This is going to be a hard blog to write and I will forewarn you that some of you may not want to read it. I will leave the decision up to you if you want to move forward and read the entire post. This will probably be my last entry until after Jude's one year angelversary. It's hard to grasp the loss of a child for the family suffering the tragedy and even for those hearing about the loss. It makes people question their own mortality and their child's mortality which is nothing anyone wants to think about. Often times the response to Jude's loss is, "I cannot even imagine." Of course you can't and I don't ever want you to be in my shoes. However I do think it's important for people to truly understand how devastating it is so they can appreciate their lives and have empathy for anyone traveling this road in the future. So with that I am going to recount losing Jude. What it's really like when someone passes away. Maybe this is therapy for me, I am not sure but I feel compelled to write about it. I have mentioned I am a member of a loss forum and the comments from others make me believe that some people just don't truly comprehend how devastated these parents are. Many of the parents are pushed back to work, they have their losses compared to the loss of someone's pet, and some are accused of just seeking attention and sympathy. I luckily have encountered none of these except the pet comparison. I love my pets very much. We all know I basically have a zoo but they are not Jude and never will be. So maybe this will shed a little light on what it's like and it will help someone in the future.
So here we go. I knew Jude was on hospice and we know what hospice means but for some reason I don't think I really ever comprehended that Jude in fact was going to die. Jude had a way of always bouncing back and he could literally be knocking at death's door only to be smiling a few minutes later. So the 48 hours of his demise was a whirlwind of shock. If you have bought my book you see there are two entries on 4/7/2016. I went to work that morning frustrated and tired. We had issues with Jude's feeding tube that week and I also felt like he was getting pneumonia again. He was tired, cranky, and crying but Jude had been through multiple bouts of pneumonia. I blogged that hospice was setting him up on a pain management schedule. Looking back I realize that they were setting Jude up on a schedule to pass peacefully. There were no antibiotics that time there was only Morphine and as a mom I just didn't comprehend what was happening. My next entry on 4/7/2016 was that Jude had taken a rapid turn for the worse. I knew this because hospice had called me at work and told me they thought it was time and I needed to come home. I melted into a bundle of tears when they called me but I quickly grabbed my purse and headed out the door towards home. So here is the hard part, Jude did not die peacefully. Jude's night was horrible, loud, and I was literally praying to God for him to take him. I will never forget the sound of his breathing because it is etched into my mind and although I prefer to think of Jude's smile the thought of that last night sneaks up at times. It was something a parent should never hear and should never live through. It took several counseling visits and Xanex to deal with.
When Jude drew his last breath I stood there a bit in disbelief but then something took over. I am not sure if it's because I am a mom, a business person, or if it was just motions but I lept into action. I called nurse Charlotte who came over and helped me bathe Jude and fix his hair. I called the funeral home and told them I needed them to come to the house. I then called an artist to ask him to custom make Jude a Superman casket. I texted my family and asked them to keep everything private until I could get to Emily and I sent Mike to the store to get Superman pajamas. When the funeral director arrived they were amazingly kind and moved at the pace we needed them to. By then both sets of Jude's grandparents had arrived and they were waiting with us. They didn't take Jude until we were ready for them to and it was almost like a peaceful parade of people following Jude out to the the van they arrived in. Mike even helped roll Jude out and load him to be taken away from us. We discussed some final thoughts with the director and then Jude was gone. I think that's the hardest part for parents is realizing they are letting their child go even though they don't want to.
When your child is taken away because they have passed away you tend to stand in shock for a bit wondering what you next moves should be. Hospice had to pour out all of Jude's medications which felt violating but they were assisted by nurse Allan which made me feel a little better. I then gathered up some items and Mike and I left to go to Dallas to tell Emily. Emily was giving up her title for Miss Dallas teen and honestly there was no better place for her to be. I texted my friend Beaux and told him I was 5 minutes away when we got close to the facility. Somehow he just knew without me even saying a word and once I arrived he had Emily in a private place surrounded by a few people. Emily knew when she saw our faces but we calmly told her and I think everyone in that hallway cried. Emily chose to stay at the hotel with the pageant team and I honestly think that was the best decision. Somehow some way Emily mustered the strength to get up on that stage the next day and give up her crown.
