I know I said the last post was extremely hard to post, but this one definitely beats it.
I never, EVER imagined life could get harder and more traumatic after Jonathan’s suicide. But never say never I guess.
5 months after my brother took his life, my sister lost hers. 5/13/16. This is my story of what happened.
After my brother’s death, I was slowly starting to recover. I started blogging again because I thought it was a good release for me. Plus, I got to enjoy my pregnancy and dress it up a bit! I also was so excited that I was having a little girl, and started dreaming of the dresses, bows, and barbies! We were living at my in-laws house at the time and we were actively looking for our first home to buy. It was an exciting time and I had a lot of good distractions as I continued to heal and process the trauma that had just happened to me.
Life was in full swing. We were in baby prep mode and home buying mode. Those of you that have purchased a home know how crazy it can be, especially here in DFW. We put in 6 different offers before we actually got a house! As the months went on, I got closer and closer to giving birth, closing on our first home, and I was also trying to work full-time. It was crazy, and fun at the same time! We were making great, happy strides in our life, and it was exciting!
May rolled around and we were SO close to closing on our house and giving birth. The plan was that we would close May 6th, move our stuff into the new house (that was an hour away from where we were living) over that week, pack for the hospital, go and give birth sometime in that week, and then once we were discharged, go live in our new home in Fort Worth. It was a crazy plan, and I was stressed trying to move and be extremely pregnant. May 6th started out as an amazing day! We signed out lives away and got the keys to our new home. It was an amazing feeling at 26 years old! I then had to part ways with my husband and I headed off to work to put in 8-10 hours.
I got to work about 3 hours past when I thought I would because of traffic (thanks DFW) and I was stressed. I decided I was still going to work a little bit and I sat down to put in a good 4-6 hours before going home. At about 8pm I was in full swing working and helping the lab process the testing. As I was switching lab stations to let night shift settle in, I got a weird text from my mom. “Kathryn had an asthma attack and stopped breathing and her heart stopped. We are going to the hospital.” Weirdly enough, I didn’t think much of it, because my sister was unfortunately born with terrible allergies and asthma. She has been hospitalized before so I thought she was wide awake and fine, just going in for more treatments. I called my Dad to get more clarification, and when he answered he said “I can’t really talk right now, I need to concentrate on getting to the hospital.” I said ok, a little weirded out that my Dad needed to concentrate on driving, but whatever. I’m sure everything was fine.
Work continued for me and maybe an hour later my Mom sent another text. Yay, an update! Finally! I wanted to talk to my sister! Reading that text is forever ingrained in my memory. “The doctors said she doesn’t have a high probability to live.” My heart dropped. What.Is.Happening. I was so confused and lost. After reading that text, I quickly grabbed my things and left. I had to go home and process what was going on and not be distracted by work. As I was driving home, my husband was not answering his phone, which got me panicked all over again. The thing is, when someone didn’t answer their phone right away now, I thought they were in trouble (that’s the PTSD talking). I quickly drove home and Kyle said he had fallen asleep. I told him that Kathryn’s heart and breathing stopped and the doctors didn’t say she had a great chance of living. Kyle looked at me shocked, and he cried. Kyle was also extremely close to Kathryn because he had known her since she was little. We immediately prayed and called my mom.
My sister had been moved from the ER to the ICU because thank goodness, they got a heart beat back. They just didn’t know the status of her brain. When I called, both my parents, as well as my brother Michael, his fiancé (now wife) Emma and my little 5 year old sister Elizabeth. They were softly talking to Kathryn and trying to see if she would have any stimulus in hearing their voice. I tried talking to her over the phone, trying to hold back just bursting into hysterical tears. My parents told us that they were going to watch her overnight, and that they would call and update us if anything changed in my sister’s status. The doctor’s said that if Kathryn’s heart stopped again, that would be it. She wouldn’t be able to recover from that. I prayed harder than I ever prayed before that she would survive the night.
I hardly slept that night. And when I say hardly, I mean I slept for maybe 10 minutes. Imagine how that feels 37 weeks pregnant and in a constant panic just waiting for an update. I was sick to my stomach thinking of my family there waiting. It made me sick that once again, I wasn’t in Kentucky with them for a family emergency. I cursed being so pregnant and being a 15 hour drive from them. In the morning, I was told that there was no update, and we waited. My parents tried to get sleep, my siblings tried to keep it together, and I tried to find something to occupy my mind so I could stay strong for my baby and my 2 year old.
