A Tale of Loss and Love

Written July 29, 2014

What a journey of heartache and hardship the last few weeks have been. Two weeks ago, my little brother Treis was still alive. Two weeks ago, I was 10 weeks pregnant and anxiously awaiting the arrival of a new baby in February, 2015. But on July 19, 2014, all that changed. My little brother was no longer with us here on earth, and the expectation of a new baby came to a screeching halt.

July 19, 2014: A day that forever will be engraved in my memory, etched with deep emotion, filled with feelings of loss and grief, yet saturated with everlasting love and appreciation for God’s plan for His children.

I tell this story not to seek pity, or sympathy. Instead, I tell the story for catharsis, for a chance to relieve myself of the pain and heartache and allow myself a chance to begin to heal.

This is the story.

Jordan and I have wanted to add another child to our family for some time. We’ve been thoughtful in considering when the time would be right, and both of us felt that waiting any longer would be unnecessary. In late March, 2014 I learned I was pregnant for the third time. Having two healthy children already, I didn’t think twice about the possibility of the pregnancy not keeping. Immediately I began to dream of when December would come and I’d get to hold a new baby in my arms at such a magical time of year. On April 10, 2014, a few short weeks later, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage. It was devastating.  I chose to suffer in silence as only a few people knew about our short pregnancy. I laid in bed for days feeling hopeless and discouraged. I was full of mixed emotions. I was fearful to try again, but there was a part of me that felt as if I wouldn’t fully heal from the experience until I had a successful pregnancy. I did not expect to become pregnant very soon after the miscarriage because I felt I would need a good block of time to come to terms with what happened.

To my surprise, on June 2, 2014, Jordan and I learned that we’d be traveling the pregnancy road again, only a little sooner than expected. My mindset going into my fourth pregnancy was less of excitement, and more of uncertainty as I was recovering from a recent loss. As the weeks went by, and the pregnancy symptoms took full swing, I began to allow myself to be more happy and excited, and less afraid. On a whim of anticipation, I found and purchased a baby cradle (photo above) to have and use when the baby was to arrive in February, 2015. I even took to telling my loved ones about this pregnancy so that they could join in our excitement of welcoming another child into our family.

Other than extreme exhaustion and frequent tension headaches, things seemed to be going smoothly with this pregnancy and I was eagerly counting down the days until my first scheduled prenatal appointment set for Tuesday, July 22, 2014. A week before that appointment my world was turned upside-down when my youngest brother fell severely ill with an undetected staph infection. The infection rapidly spread through his blood and body. I was floored when I learned my little brother, only 24 years old, would be undergoing open-heart surgery to repair two valves of his heart which had sustained damage from the bacterial vegetation caused by the infection. On the eve of the surgery, a Tuesday night, my brother suffered an extensive seizure that lasted 15 minutes in duration. Health care professionals working with my brother determined the imminent necessity of the surgery, and the following day, Wednesday July 16, 2014, Treis underwent the 13-hour long procedure.

I spent the better part of that Wednesday at the hospital with my family. We set up camp in the ICU family waiting room, and together awaited the periodic status reports of the procedure, which were provided to us every two hours. I watched as I, and each of my family members, rode emotional teeter-totters as we contemplated what was in store for Treis. There were moments we were hopeful, and moments we were filled with feelings of uncertainty and doom. But we banded together, in support of our brother and son, with a fervent prayer in our hearts that the Lord’s will would be done.          

Tries’ surgeons considered the procedure a success as they were able to repair and replace the valves of his heart. The following day, Thursday July 17, 2014, Tries’ medical staff ceased administering the sedation medication in order to allow Treis to wake up. However, Treis did not wake up.

Several more tests were performed over the course of Thursday and Friday to determine the status of Tries’ brain activity. Friday, July 18, 2014, we were met with the dreary reality that Treis would not be returning to us—after two flat line EEG results, Treis was declared brain dead. Treis was gone.

Friday evening, my older brother Tony called to tell me the results of the second test. I sobbed for I knew what he was saying. Tries’ journey on this earth was over. While on the phone with Tony he relayed to me the tentative plan for the following day, Saturday, July 19, 2014: Our family would gather at the hospital in the morning to say our final goodbyes, and at approximately twelve o’clock, surrounded by his family, Treis would be removed from life support.

After hanging up with my brother, I told my husband Jordan I needed to be at the hospital. Jordan started to question why, and my response was I needed to go for no other reason than to just to be there, to be with my family. Jordan agreed and sent me on my way. As I headed out the door with eyes flooded with tears, my sweet daughter Liliane said to me, “Mom? Will you please tell Treis that I love him?” How those sweet innocent words crushed my already bleeding heart. I reassured her that I would, and out the door I went.

As I drove by myself, I allowed myself to cry and to wail. I allowed the feelings of grief to flow freely from me, without any effort of trying to keep it in. Oh, how hard I cried that night as I drove myself to the hospital!

The rest of the evening was spent surrounded by my siblings, my parents, and other loved ones. Together we wept, we grieved, we embraced, we hurt. Only two people were allowed at one time in the ICU room, and as I went into room 211 in the ICU where Treis lay, even more emotion overcame me as I saw him lying there. I held his hand tight in mine as my teardrops fell to his bedside. I told him over and over how much I loved him, that Liliane loved him, and that I would so miss having him around. I hugged his warm body as best I could, and kissed his forehead. I found myself saying, “Oh, Treis. Buddy. Treis I’m going to miss you,” over and over.

When visiting hours came to a close, we all returned to our homes with heavy feelings of anxious dread for the day that would follow. I invited my older sister to stay the night at my house so she wouldn’t have to drive an hour home and an hour back in the morning. We talked as we drove from the hospital to my house and I remarked to her how poetic it was that, though they (the doctors) could not save Treis, they were able to fix his broken heart.

