higher being and even that was tested. Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more. Perhaps we will see this in book form. You have a gift.

  2. Toni,
    Thank you for your kind words. I think faith in God did get me through, along with family. I hope you'll be back.

  3. Your writing is powerful. And peaceful too. In your words are comfort, humor and truth - all offered to the readers who are drawn into your experience. I admire your strength, love and faith! R.

  4. Ms.H.,
    You are very sweet. Thank you for your kind words.

    My strength was a function of the love and support I had around me. My boys, Jack and Michael, were my strength because I never felt I had the choice of letting them down. Their love sustained me. It is amazing what one can do when faced with impossible situations. My admiration, love, and respect remains for my family, my friends, and all the nameless supporters who were there for us. I am truly blessed.
    Jane <3

  5. A very powerful piece. You were able to capture the emotion of what must have been the scariest moment of your life. My heart went out to little Jack as he called 911 and ran to Teresa's house. What a brave boy!