Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Storm and The Sunshine

The eye of the storm hit on June 29th, but the rains had been falling long before. The storm had even been predicted as time is allowing us to see…

I have to let go before he ends up killing me…

Over the past couple of weeks I find myself intrigued by the thoughts of “did she have an idea of what was about to happen?” I can’t help but continually put parts together that make me think that that was a possibility.

If she’d known, why did she go? That’s the question so many are asking. If she herself had admitted to the possibility of him killing her, why did she continue to see him, even after the fervent pleas from loving co-workers to “stay away!”?

It’s something many can’t understand. It’s something that many refuse to understand. But it’s something that happens over and over in the lives of many…

What it boils down to is what those of us on the outside don’t know. There’s always more than what you know. And this storm has blown off the roof of a situation exposing sooo much that was never seen before.

Since the events of June 29th I’ve seen and heard more than most connected to this event have:

…I’ve been in an ER “family room” and had the news “broke” of a loved one’s passing.
…I’ve broke the news to two young innocent children that their parents were dead.
…I’ve seen the eyes of the middle child burn into my own through both of our tears as she was to be saying to me through that stare, “tell me it isn’t true.” All I could do was look back as if to say, “I wish more than anything that I could.”
…I’ve seen how resilient children can be during trying times.
…I got in the car of my friend only a matter of hours after her death to find her driver’s side visor pulled down with the mirror left open and the light on the mirror still on. To just think that she had made sure she looked well for what ended up being her last minutes on earth.
…I walked the charred remains of the hotel room in which the murderer took my friend’s life and later his own.
…I saw the dried blood left behind from the killer himself.
…I spoke with the man who made a heroic effort to save my friend; the stranger who risked his own life to save her. The man who was with her during her last breathes.
…I’ve heard the detailed story of a defenseless woman’s struggle for her own life, while at the hands of her abuser who claimed he loved her.
…I’ve walked the steps where she struggled down and then fell down and clasped at the bottom.
…I helped two mother-less girls pack their belongings into trash-bags and baskets as they said goodbye to a house in which they knew as their “home” only a day before.
…I hugged the distraught mother and brother of my friend only two days after the event as I delivered her two youngest grandchildren to her, so they could reunite with their older brother and begin accepting a new life-style with their new guardian in life.
…I’ve heard many ask “why?”
…I’ve seen many cry without having an interest in stopping.
…I’ve seen those individuals who are seldom short-on-words speechless.
…I’ve seen the bruising still showing through on my friend’s face, even after the make-up artist at the funeral home had applied the dark-colored foundation.
…I’ve seen the chipped manicured finger nails of a woman who obviously went through a struggle in her last moments of life.
…I’ve seen the face of a person left to lie to rest with an expression of fear, rather than one of peace, shown across her face.

In a matter of days the movies came alive for me. In a matter of minutes I went from knowing my friend was missing to knowing she was dead. In a matter of seconds one of my biggest fears of losing a close friend came to haunt me.

In a time period of eight months I worked one-on-one with victims of domestic violence situations. I heard the stories. I understood how real they were. I knew it could happen to anyone, but on June 29th, it hit home.

Even after the eye of the storm hit, the rains continued for days…

Things were different.

For me, the immediate days to follow were laced with strength from a desire to be strong for those less fortunate as me. Sure, I had lost a dear friend, but I still had a mom and dad. I was still going to be able to sleep in the bed I had slept in the night before. I wasn’t going to be moving to a different city without forewarning and leaving behind the friends I knew. Even in the darkness of the situation, I reminded myself that I was gratefully blessed.

Things were moving fast those first few days. So much to be done and taken care of—there really wasn’t much time to think about taking care for one’s self. Eating and sleeping were put on the back burner—for MANY people.

Reminiscent thoughts would pop into mind depending on what was going on at the time: thoughts of fun memories with my friend, thoughts of my friend with her children, thoughts of situations from work, and so many more. It was thoughts that were unavoidable, but thoughts that were also necessary for coping.

Many commented on how my training must have been so beneficial for such a time. How it must have been helpful in breaking the news of the deaths to the children. How it must have equipped me for helping grieving friends and co-workers.

Honestly, when it’s a personal situation, one can’t be expected to provide for others until he/she has provided for his/her self first. It isn’t a selfish matter. It’s a matter of one being just as human as the next.

I’ll tell you one advantage I believe my training has allotted me through this all…

I understand the importance of grieving and allowing it to happen and not being afraid of how it might have to occur.

I knew I wasn’t eating like my body needed and sleeping like I needed that first week following the storm’s devastation. But I knew that was not out of the norm for the circumstances. I wasn’t afraid to admit to it and accept that that was a phase and it would pass if I allowed it to happen.

I carefully monitored my behaviors and symptoms that first week. I noted how I was following the typical patterns of grievance. I recalled specifics in my responses to the situation that were obvious denial, anger, depression, etc.

I remember “trying” to go to sleep (and then eventually succeeding after many hours of trying) on that second night following the death. That day, I had had my eyes opened to SOOO much of what I had NOT known about in my friend’s life and I had found myself very angry. I was upset! I was obviously angry with her husband’s behaviors, but I was also upset with my friend…

How could she not have told me some of that which had been going on?! With as MUCH as she had always shared with me concerning her and his relationship, how could she have chosen to not share this information?! Had she had shared this with myself or ANY of the others of us who she confided in often about her situation, who knows, the events of the 29th could have possibly been avoided…

I was MAD that night!

