There came a time when I looked in the closet at that extended stay hotel and realized I had nothing fitting to wear to my son’s Memorial.
Nothing fitting for a Funeral.
I didn’t go out to Texas thinking I’d need anything remotely close to mourning wear.
I could not show up in casual summer clothes that were tossed mindlessly into a suitcase with no real thought of needing more. I couldn’t simply throw on any old thing and go. No, I had to look better than that.
I had to make my son proud. I had to represent him well.
So it was necessary to find something new.
And let me tell you this was like pulling teeth for me. I had to literally drag myself out of that hotel room, and with my daughter along side, drive out among the living and unaware…
(Hey, world! Why are you going around so casually? Why are you still spinning? Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
You must stop now!
My son is dead!)
to find something to wear.
It felt so bizarre to me. Who shops for clothes like this? How could anyone possibly do this kind of thing? How is this done?
How on earth does a Momma step inside a dressing room to try on clothes just a few days after such a devastating loss? Evaluate and discern if what she is choosing is fitting for the burial of a child?
Oh! It was excruciating.
The one thing I know I requested was this: NO BLACK.
In my mind I knew that I would not wear black.
What I wanted was blue. Dark, Military Blue.
Because that was what my son would be buried in.
I could not have done it without my daughter. I simply allowed her to guide me as if I were blind. I was there in those stores being propped up by the handle on the front of a shopping cart.
I was simply the mannequin that tried on different things. Stood outside the door as my daughter shook her head no or nodded with approval.
We wound up in TJ Maxx or Marshall’s or something similar (because I believed I could not handle the vastness of a mall…or a real department store…no, I didn’t want that. Please keep it simple) and went through all of the racks and took piles of things into the fitting rooms.
I remember standing in those fitting rooms most.
Because it was in there, with the door locked and the room so small, that I had no where else to look but into that mirror.
In that tiny little closet of a room, it was just me…and me. Eye to eye.
Seeing the shock and devastation firsthand.
The sunken eyes. The dark circles (and I fear, will this be permanent? Will I always have sad eyes? Will others see me and immediately tell? Will they think…here is someone who has lost?).
The extreme sadness.
And in front of those mirrors, I stood stripped bare.
Pale. Bone thin. Fragile looking.
Ghost like. Transparent.
It hurt my eyes to see.
It was all so surreal.
I felt like I could suffocate. There was no air.
Yet, I made myself go through the motions.
Pulled the chosen clothing over my raw and stripped off skin. Painfully zipped up the zippers and closed the buttons.
In the end, we chose a dark blue jumpsuit which was way too long. This would be worn at the Memorial.
And for the Funeral…well, a darker blue top with pink pants a size too big that would need to be held up with a belt that had several holes to be drawn tight.
(I do believe it made a few people look twice at that. Michael would have approved.)
And sandals with a little bling.
Wearing sandals with bling made my feet stand out quite a bit. My toenails were bare and my feet too pale.
What I needed was a pedicure. I had never had one done professionally. I know that sounds silly…but I’ve never allowed anyone else to paint my toenails.
The next stop would be a nail salon.
So we found ourselves sitting with our feet in a foot bath, someone scrubbing away the callouses.
A few chairs beyond sat two friends deep in conversation. Chatting about this or that.
One of them looked incredibly familiar to me and I could not place it. I became real preoccupied with how I might have met her.
Was she a friend of Michael’s? Possibly a soldier’s wife?
Then it dawned on me.
She was a nurse who worked at Baylor Scott and White.
She was one that I remember working only one shift. One who helped us during the initial days.
I was struck by the idea that there were only four customers in that salon. Of the four, how could one happen to be a nurse who touched and cared for my son?
I was overwhelmed then. So overwhelmed.
It was pretty much all I could think about. That wonderful staff at the hospital and how they loved on us and made things easier somehow.
I wondered if I should say something.
After my nails were dry and we were free to leave…I approached her. She was sitting in a chair with her hands underneath a lamp.
I don’t know if you remember me…
Yes, she said. Yes, I think I do.
You took care of my son…
She said she had not been working for the past several days. Her look made me aware she had no idea about the end.
He did not make it, my son. He died a few days ago.
Oh! Those words! Said out loud to someone face to face.
She immediately took her hands out from under the lamp, stood to her feet, and gave me a hug.
Something about her hug felt so comforting.
Just at that moment, I realized I wanted to say Thank You again. And honestly, there would never be enough expression of gratitude for me.
I am eternally grateful.
I knew then I felt like I was ripped from an incredible support system. The constant love and attention from those nurses that filled my Hospital Days was now gone.
Yes, I longed for all of the noise to stop. All of the machines and all of the clamor and the urgency. I needed it to stop.
But now I was faced with a void.
A deep and cavernous void. One I did not expect.
There would always be a link. A loving and sacred link connecting me with all of the staff during those Hospital Days.
A link severed abruptly and harshly. The day my son died.
(Even now as I type these words, after all of these months, I have to stop a minute. Shake my head and allow the tears to roll down…I know I do this a lot on these pages. I know.)
During that hug I tried to leave it there. All of this unfinished gratitude and thankfulness toward the staff on the second floor ICU at Baylor Scott and White.
Oh, I’m not saying I will not carry a forever thankfulness in my heart. For sure, I will.
But there will never be enough gesture to satisfy all of this gratitude. I could never in my lifetime send enough flowers or thank you notes or any type of sentiment to fill the love and honor and indebtedness I have for them.
No, nothing would ever suffice.
So with that embrace, I laid it all down. Allowed her to be my Messenger.
Tell them all thank you for me. Tell this nurse or that. Please say that you saw me and tell them that I am forever thankful.
She nodded yes, she certainly would. Take care now, take care.
As I got into the car, I looked at my nails. Pale, pale pink.
Seriously, you could not even tell they were painted unless you looked close enough.
I had to laugh.
It all blended in.
No one would even notice. Who would actually care?
Yet, for me not unnoticed.
It was satisfying.
Deeply and sacredly