Jude died 4/9/2016 and Mike's birthday is 4/10. We sat in the funeral home making decision about laying Jude to rest on Mike's birthday. I remember the funeral director making a copy of our drivers license's and when he saw Mike's you could tell he was truly touched. Being in a funeral home is odd but being in one that used to be the home of your old office is even more odd. The funeral home had bought out the office I worked at because they wanted they really wanted the building. We used Lucas funeral home which is the same company that handled my mother's funeral 36 years before. Believe it or not the lady that handled her arrangements was still with the company and remembered my family. We sat and made decisions regarding the service and let me tell you that burying someone is very expensive. We wanted to the best for Jude but people should know it's expensive, even cremation can be expensive. I highly recommend life insurance on your entire family. I am the poster child for why people should carry it between losing my mother and losing Jude. I remember sitting at the round table watching the funeral directors mouth move and concentrating on understanding what he was saying. It's like my brain needed extra time to process anything that was being said but somehow we got through it. I remember wondering where Jude was in the facility and realizing I probably didn't want to know.
The next hours my friends lept into action and pulled together everything I had wanted for Jude. A friend blew up and mounted pictures, they found display stands for them, balloons, bubbles, music, readings, and more. My grandmother stopped me after Jude's service and said she was amazed at how quickly it came together and how amazing it was. That's because I had a team of people working behind the scenes. A team that realized when I was missing before the service something was very wrong. My friend Kelly found me in the bathroom in a full blown panic attack. Somehow they talked me back down and I was able to walk out into the service with my family. The church was a sea of superhero shirts and it took my breath away, even the funeral home team had Superman shirts on under their suits. I will forever be grateful for my family and friends that day. My friends who could get me to pose for this picture for Jude the day we buried him.
The days following Jude's burial seemed to pass so quickly but the nights were excruciatingly long. Charlotte didn't show up anymore at 7:30 in the morning to relieve Candice the night nurse. I no longer answered the door disheveled and sleepy to greet her with a crooked smile. I just sat in Jude's room looking around at all his items and I knew I needed to pack. Everyone is different and although many people keep the child's room intact I for some reason had to pack his. I found a place to donate all of Jude's medical equipment to, a home for his sleep safe bed, and a home for some of his clothes. My friend Gina showed up unannounced and began helping me pack his items. She just knew what I would be doing and somehow knew to be there and she brought wine. Packing your child's belongings into a cardboard box because you have lost them to death is nothing any parent ever plans and I grieve with those that have experienced this. The nights were so quiet because Jude's loud oxygen machine was gone and so was his sweet New Orleans nurse whose laughter could fill a room. It was a loss of multiple people and almost seemed unbearable.
One day the doorbell rang and I opened it and loudly gasped. I heard Mike come running, "What is it babe is it a Ninja??". He meant a memory that was hurting me and he was right. It was Fed Ex dropping off all of Jude's monthly supplies. I just shook my head and said " No No" as lady jogging laughed because she thought I was kidding (it was a lot of boxes). I said, "Oh he died can you take them back" and the Fed Ex lady looked shocked. She had delivered to us for years and she began quickly grabbing the boxes and putting them back on her truck. She then grabbed Mike and hugged him hard and then Mike turned to escort me back in the house. Mike said I was in shock those following days and kept telling those who asked him how he was doing that he was just trying to get me through this. Then we all know that Mike's grief took over his heart and things changed. I am very grateful that he was there for me and he is still here today.
Picking the headstone was surreal but a little easier to handle. It was like Jude was guiding us and it was our way of memorializing his amazing life. If you are not aware it takes months to have a headstone placed and I do mean MONTHS! When it finally arrived it was like Jude's life had a spot and we had some place to visit.
Seeing the headstone made me feel more at peace and I am not sure why. I try not to question life to much these days so I just let myself feel a little better. The months following Jude's death were not easy. We really did everything they say you shouldn't do like change jobs and move but I have found you have to do what's best for YOU. Working was very difficult and still is at times and grief still takes over at night. We question why the world keeps turning when it no longer turns for Jude and we question our true purpose in this world but somehow we keep going. However in the end I remember his smile and how amazing he was. How through all the pain, through all the suffering, and all he endured he never lost that bright beautiful smile.
So for his one year mark Mike and I are going away to Colorado. I thought about starting an event for everyone to do something kind for someone else on 4/9 but I didn't do anything official. So I think what I will do is change my Facebook profile picture to the below memorial candle and if you would like to join me you are welcome to. I questioned why I should just memorialize him and do something kind on 4/9. Maybe I would ask everyone to do something kind each day for a month. I can only imagine how many lives that would affect.
So there is my story. It's not an easy one to read but none the less it's how it happened. Losing a child or any loved one is not easy. Losing a child is unnatural and not the way life is suppose to go but it is life and it's full of a lot of crappy random chaos. So if you know someone at some point who has this happen to them be a kind, gentle, and try to have patience. A little patience goes a very long way.
We love and miss you Ju Ju. Cannot believe it's been a year.