It wasn’t until the next morning that I awoke from my slumber in which I truly believe my friend had granted me the reminders of my trainings and shed the light on the “why”. I was no longer mad at my friend for not having told me, because I believed I now understood why she felt she couldn’t tell me (or anyone else). In a way I felt like it was a “DUH” moment for me. I was like, “OF COURSE! It all makes sense now! I can’t be upset with her for not saying anything to me.”

So from “anger” I quickly moved into true grievance depression. I realized it and knew how important it was to let it run its course and not be ashamed of it.

It wasn’t until the Tuesday night memorial service our work-family hosted, following the events of that past Friday, that I first felt a breathe of relief. It was during that service that I found myself as one of the six who were willing to get up in front of the more than 150 attendees and share a handful of my memories of my friend. A matter of hours after my friend’s passing I knew I would want and need to share some remarks concerning my friend. It’s something I would want to do for any of my friend’s, so I knew this would be no different.

Following that service I felt more at peace. I remember driving from the church to the restaurant afterwards (to meet up with several of the others from the service to have yet another memory filled time of eating and reminiscing about our friend) and hearing on the radio the song “The Prayer” by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli. I had heard it before, but I think maybe only once and a LONG time prior to this night. I remember as I listened to it as I drove, I found myself thinking how beautiful it was and how it seemed like a perfect song for the time. I went home that night and downloaded it and have already listened to it some nearly 100 times on my iPod.

That week following the event was the remaining rains left behind by the storm. I was “wet” for several days, but slowly and surely the sun came back out.

The week closed with the final goodbyes on Saturday in Houston at the funeral where approximately 15 or 20 of our staff and their family members had our opportunity to view the body, take in the funeral service, and attend the burial service at the cemetery. The body did not resemble our friend that we had hopped to receive closure by viewing. It was a unanimous decision that the “picture” we saw there was not that of our “happy” co-worker and friend. It was hard seeing her in the state we saw. Bruised, roughed up, and looking fearful. It wasn’t a picture of how we wanted or planned to remember her. But at the same time, it gave us a chance to end the chapter of the week before and begin acceptance.

It can sound disrespectful to say we have to accept such a situation and move on, but it is a part of completing the grieving process.

Today, I can say I have accepted that my friend has passed. Sure, I will always miss her, but I realize that hating and remaining depressed will not bring her back. I understand that now what has to be done is getting the message out about such a situation in hopes of avoiding a similar event. I know that now the focus has to be on those three young children. I know that’s what my friend would want the focus on.

The sunshine is coming out…

I can honestly say that without the amazing support I personally have received during this difficult time, as well as the support the rest of my friend’s close friends have received, the darkness following the tragic event would still be lingering.

I have been blessed with AMAZING friends who have been SOOOO supportive during this time for me. I have gotten SOOO many messages from friends saying how they were praying for me and my friend’s family. So many encouraging notes and outlets for if I needed to talk.

I have seen our work-place come together as only a “family” can. People have been so supportive of one another. I’ve seen so many wonderful things being done in response to the events that took place.

1.) There was the memorial service we put on locally for those unable to attend the funeral service in Houston.
2.) The “in memory of” pictures hung throughout our office, reminding us of the beautiful smile and joy our friend brought to our work spaces.
3.) The flowers and pictures honoring our friend’s life that now rest in our waiting room area at work.
4.) The trust fund that one of our doctors worked IMMEDIATELY on getting opened following the event to start raising money for the three young children.
5.) The money that has already been collected in the fund by co-workers, doctors, friends, our patients at the clinic, etc.
6.) The co-workers who are setting up a monthly contribution of their own to go into the trust fund.
7.) The tree we had planted in our friend’s name outside our office. The dedication time we shared in as an office family of dedicating the tree one afternoon. Our encircling the tree and holding hands as tears flowed and people prayed and we thought of our friend as we each tossed in some soil on the tree.
8.) The co-workers that are purchasing domestic violence bracelets to wear in honor of our friend.
9.) The annual garage sale we are planning to start having every September to raise money for the children’s trust fund.
10.) The co-workers who are calling businesses to get donations for the childrens’ school supplies and school clothes for the up-coming school year.
11.) The co-workers who are contacting businesses to get donations, such as gift-cards, for us to raffle off at the garage sale to raise more money for the childrens’ fund.

And this is just what I can think of right now. I know there’s more that has gone on.

Sure, we all still miss seeing our friend bee-bopping around the office. We miss her jokes, her laugh, her pranks, but we know we can now take this time to try to pay her back for the happiness she shared with us, by doing what we know would make her happy in this situation—taking care of her three children that she loved SOOOOO dearly!

Things are different, there’s no doubt.

The storm came and left its mark that will always be here; but the sun has come back out and we are able to smile in the thought that we can use the rains from the storm to bring flowers and new life.


Jennifer said...

Wow. It is so hard to imagine what you have experienced. I am glad to be able to read what you have written and share in your pain and in your healing that way. I just wanted to let you know that there are still lot of people praying for you and thinking about you every day. It is wonderful what you all have done for her children. You are truly a blessing for them.

Katey said...

Kim, I hopefully will never understand exactly what you're going through, but I feel for you. You are such an amazing friend with such a tender and loving heart, and I hope you find some peace through continuing to help her children. I have been praying for you as well, and I know that you have been forever changed by this experience. I hope you know we all love you and are here for you too.