I retired to my bed that night with difficulty. The words to the hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints” flooded my thoughts, especially the fourth verse that reads:
And should we die before our journeys through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain
Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell—
All is well! All is well!

In my heart I knew that this was the will of the Father, that Tries’ departure from this life was, indeed, the path that Heavenly Father needed Treis to take. But even though I knew that I could rely on that fundamental understanding of God’s plan for us, I still hurt. My heart was so very heavy, drenched in emotion. I felt empty, and sad. I ached for Treis, for his unfortunate fate to be taken from this life so young. Thoughts of my family members feeling the same grief for Treis stung even more. What would my parents do? What emptiness they must feel to be navigating the loss of their beloved son. And my younger sister, to whom Treis was a big brother--Treis was her hero. What discouragement must fill her heart to know that her protector would not be there to fulfill that brotherly duty.

With my mind swirling in thoughts of my little brother, sleep was labored that night. I awoke early the next day, Saturday, and got myself and the children ready to go. We had planned for the children to play at a neighbor’s home so Jordan and I could be at the hospital unencumbered. Time spent that last and final morning at the hospital with Treis was difficult and all too surreal. Discussions about what was to happen were hushed out of reverence. Tears of love were shed by all for we knew the decision to remove Treis from life support was appropriate. He was gone, and we needed to let him go.

A few final tests were performed on Treis that morning. We were told that we’d gather at around 12:00 noon to say goodbye and set Treis free. As the noon hour approached, Jordan and I went with my brother Talon and his wife to find lunch. We picked up pizza and crazy bread from Little Caesars pizza and brought it back to the waiting room to share.

After eating lunch and at around 12:30 p.m., we gathered near the entrance to the ICU to go back into Treis’ room together. At that moment I had the sickening feeling and untimely indication that my pregnancy was in jeopardy. All I could think was “No! Not Now! Not today!” So much of my life was already upside down with losing my little brother that I couldn’t even begin to fathom the possibility that I was losing a another pregnancy. My thoughts were split in two, and a bottleneck of emotion weighed heavily on my mind. I was in sheer panic; fear struck my heart and paralyzed my soul. I had to be there with Treis, to say goodbye, but feelings of haste began to fill my head. I felt overcome with a sense of urgency to get myself checked out. I had to know if the baby inside me had a heartbeat.

I informed Jordan of my concern. He offered words of reassurance and put his arm around me for support and strength as we entered the ICU room with my family to say goodbye to our brother and son. My intense feelings of fear joined my already grieving mind. Feelings resembling anger entered my thoughts, and though I fought it off as best as I could, I could not ignore the frustration it was yielding. I didn’t want to be angry. I wanted to soak in the last few moments we would have with Treis, and I was fearful that my impending pregnancy doom would ruin that.

Medical staff entered the room and began unhooking and unplugging the devices Treis was tethered to. We were told that he would likely not pass right away, but rather the oxygen in his blood would slowly decrease. With that information we watched and we waited. I hopefully wished that his chest would begin to rise and fall on its own, but alas, it didn’t. I watched his numbers on the monitor fall as his heart slowly stopped beating. When the line on the monitor went from mountains to a valley, I knew it was over. Without intending, the words “He’s gone” escaped my lips. At that moment, the reverent quiet in the room was replaced with heartfelt, sorrowful sobs.

Through tear-filled eyes I watched as my two surviving younger brothers embraced, both succumbing to overwhelming woe, the same woe we’d all become acquainted with as Treis made the final departure from this life. My brothers’ support for one another in that moment of anguish was an undeniable beacon of love. As difficult as it was to see my brothers hurting, I could not deny the pure love that permeated that room.

When the time came, Jordan and I exited the room and immediately Jordan took me to the Instacare clinic to monitor my pregnancy. The staff there at the Instacare instructed us to go to the emergency room as they did not have the equipment to assess my concern. We ended up back at the same hospital where moments earlier we said goodbye to Treis. When the nurse could not find a heartbeat with a Doppler, the medical staff assisting me ordered an ultrasound. The results from that ultrasound deemed the pregnancy a failure. I suffered a “missed miscarriage.” My body was 10 weeks pregnant to the day, but the baby ceased growing at 8 weeks 2 days.

On July 19, 2014, I cried.

I cried until I could not cry anymore. Devastation joined my feelings of emptiness and loss, and I just let myself cry.

The following days were treacherous as I navigated the sea of emotion that had infiltrated my life. I was scheduled for a D&C procedure on July 22, 2014. That procedure brought a small semblance of relief as it officially drew conclusion to my fourth pregnancy. I was discouraged by the loss, but was glad to have found a sense of closure from it.

In the days that followed, my family made preparations for Treis’ funeral. We spent time gathered together, comforting one another, and grieving empathetically. The funeral was planned and carried out on July 25, 2014. As part of the funeral, my sisters and I sang “Homeward Bound” in tribute to Treis. The words to that beloved song will always bring tears to my eyes. The metaphoric verses were so appropriate in the purpose of commemorating Treis and his short journey here. My nephew, Kendell, and I also played a string duet of “I Believe in Christ.” I felt a distinct spirit of peace as I practiced and prepared to play that song on my violin.

After the funeral service, surrounded by friends and family, we laid Treis to rest in the Provo City Cemetery. I told my husband that I needed to take pictures of that day, to remember the details. He honored my request by caring for our children while I snapped photos of the pallbearers and the service at the cemetery. The images I captured that day were the most cathartic element of the entire experience. They serve as a gentle reminder of the trial and the sorrow, but most of all the photos are evidence of the pure love that filled our hearts as we bid farewell.

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