My sister was in the ICU for a week. It was a week of constant, and I mean constant prayer. I prayed harder than I ever had before. I told Heavenly Father I would literally do ANYTHING to have Kathryn live. I never wanted a miracle so much in my life. It was a hard, long week for everyone. Doctors continued to do test after test. There would be positive things happening for Kathryn’s body function, but it wasn’t enough for the doctor’s to ever say what would happen. We waited, we prayed, our family prayed, our friends prayed, and people all over the US and the world prayed. During this week, remember, I also had the impossible task of moving an hour away into our new house with being extremely pregnant and with a 2 year old. I didn’t know how I would survive the next minute of the day. I also was trying to work 10 hour shifts some days, and I was constantly checking my phone trying to see what kind of update they had. I remember leaving multiple times to go sit in the cancer wing and pray with my family over the phone. I would call to talk to my sister in her hospital bed. Just hoping that my efforts here in Texas would bring some kind of miracle.
Thursday, May 12th 2016
The days leading up to this day were filled with fasting, prayer, hope, and pleading to God to save Kathryn. She was only 9 years old, surely she had a full life to live on earth still. Surely our family wasn’t meant to loose 2 members in such a short time period. Thursday, May 12th I was off of work and I was trying to drive a car load of stuff to our new house. I took my 2 year old Everett with me since my husband was working. We drove to our brand new Fort Worth home, and I unloaded the car with my son. I was trying to unpack our kitchen when I got a text from my Mom. “Come Home.” was all it said. I almost collapsed. I immediately called and my mom said that because the doctors haven’t seen much activity in her brain, the next step was to do a final test to see if Kathryn could breath on her own without the machines keeping her alive. Aka at this point is when people are taken off life support and they die. I could.not.breath. I sat against a wall on the floor in my new family room and could barely talk. My mom told me that I needed to get to Kentucky to say goodbye. I told her I needed to call my OB and figure this out, so I hung up. The room got dizzy and I exploded with tears. I don’t think I had ever cried this hard in my life, and I had just lost my brother to suicide. My head was spinning and I couldn’t even fathom getting on an airplane now 38 weeks pregnant to go say goodbye. My OB told me any second I was going to go into labor (I was 4in dilated and 50% effaced) so it was determined that it was no where near safe for me to fly. I was heartbroken. People even offered to drive me there, but I knew my body would not be able to handle a 15 hour drive. I called my mom back and broke the news to her that I wouldn’t come home to say goodbye to my sister. I cried hysterically all while my 2 year old tried to cheer me up with his dancing robot (I am so thankful for my son. He helped me to feel a little bit of hope in that desperate moment).
May 13, 2016: The Day My Best Friend Died
I woke up May 13th in agony. But I was determined to put on a brave face for my son. I had things I needed to do. I had to pack and move. And take care of my pregnant body. And take care of my toddler. I couldn’t break down and mourn like I desperately wanted to. The plan was that the doctors would continue to watch her throughout the day and watch for improvements, and in the afternoon they would let us say our final goodbyes and then take her off life support. That day was so slow. It was painful. So many people were still praying for a miracle, but I think my family new that Kathryn had made the choice to continue her work on the other side. So we waited. My brother Christian finally made it to Kentucky and got to be in the room with the rest of my family. I facetimed my family along with my husband and my 2 year old. My Dad and brother’s gave Kathryn a final blessing, we sang Family’s Can Be Together Forever. I told Kathryn I loved her and that I would miss her every single day until I saw her again in the afterlife. And then we ended the call. My sweet, innocent, amazingly talented, 9 year old sister died.
The week after Kathryn’s death was a complete blur for me. I now had to move completely to our new house AND give BIRTH. How could I possibly go through the pain of birth now. I was numb, lost, and I tried my very hardest to be happy leading up to my daughter being born. My induction was scheduled for May 19th and I just had to make it until then. It was a strange week because so much good was happening, but I was in a deep, dark hole of sadness. I remember going to my last OB appointment to check Virginia’s size (they thought I might have to have a C section because V was measuring really big), and after I got word I didn’t need a C section, I called my mom to tell the news. She was happy for me, and she told me they just got done dressing my sister’s body for the funeral. It was a blurry 6 days of talking about giving birth to a beautiful baby and talking about funeral plans for my sister. What was worst of all in this whole trauma for me was that Kathryn WAS SO EXCITED for Virginia to be born. She was always counting down the days with me leading up to her birth. She was so excited for a niece. And 6 days before her precious niece was born, she died.
