On an April morning back in 2000, my wife's sister was on the phone, chatting with a friend. The conversation was suddenly very silent on one end of the phone and the friend could hear my sister-in-law's two toddler sons trying to "Wake up, Mommy." The older of the two boys, Ben, picked up the phone and the friend quickly realized the emergency nature of the situation. She kept Ben on the land line while she called for help on her cell. The paramedics arrived within 5 minutes and were able to revive Tracee and quickly transported her to the hospital.
Despite everyone's best attempts, the brief interval of oxygen deprivation had damaged too much of Tracee's brain. She was left in a vegetative state and given no hope for recovery. No one was ever able to determine the cause. A family decision was reached and the life support was removed. Tracee began to breathe on her own and so she was brought home under the 24 hour care of a hired assistant. She was placed on a "Do Not Resuscitate" order but just a year, later, while her mother was visiting, she suffered another attack. Despite the DNR order, the two women did what came naturally and administered CPR, bringing Tracee back again.
Tracee has been to every family event that it was possible to which she could be transported. A special wheelchair, a van equipped with a sling lift and other ingenious devices allowed her to be in the pictures.
She lost weight. Her feet dropped. She gnawed holes in her lower lip. But she also had reactions to stimuli such as light, sound and temperature change. There were times when you would swear that she was responding to the sound of your voice and so she was loved. Her two sons grew to be teenagers with faint memories of the vital woman that their mother had been. Her daughter from her first marriage became a dentist with kids of her own but she always maintained a hand in the management of her mother's health.
Nearly a decade later, right around 11 P.M. EST on Christmas Eve, as I was reading and responding to threads in BWOT, I received a call from Chrystal who tearfully informed me that her mother had passed. I awoke my wife with the news and we went downstairs to tell her mother that her middle daughter, one of six children had just died.
We made the drive over to Tracee's house. The emergency crews had departed with a single police officer awaiting the arrival of the mortician.
Death had been kind to Tracee in a perverse sort of way. Her skin had smoothed to that of a newborn child and the blotchy redness that accompanied her struggle for life had lightened into the alabaster sheen of a precious china figurine. The two men gently gathered Tracee onto a stretcher and took her from her home and family for the last time.
I don't know what today will bring but for the first time since their deaths, I was not at the cemetery on Christmas morning to witness the sunrise beside the graves of my 2 year old grandson and my father. Somehow, I don't think they will mind this year.