Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Gift of Time

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1
I loved my friend, fellow worship team vocalist and previous doula client, Jenna. Our lives connected in so many areas, we'd become accustomed to spending lots of time together. Yet for months, it had been hard to get together, mostly due to scheduling conflicts on my part. She'd invited me to come over since the kids were in school, and it just hadn't worked. We hadn't even been scheduled to sing together since her youngest daughter was born. Texting, Facebook messages and quick hugs on Sunday morning had been our only interaction until Thursday, December 5, 2013, when we met at practice. We were scheduled to sing together on Sunday at last! When I arrived that evening, I knew I wouldn't have to tell her I wanted to share a music stand. Our piles of music were all set, with "Amy and Jenna-Pie" (my nickname for her) written on our practice notes. 

I had planned to steal her away for a quick coffee date after practice, but she left before I could ask her.  

Thursday was the last time I saw her awake.

Jenna and I had been in hospital rooms together more than once, but Saturday was unlike any other time we'd spent together. Her beautiful hair was disheveled from paramedics restarting her heart. Her skin was cold, because they had to cool her body down in an attempt to decrease brain swelling. Tubes contorted her lifeless face, breathing for her. I clutched my friend's hand, trying to feel if she was still with us. I couldn't tell.  An avid dancer, her toes were pointed, even in a coma. When her mother-in-law arrived on a red-eye flight and cracked a loving joke, her heart rate went up slightly. Those moments, however involuntary or inconsequential, felt like precious gifts.

As a small group of loved ones surrounded her, we prayed for a miracle. We begged for her to open her eyes. We sang to her. We spoke to her. This continued for days. We changed clothes, slept a little and returned, keeping vigil for Jenna. Any blip on her heart monitor or twitch of her body was reason enough to hope, to plead with God to keep her with us, if it that was His will. I knew we should seek His will, knowing God knew so much better than short-sighted mortals, but it was SO hard. We waited on the doctor's final word on whether or not any brain activity was present.

At last, the report came in: there was no hope. We came to see her one last time- this time to say goodbye.

Our final visit was very ritualistic. It was Lisa, Alyssa and I-- three friends preparing Jenna for her final resting place. We took handprints and locks of hair for her daughters. We painted her fingernails and toenails, because, for some reason, we couldn't bear the thought of her being laid to rest with chipped polish. It felt so unnatural to leave her there, knowing they would be harvesting her organs to donate soon. I wanted to protect her. I didn't want her to be alone. I knew she was gone, but I wasn't ready to say goodbye. When we knew it was time to say our final farewell, our sobbing was so heavy, we practically carried each other out of the hospital. Snowflakes softly fell as we drove home, heavy hearted and exhausted. Her memorial would be on Saturday, one week after this awful nightmare had begun.

Saturday came, and we celebrated her life together. Family, friends, church members, dance colleagues and more laughed, cried and sang in her memory. It was painful and healing at the same time. I missed her then; I miss her still.

That week was, without a doubt, the most gut-wrenching 7 days I have ever endured, but I am thankful for them.  While it was void of the joy birth brings, being Jenna's "death doula" was every bit as much of a privilege. That time was a gift. 


About Me

I'm not your average housewife; but then, neither is any other housewife I've met! My life is a constant blur of kids, animals, hunting down and testing allergy-friendly recipes, shopping, LOTS of coffee, yarn crafting, nannying, singing and writing. I married my highschool sweetheart (the introvert who is a type-A, shy, organized, loves hunting, hiking and mountain climbing. He lives for pizza, burgers and cookies and doesn't like coffee). We are polar opposites, but Love, grace and a whole lotta Jesus can overcome anything! :) We have two boys who fill this house with lots of excitement, love, laughter and lunacy! Alan (9) is a happy-go-lucky, inventive, dramatic, eager-to-please kid who loves being dad's shadow and mom's shopping companion. He's the snuggliest kid I've ever met! Wyatt is extremely bright, inquisitive, entertaining and endearing. He lives for routine, Wii games, pixar films and writing stories. Alan is typically-developing, Wyatt has high-functioning autism. We live on an acre in the Pacific Northwest with our two aussies and 5 chickens. It's not the Waltons, but it works! :)