The day I gave birth to Virginia, I was just trying to survive and be happy. I was excited to meet her, and I was so thankful that I had such a happy distraction. You can read all about Virginia’s birthing story here. After she was born, I had such a precious gift from God to snuggle with and to bring me joy. I am always so thankful for my kids because they were what kept me going during this time. They are so full of light and goodness, and they kept me surviving day by day. While I was in the hospital, I found myself alone with my daughter and I felt so lost. I was trying to nurse during a long night of cluster feedings, but I just sat there balling my eyes out because I hated that my sister was gone. And that I couldn’t FaceTime her right now and introduce her to Virginia. I was such an emotional wreck and I’m sure the nurses thought I was insane.
The morning of the day I was to be discharged, was the day of Kathryn’s funeral. I had to listen to my sister’s funeral over the phone. I could barely hear what was going on, and I remember feeling somewhat irritated, but also a little bit of relief because I knew it would be unbearingly painful to be there. The thought of seeing my sister in a casket made me sick to my stomach, and I knew if I was there I would have passed out or even just died right then and there myself. When you lose your 9 year old sister before giving birth to your daughter, you feel like you might drop dead at any moment. But I listened to what I could, and focused on the health of my body as well as my daughters.
Life after losing my sister was very difficult as you could imagine. I tried so hard to just focus on caring for a newborn, unpacking our home, entertaining a 2 year old, and keeping my marriage alive and well. It was a lot, and I honestly don’t know how I survived. I didn’t ask my mom for pictures of Kathryn’s funeral until about 6 months later. I knew it would hinder my healing as I tried to cope. As the months went on, life was still painful, but I felt Kathryn and Jonathan comforting me. I knew they had each other and that they were fine. And that they loved me. And that the missed me. I now suffer from even worse anxiety and depression than I had before as well as PTSD. I also have gained about 60 lbs trying to cope with food. But all is well. I am surviving thanks to my family, friends, and just the fun things I have in my life! Some amazing things that have happened are the foundation we started in my siblings name, Kathryn being able to donate her organs to those in need, and being able to show the world that even though we experienced tragedy, it is possible to survive and still be able to live a full, happy life.
As I close out this portion of my story, I want to talk about one thing that I really struggled with for awhile. So many people were praying for Kathryn. So many people were fasting, going to the temple, and asking for miracles. Literally hundreds, maybe even thousands of people. But yet she still needed to go. I wasn’t necessarily angry with God, but I was confused. Why didn’t we receive the miracle we were so desperate for? My husband found an amazing talk that brought a lot of clarity to me and brought me a lot of peace. You can read it here (But If Not). Sometimes it’s ok to hope and pray for things and not receive what you ask for. I am a firm believer that God has a plan, and that Kathryn had a plan for her life. Kathryn had a choice on whether she wanted to stay on earth and deal with physical and mental disabilities, or continue onto the spirit world and help with the amazing work being done there. I prayed for a miracle, “but if not” I would continue to spread goodness on this earth and miss my sister until we were reunited again someday.
While Kathryn was fighting her last fight on earth, we started a hashtag for her. #blueheartsforkathryn was started because she LOVED the color royal blue. Blue Hearts continue to be a symbol for Kathryn and for our family in remembrance of her life and the joy that her 9 years with us brought to us. Blue hearts to me symbolize love, miracles and purity, and whenever I see a blue heart, I think of my dear sister.
Someday I will be reunited with my sister and my brother, and thinking of that reunion brings so much joy to my heart. It honestly helps me survive. I imagine me running to them, hugging and crying and just saying how much I missed them. The wait will be worth it, and I’m determined to be the best person I can be so I can see them again someday.
I have 2 angel siblings. I miss them. But I am determined to spread their legacy by spreading love, hope, charity and helping others find their best selves. Life may be hard, but I choose to be happy regardless.