The firefighters pulled dad and I away. Our panicked, stupefied, ameatuer CPR was futile. Mom was blue. The air blown in to her lungs was rejected an expelled.
Looking back it is hard to describe just how jarring lights of the trucks cut through that Midwestern suburbia Friday night. The low hum of the engines, the sharp squawks and bursts of code are not the Creve-Couer-cul-de-sac norm. The tempo those firefighters and EMTs moved was just surreal. Professional urgency juxtaposed an audience of two utterly shocked and paralyzed boys, a devastated and confused husband oscillating from rage through despair by the second.
No equipment was spared. The EMT’s were incredible in their efforts to bring us some glimmer of hope. For those efforts I will be forever grateful.
Amazing as they were the eyes gave it away. No one can hide news like that. A firefighter making way for the EMT passed a glance that said it all. She was gone. Before I could explode into a frenzied rage another firefighter focused me on my brother and dad. For him I will be forever grateful.
Those memories are so clear but I could not tell you how we got to the hospital. Aunt Mary I think. It was all so insane.
Anniversary dates vs Anniversary Feelings
Today, September 3, 2019 is the actual twenty five year calendar stamp marking moms passing. Helen Dorothy Wiegert was 38 years old.
Mom did not pass on a Wednesday, middle of the week, a night before work. She passed Labor Day Friday 1994, my first weekend home from freshman year in college. She died in her sleep after dinner was done, laundry was started and plans were made for lunch the next day.
“Love you. See you tomorrow”
No idea really if those were the last words we shared. She wasn’t feeling good as was heading to bed. I am 100% certain she asked me to be safe and not stay out too late because she 100% of the time asked me to be safe and not stay out too late. She was a great mom like that.
See you tomorrow…
A Stolen Tomorrow
Waking up in aunt Mary’s house Saturday morning emotionally zombified. There was uncle Phil in the living room. Sobbing.
Great uncle Phil was my grandma’s brother. Mom’s uncle.
Phil was to me in childhood such a stoic figure. He was literally my boss the summer of ’94 when I worked the grounds crew at memorial park cemetery. A family cemetery founded by Phil and grandma Helen’s father. The cemetery where mom was buried just a few days later.
Uncle Phil. Aunt Mary’s House. So vulnerable, devastated, emotional was at the time indescribably surreal.
A Stolen Birthday
Grandpa Hank was just stunned. September 3rd was his birthday. Another lap around the sun ending, a new one beginning. His daughter was dead. As devastated as I was at 18, I think more about grandpa on this anniversary than anything. Of course I was sad for grandpa and grandma then. I was sad for my father, for my brother, for my uncles, for my cousins. Sad is least useful word for my feelings then. We were all sad. But my lens was of an 18 year old son. Since becoming a father I think about this every year.
To lose a child.
To lose a child on your birthday.
To sit with family, and presents, and cake. To blow out candles like grandpa did for years is so goddamned heart shattering to me now.
But he had his other little girl to take care of. And her little girl. He had his boys to take care of. He had to be there for his Helen who had already been through a lifetime of hurt just to see this added on. Grandpa Hank was a treasure. Never lost in this often mournful weekend is the love we all have for Grandpa and the celebration of all his years with us in life and with us in spirit.
Looking back through a quarter decade lense
Each year the calls come. Now it is group texts but it is family love transmitted all the same. Some years more tears than others. Some years more laughs than others. A Budweiser for grandpa and maybe a glass of wine for mom.
Some years are better, some worse. The first years were tough but things got better.
Labor Day 2004
I gave a speech at my best friends wedding. Ten years after mom helped me with my class graduation speech. By helped I mean she cried in the kitchen as I practiced. Her crying in turn making me cry in turn making practicing the speech all but impossible. True story and a memory I treasure. Thankfully at the wedding I kept it together. Those in the audience said it was a good speech. While I think mom would have been proud of the speech, she would have probably been more focused on why I did not bring a date. It was a cathartic weekend to help me turn a corner after ten years.
Labor Day 2010
Dad and I talked. He pointed out that this particular Anniversary meant my little brother had lived half his life without mom. That broke me. Like had to ask to leave work broke me. I called big sis, Johanna and had to have some beers. We laughed. We cried. We laughed and we cried. We had each others back like mom would have expected.
Labor Day 2013
Helen’s baby boy got married. (Technically Brian was more mature and settled down first, but I was first born, so…)
Friday night we danced. The room at dinner was pumped full of love like Vegas opened all the oxygen tanks. Brian and I sang one of your favorite songs at the wedding. He is quite the musician. I am just a “ham” as per your many observations.
Sarah is everything you could wish for in a daughter-in-law. You two would have been thick as thieves. It was an amazing night. We all missed you but you were there in the dancing and there in the vows. A Labor day Saturday memory to replace the Saturday stolen from us.
Labor Day 2019
Saturday morning I get up and feed Chloe Grace. We are practicing sign language and Chloe glides her little finger down her throat to show me she is “thirsty”. Twenty five years and I am working on what mom always dreamed of doing. Before myself and Brian came along she wanted to learn sign language and work with deaf children. Circle of life.
Kate gets up with all sorts of her sweet-and-sassy-mcfrass personality. I see moms face in hers. Where in years past I might have cried, this past Saturday I felt grateful. I felt whole. My Kate knows about her MiMi Helen and how special her name is. I so much wish mom was hear to see my girls. To hold them. To give ice cream and to shop with. I so much wish mom was here to hold Charlie, and Vera. Augie, and Brady. Johns kids, Toms kids. Grandpa John and Grandma Judy’s grandkid’s. Each and every day we all carry mom with us. We share the best of her in the most subtle and impactful ways that we ourselves probably don’t catch.
Dad, Brian, Johanna, Mary, Paul, John, Judy, Tom, Penny, so, so many more. We will reflect every Labor day and carry mom and Grandpa with us all the moments in between.
I am going to stay here with all my girls for as long as possible. Many more Labor days I hope.
One day though I will get that Saturday with you. The tomorrow we deserved.
Until then I promise to be safe and not stay up too late.