Rex had his birthday. I talked to him early in the day, and he sounded happy. Getting ready in a couple of months to baptize his oldest, Lexi. I am so proud of him, and it made my day to hear of all the good things he has going for him now. Beautiful son with a beautiful family.
I continued on with my workday, and it was fairly mundane and peaceful. Until about 2:30. L called and said his sister had called and said that his dad had a heart attack and that it "was bad." He had been taken to our little local hospital so I grabbed my keys and flew out the door. L was on his way home, but from Torrance that can be an hour or more.
I pulled up to the hospital and was lucky to find a parking spot right away, and right in front. I was feeling lucky. I ran to the waiting room and couldn't find anyone from the family there. I kind of looked around and waited, not sure what to do. Finally, I went to the reception window and asked about my father in law. In a minute, she came through the door, and ushered me in to where L's mother and sister were. They looked dazed and scared. And after I took a look at my father in law, I was scared too. It didn't look like anyone was home anymore.
Apparently, he'd had an aortic aneurism that had sprung a leak. Several days before he had been doing some concrete work around the house, and lifting heavy bags of concrete (at 80!) Afterwards, he had complained of a backache. Seems normal enough, right? The doctors said that the backache had probably been caused by bleeding into his abdominal cavity. He walked around like that for a few days. He didn't feel well, but thought he'd just overdone it. It wasn't until Monday that he really started to feel truly awful, and he and Barbara went to see the doctor. And - so typical - they sat in the waiting room for over an hour. Just waiting. Until his blood pressure became so low that it triggered a heart attack. When the staff at the doctor's office realized what was going on, they rushed him into a wheelchair and ran him across the parking lot to the ER. By the time I got there he was unconscious and the doctors were giving him a 1% chance. 1%. Those are not good odds. They couldn't give him coagulants to stop the bleeding because of the heart attack. And they couldn't give him blood thinners for the heart attack because of the bleeding. And they couldn't get his blood pressure to stabilize enough to get him anywhere for surgery.
The poor man went through half a dozen units of blood before they decided to do a Hail Mary and try to get him to the airport to helicopter him to USC for surgery. One of my friends is the ER supervisor at the hospital, and she came out of his room with tears in her eyes and said that we should say what we wanted to now, as she didn't think he would make it to USC. And sadly, he didn't.
Jennifer went with him in the ambulance. She didn't have to. It was a kindness to Richard, and us, his family. They got no further than St Jude hospital when he coded in the ambulance and they rushed him to the St Jude ER, where they worked on him for about 15 minutes. L and I were on the way there when the doctor called, and said they had no pulse, and did we want to continue? L called them off, and the doc told him that his father would appreciate it. And I'm sure he did.
And so we continued our stunned and sad way to St Jude. Wondering if we should call the siblings and tell them while they were driving. We opted not to, thinking it better if they found out when they arrived. Hopefully we would be there before them. As it turned out, Jennifer was the one who told everyone. She waited at St Jude for everyone to arrive, and gently broke the news to L's mother and sister. She cried with them, and cried with all of us. I will never forget her kindness that night. It was a tender mercy.
We went in and gathered around the bedside and wondered what to do next. We closed the curtains around us and L gave a family prayer. He struggled a bit to get through it, but it was so sweet. Heaven seemed very close that night. And we knew that all was well with Richard. He was with his son Ryan, who had passed away a few years ago. He was with his parents, and other loved ones. He was probably having a really happy time, dang it. It's hard to remember that when you're shell shocked from losing someone who had not seemed even remotely close to leaving this earth. And all I could think of was how happy I was that we'd given him that awesome 80th birthday party back in October. Silly what comes to mind.
So that's been the past week. Lots of family, lots of gathering together, lots of plans and decisions to be made. I'm proud to say that I ordered the flower spray for the casket. And it was absolutely gorgeous. I didn't want something right out of the sample book. It had to be special - no mums or carnations or daisies - and I probably drove the florist nuts with my particulars. It's hard to get what you want on short notice on Valentine's weekend (as it turned out I wasn't able to get the peonies I really wanted), but I persevered and it was really pretty. All white - roses, orchids, and stock - with ferns and trailing ivy.
Of course, we weren't able to go to the wedding in Santa Barbara on the 15th. We were both sorry to have missed it, but we were destined to be at a funeral that day instead. I finally put my dress back in the garment bag on Sunday. I looked longingly at the new earrings I've not worn yet. Maybe another time - a happier time - I'll get to wear everything. The funeral was nice - a family friend gave the eulogy and it was perfect. If you didn't really know Richard, it made you want to know him. And it started on time. Richard was a very punctual man, and L made sure it all ran like clockwork. I'm sure it pleased him. Everything - from the words spoken, to the love shared, to the overflowing church - would have pleased him. I hope he peeked in. I know if it were my funeral I'd want to eavesdrop, so maybe that's allowed. Wherever he is, and whatever he's doing now, I'm sure he knows he is missed, and that his family is looking forward to that day when we all meet again. Until then, Richard, happy trails, and try to look in on us now and then. You're the family's newest guardian angel, and we can use all the help we can get.