Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Come undone.


Who do you need?
Who do you love?
When you come undone

~ Duran Duran

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Outside an ambulance is still hot with exhaust. A man in an EMT uniform leans against the driver's side door. His face is crestfallen and his teeth press so hard into his bottom lip that perhaps he'll be next to need those emergency services.

A shrill sound pierces the humid summer air. A woman has fallen to her knees; the weight of whatever is pressing upon her is too much. Two other women flank her and try to help her to her feet. It doesn't work.

That cry is primal. A sound from so deep down in that cellular matrix that you just know it had to be built during the earliest embryonic phase. The kind reserved only for moments such as these; the kind that tells you the story even when you don't know all of the details.



Just before I heard that sound, I was daydreaming actually. Sifting through my brain and swirling inside of my own world while taking a simple walk down the concrete outside of Grady. Wondering about the four-dollar special at Subway and hoping it was one thing and not something else. And specifically, I was thinking that as long as it wasn't meatball marinara, I'd be fine with just about anything else. Mentally counting up how much money I'd spent in the last week on lunch and vowing to pack mine the following day. I stayed on that same path--on the street and in my head--which led me to the Children's Hospital right next door to Grady.

But then I heard it. That blood-curdling cry. I saw that woman buckling to her knees. Clawing at the air and coming undone. Not piece by piece but all at once. And the more those women on each of her arms tried to help her stand and console her the more her cries escalated. Louder, higher. . . up into the air. Like the haunting and longing howl of a lonely wolf; a gut-wrenching call of the wild.

And the second I heard it, I froze in my tracks. Because an alarm had been sounded and all under its clanging rattle were to take notice. To pause in deference, in acknowledgement.

So from across the street, I did. And from the corner of my eye I saw that two others had done the same. All of us stiff like statues. Eyes glistening, chests tightening, and making fleeting eye contact with one another from our separate squares of asphalt.

Eventually that woman and her two pillars of support gave in to gravity. There they sat, rocking and moaning in a tight huddle right there on the street in front of that ambulance. More people were surrounding them, their cries now confluent.

But still there was hers. Hers was different. Guttural, unsettling, primal.

And I knew. And since I did, I didn't even fight the hot tears that pushed straight out of my eyes and onto my cheeks on instinct. Nor was I surprised when I glanced back at that man whose back was against that ambulance and noticed his emotion, too. Fist pressed hard to his lips, eyes clenched tightly, face toward the heavens.

I still don't know the details. But, really, no explanation was necessary. The chilling in my bones when that cry left her lips was enough. The bell had tolled. A mother has lost her child.

And it turns out that meatball marinara was indeed the four-dollar special.

***
Now playing on my mental iPod, Come Undone by Duran Duran. Thank you, Simon, Nick and John for this beautiful song to accompany my thoughts.


33 comments:

  1. Oh, my heart. This made me think of you and your parents and your beautiful sister. No matter what the age, that kind of loss has to be just about unbearable. I send you a great big hug. Sweet Jo

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    1. And I feel that hug, Sweet Jo. Thanks.

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  2. Big sigh, here. That's a powerful, powerful piece of writing. And a terrible, terrible slice of reality.

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    1. Nestled right inside of the mundane, right? It's crazy. And thank you for the compliment--you write beautifully so it means a lot coming from you.

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  3. oh my...I was just thinking about this the other day....a silent plea that nothing happens to any of her children or grandchildren before my mother passes....which I hope is a long time away. The bell tolls for all us...great writing!

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    1. I say that same prayer for my own mother and for myself. Yes, the bell doth toll for us all.

      Thank you for the kind words, too.

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  4. I know that cry, because I too, have made it.
    #missingdeanna

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    1. I know, Tounces. I was there and I pray you never have to make that sound again.

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  5. Several years back, we had one time where I came close to that cry as a mother, when our son was fighting a terrible illness. I don't ever want to go there again.

    The moment when your world stops, shatters, and you know the pieces can never fit back together again the way they did before...that moment ... oh that moment. There are no words. I think that is what that cry must cover. The moment of shattering.

