If you are going through hell, keep going. - Winston Churchill
“Is everyone okay,” I nervously asked.
“No Karen… It’s Bryan.”
Last November, my brother Bryan was involved in a horrific car accident in which he was ejected from the vehicle. It was truly a miracle that he had survived, although his injuries included several broken ribs and a shattered heel, among others. Throughout his recovery while living with my parents, he slowly began to recover. When I saw him at Christmas, he was doing well and getting stronger everyday. We had even talked about all of the family going to the Tennessee/Oklahoma football game in September.
So when I heard Mom say the words “It’s Bryan,” my heart broke into a million pieces and total fear overwhelmed me, to say the least. The next thing that came out of her mouth was the very last thing I would have expected to hear.
Earlier that evening, Bryan had a hemorrhagic stroke and was rushed to the hospital, where his body lay in a coma. I asked if there was any way that he would survive, and she responded that he most likely would not. If he did make it through, his quality of life would likely be greatly diminished in a vegetative state. The stroke had occurred quickly and out of nowhere. Doctors concluded that his car wreck had nothing to do with what had happened that night.
After Mom and I talked a bit, I got off the phone, and all I could do was cry and shake uncontrollably on the inside. I was in shock. I kept saying to myself, “He is just 39 and was doing well the last time I saw him. How on earth was my intuition spot-on that something bad was going to happen around my delivery?” I wanted to be wrong. Yet, I had known in my gut months prior something bad was going to happen. I just didn’t know what.
I kept asking God, “Why now?” Of all times, why did this happen when I was about to finally deliver my first baby and my parents’ first grandchild. While deep down I loved my baby, I honestly have to say that I didn’t care at all about our pregnancy at that point.
For days, I struggled emotionally with guilt, anger, and despair. I was torn apart with guilt of being happy about our baby while my brother was in a life-and-death situation. It felt wrong to be joyful, knowing that the other half of me was distraught over my brother and my parents. How could I be happy knowing their son/my brother was most likely not going to make it?
I struggled with and continue to struggle with anger because of the timing of everything. How could God allow my brother to possibly die at the very moment my first child was due, the one whom we have longed and prayed for for so long? I felt I was being punished, as these circumstances occurred at what was supposed to be the most special time in my life after all the prior circumstances that I had gone through. Instead, I was robbed of my joy. In addition, despair overwhelmed me – thoughts that he may not make it out alive to meet his nephew, that I may never see him again or say goodbye, and because of the pain and emotional hell my parents were going through. I was screwed up emotionally, to say the least.
My dad was so excited about this baby that he had asked off work the month before and after February 12th so that nothing, and I mean nothing, would keep him from being at the birth. My brother had never been to Virginia Beach to see where I live and was planning on traveling up to see his nephew. He loved kids and could not wait to meet his nephew and be an uncle. With all this uncertainty, I still had to somehow prepare myself for both the impending birth of our son and for whatever lay ahead with Bryan.
On my due date – February 12, 2014 – I began to have contractions. Chris and I drove to the hospital, but our stay was short-lived. It turns out that the contractions were simply Braxton Hicks, and we ended up coming home. That same night, snow storms were pounding the southeast, from Virginia Beach to our parents’ hometown of Knoxville, TN. My mom decided to head eastward to stay with us just in case I went into labor and to get ahead of the storms. At that point, my mom and dad made the hard decision to split up, with Dad staying behind with Bryan, who was hooked up to machines and ventilators.
For the next few days all we could do was nervously wait for reports on Bryan, as well as anticipate our son to make his grand entrance. As you can tell, everything was up in the air. Would my brother survive? If so, what would his quality of life be like? Would my dad be able to come to the birth of his first grandchild he and my mom had longed for?
To be continued…