It’s not lost on me that I recently wrote about keeping vigil, never intending to keep vigil again–or at least so soon–in such a personal and tragic way.
Tuesday night Shane and I and his parents, Keith and Barbara, his sister Rochelle and her husband Bill met for dinner as they came to town to prepare for Barbara’s back surgery the next day. We invited our kids as well, but only Luke and Emily and James were free to join us. We wanted Barbara to choose where to eat, as she would be going hungry for awhile after dinner. She chose Chuckarama, because she wanted mashed potatoes and gravy. We enjoyed our time together–made even more delightful with the presence of James–and especially appreciated the extended daylight, warm temperatures, and cheery daffodils as we all walked out together.
The next morning I was assisting with some training and got a text about 10:12 that the surgery had gone smoothly and Barbara was doing great.
At 1:17 I got another text stating that Barbara was still not awake from the anesthesia and the docs were doing a CT scan, as they were a bit worried.
I left work at 4 and went directly to ICU, where the family was gathering because Barbara was still unconscious.
It’s too soon to write about the roller coaster of emotions we’ve ridden the past 4 days. The images I can’t un-see. The big hole in my heart over our loss. The heart painfully wrenched by witnessing unexpected tragedy and mourning with those who mourn. My husband and his losing his beloved mother. My father-in-law his wife of 58 years. My children and nieces and nephews their dear grandmother, who knew how to make each one of them feel special. All my in-laws losing someone who treated them like her own.
In short, after two grueling days of a vigil like I’ve never before experienced (and never want to experience again) at the NCCU at University of Utah Hospital, we learned the damage from an anoxic event in her brain was irreversible. We were given time for anyone less than two hours away (and who wasn’t already at the NCCU) to arrive and to say our goodbyes before they would take her off life support.
At 2:29 this morning, Barbara slipped through the veil and returned to her parents and other loved ones, along with Heavenly Parents.
We are still in shock. Reeling. Heartbroken.
In time I need to write about the kindnesses too. The lady in the elevator. My friends and relatives who reached out and prayed and lifted and carried. Who visited. Who texted. Who posted messages. The friend who unexpectedly burst through my door and ran up my stairs this morning to give me a hug even as I was just beginning to explain what happened to her over the phone. She literally dropped everything, jumped in the car, and came to truly be there for and with me. The members of my congregation whose profuse offers to help became bold and impossible to refuse.
Until that time, here are the words that came to my heart this evening as tribute to this dear unassuming mother whose heart reached beyond where any of us imagined and whose loss we feel deep into the very fibers of our hearts.
Heaven shines brighter today at the return of the warm bright light of our dear Barbara Rowley. Barbara welcomed me into her family long before Shane and I married and has continued to love me like one of her own ever since.
Our bond deepened when she and my mother courageously battled breast cancer together a few years back, being diagnosed within a month of each other. Because of Barbara, we knew exactly what to do and which doctors to see from the moment my mother was diagnosed, which expedited my mother’s treatment. At times my mother’s appointments coincided with Barbara’s hospital stays in the same facility, helping them develop a special bond between them.
No words were needed when my mother’s cancer returned a year or so after remission. Barbara’s eyes would meet mine and I knew from her expression of deep love, understanding, and sorrow that we would not be alone in this journey.
Like my own mother, Barbara supported my quilting habit, even appreciating the mismatched prints, imperfect points, and rounded corners of my beginner quilts. She once surprised me with a blue ribbon after submitting one of my earliest efforts, which I had made for her, to the county fair. A few years later she surprised me again with another blue ribbon, having forgotten she’d already submitted the same quilt once before.
I will perhaps miss Barbara most on Thanksgiving mornings when, as tradition would have it, we often worked together in her kitchen while the rest of the kids were out in the mountains counting deer and elk. I would make pies while she prepped the stuffing and put the largest turkey you could imagine in the oven. I’ll forever cherish watching her lovingly write out on lined paper the 45-50+ names in her beautiful cursive as she figured how many tables and chairs we would need for the day’s feast.
Barbara is one of the beautiful matriarchs I’m privileged to know who has literally worn herself out in the service of others, opening her heart, pulling up chairs to her table, and feeding and caring for everyone within her reach.
I love you, Barbara. Thank you. Rest in peace. You are already dearly missed.