That Thursday morning in October began normally enough. I awoke with a thousand plans for the day, grateful that I was up early enough to grade a few papers before the children got up. As I passed through the living room, I remember greeting the pale dawn sky glimmering through the upper windows. A whisper of gratitude nudged my heart. My life as a full-time wife, home-schooling mother of three, and part-time college English instructor was extremely hectic and relentless, but it was exactly what I wanted.
Unfortunately, that life would be gone forever in the next fifteen seconds.
I entered the study and found my husband Roger sitting on the couch. He had worked late the night before, but that wasn’t unusual. He still wasn’t home when I went to bed around midnight. He had probably come home around 1:00, changed clothes, and gone into the study. A self-proclaimed techno-nerd and information addict, he could indulge both passions on the Internet. He was probably sharing theological insights in some cerebral chat-room when he felt an explosion and a flooding heat in his chest. He left the computer, pulled off his T-shirt, and sat down on the couch as darkness descended.
An aneurysm in his phrenic artery had ruptured and he died in a few merciful minutes.
Of course, I didn’t know that. I just remember thinking it was odd that he was sitting on the couch with his shirt off. I said his name. He didn’t answer or move, which was strange because he was a very light sleeper. Fears began their familiar assault, but I told myself they were the universal mother/wife fears which had always been groundless before. But as I moved closer and peered into his absent face, reality warped. Some other woman must have screamed with such agonized disbelief that three daughters, all very sound sleepers, were instantly at her side. Some other trembling woman fumbled at her husband’s wrist, searching in vain for a pulse. And some other woman ran through her kitchen in a nightmare slow-motion time-warp to call 911.
The paramedics came, alarming our quiet neighborhood with blaring fire-truck sirens. They ran into the study, but could only confirm what I knew but couldn’t believe. Somehow the necessary phone calls were made and almost immediately the house began to fill with neighbors, friends, and extended family. Somehow our children were surrounded with loving care and angelic protection because I don’t remember speaking to them or even seeing them for the rest of that day.
Somehow, those dizzying, unthinkable hours passed.
"Flown the Coop" "Island Service"