    Kris

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    1. No. There aren't any words. But once you hear it, you hope to God you'll never hear it coming from your own lips.

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  6. One of my daughters told me the other night that one of her main hopes in life is that she outlives me because she knows I couldn't take it if she didn't. This is the daughter who almost did lose her life when she was fifteen and was hit by a car.
    Yeah. You wrote this one real right.

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    1. I "know" your babies and agree with that statement. It is an awful thought.

      Love to you.

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  7. That is so sad. do they really ring a bell? My friends baby passed away last week at Egleston, he was only 18 days old. The thought of losing my boy scares me, I just pray everyday for him to be safe.

    My friends have a blog that they have updated all along their journey: www.themurphyfamilygrows.blogspot.com

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    1. Hey Jessica,

      I'm sorry to hear about your friends' sweet baby. And yes, I think that is all of our greatest fear as parents.

      That was a metaphorical bell I spoke of, but we do have lovely chimes that play overhead each time a baby is born at Grady. They play "Lullaby and goodnight." It's very sweet.

      Thank you for sharing.

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  8. My son called me on Monday in tears, he doesn't cry often. A child was riding a bike in a parking lot. A neighbor didn't see him and pulled out of the parking space. It was a terrible accident. The child was the same age as his son. My son hates to get a pediatric call on his ambulance more than anything. It probably wasn't the same ambulance that you saw, but I somehow hope it wasn't two mothers.

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  9. From the deck of the Poop,
    Dr.KD, this one deserved a little warning. Have a small box of Kleenex nearby before reading. One of my favorite poems is "No man is an island" by John Donne. The beginning " no man is an island entire of itself...."
    The ending " any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
    I too have made that cry....a father had lost his child... Equally painful..
    PoopDeck

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    1. Yes, Poopdeck. I know that you know that sound, too. I never saw the father, but my guess is that he, too, came undone. You know it well. I'm so, so sorry that you do.

      An entire post could be written about fathers. Or even about the EMT who lost one on his watch. All of it awful. But the father and the mother, the most awful of them all.

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  10. Damn, I needed a warning for this one. Damn.

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  11. It is an instantly recognizable cry, isn't it? It breaks me every time. As John Green writes in Looking for Alaska, "It is a law that parents should not have to bury their children. And someone should enforce it."

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    1. I wish someone would enforce it, indeed. Thank you.

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  12. I could only imagine the pain. It's times like this, when family and/or that someone is appreciated as it is almost certain you'll become unglued. As I read on I knew you would give in to your emotions as it is what feeds into your bedside manner which is a good thing.

    The lesson I will take from the hard reminder is how short and precious life is, and to be direct, clear and honest with those you love. Nothing worse than losing someone without letting them know how much you love them. I'm thankful for having that opportunity 13 months prior to daddy's passing.

    I'm trying to be silent and observe your posts but had to say something today. Forgive my interference. Forgive typos.....

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  13. Powerful. I agree with Kris. It is the moment of shattering. All I can do is pray for that poor mother and father. Oh My.

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  14. Reading while nursing my beautiful boy with tears streaming down my face. Every parent's worst nightmare. Sending love and prayers to that mama tonight.

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    1. Moms have a bond, don't they? In a way, we are one. Thanks, sister.

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  15. Saying a prayer for that mother. -Renee

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    1. Me, too.

      BTW, I received what you sent me. And no I hadn't gotten it yet, sister. Thank you SO much. You're an angel and I know why Deanna loved you so.

      Sisterly,

      Kimberly

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  16. My 16 year old son went to his first funeral Tuesday. A 17 year old girl on his speech/debate team was killed in a car accident. He was upset about Monica's death, but was a typical 16 year old boy. It was sad but still not part of him if that makes sense. He came home from the funeral a different boy. You know as your kids go through life when something has marked their heart and growth has happened. It was one of those moments. The change? Monica's Mom's grief. He encountered that raw primal grief that you speak of and while she wasn't yelling out, he felt it. Heart breaking.

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