I can't seem to remember much about the days preceding my daughter's passing. I know I had to work on Christmas, 2010, but that's not a big deal for my wife and I. Having served 20 years in the Navy (my wife served 10), there were plenty of times that special holidays and birthdays were missed.Working third shift (11pm - 7am) in a production facility also does not guarantee those days off, and that's what I've been doing since I retired from the Navy. My current work schedule is such that I have every Wednesday night off and every other Saturday/Sunday off. Working Christmas weekend meant that I would be off for New Years weekend, and that's when we had arranged to have our formal Christmas with Allison and her husband. It was to be our first cookout in our new home and who better to christen it with than our children.
I don't remember any details about the 26th through the 28th, but that's probably because I was working and everything was in a normal state of affairs...go to work, come home, read the paper, watch a little TV, eat dinner and go to bed. There might be some chores thrown in there from time to time, but I'm a man of ritual. To me, a ritual creates stability and was probably learned from my time in the Navy. Little did I know that my stability was going to be shattered beyond belief.
On Wednesday morning, 29 Dec., I arrived home from work, proceeded to go through my routine and went to bed around 2pm. Sometime around 7pm I was awakened by my wife who proceeded to tell me that Allison's mother-in-law had called her and that she needed to get down to the hospital because Allison wasn't waking up, or something like that. She was in a panic and wasn't making much sense to me because I had just been roused out of a deep sleep, but I did sense the urgency in her voice.
I do and do not regret the decision I made not to go with her.
I don't regret it for 3 reasons: (1) My wife was in a hurry and I knew she didn't want to wait for me...she had to get to her baby; (2) This had happened before when Allison was learning to drive and had a couple of accidents, neither of which were life threatening, but caused her to go to the hospital; and (3) Ultimately there was nothing I could have done...hindsight, I know.
I do regret not going with her because I wasn't there when she was told that Allison had passed away. Was there family there? Yes, lots of them, so I feel good that she wasn't alone...but I wasn't there at that critical point in time.
About a half hour or so after my wife left, my daughter's mother-in-law calls me from my wife's phone and says I really need to come down to the hospital. Someone will meet me there to take me to Allison's room. I say okay and she hangs up. I'm sure there was something else said in that brief conversation, but I have only the recollection of those words, nothing more.
Now keep in mind that after my wife had left, I was wide awake. I took my shower, got dressed, then went out to the garage where I just kind of stared at the TV. I finally turned the sound down as the voices on the TV were clashing with the voices in my head. All kinds of thoughts were coming and none of them had anything good to say. As I finally drove to the hospital, about a 15 minute drive, the thoughts continued, and one thought kept coming up over and over, that Allison was dead. As much as I tried to suppress it and tell myself that Allison had broken a foot or developed a sickness, that particular thought kept coming back.
Fear and dread started to overtake me as I parked the truck and walked toward the ER entrance. Tingles running up and down my spine, but not the good ones. I was met by a family member and her daughter. Neither one said a word, but instead, each took an arm of mine and began escorting me into the hospital. As I look back on it, the look on their faces said it all. I was led to the nurses station where I was met by a male nurse who escorted me to Allison's room, both of his hands on my arm. On the way, he asked if I knew what was going on. I said no, and he said something like, "Oh, my."...
In that split second of time, I knew my baby was gone, irrevokably and forever. I felt numb and started shaking a bit as he told me the circumstances surrounding my daughter's death: She had been found on her couch, apparently asleep, by her mother-in-law and niece. They tried to to wake her up, but were unable to. While Allison's niece tried to do CPR, the mother-in-law called 911. The paramedics continued CPR as did the doctors at the hospital, but Allison never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead.
I'd like to say that I fell to my knees and started bawling like a baby, but I didn't. I proceeded into that room and confronted one of my worst fears, the death of my child, my baby girl. Her life flashed before my eyes so fast that I wanted to scream STOP! and let me relive her life in slow motion... but that's not the way it happens.
It took only a split second of time between when I walked into the room and her life flashed before me, and when I went into male protective mode. In the room with Allison was my wife and Allison's mother-in-law, and when I saw them I shoved as many of the feelings I was having at the moment as far and as deep as I could bury them. My motive? To be strong for my wife, be sympathetic, hold her, talk to her, reassure her that everything would eventually be all right.
Now keep in mind that I'm almost 100% numb at this point. I can barely think. My brain has put me in some sort of failsafe mode so that I can function to some degree. I think I'm there right now as I try to write this, barely two months later.
I will try to write more about my time in the room and the aftermath at a later date as I feel it's important somehow to get those emotions out there, but I just can't right now. It's still too raw...and it hurts.