What a week it has been. I'm going to preface this by saying that it doesn't exactly have a "happy" ending. Except for the fact that...in a way it does. Which is why I wanted to write about it (in addition to needing to mentally un-jumble and process some thoughts). This is also going to be on the lengthier side - so I won't be surprised if a lot of people don't sit and read it. However, it's for my family, so I refuse to skimp on what it is I'd like to put down in writing.
Last Wednesday night my husband started burning up with a fever (on top of dealing with seasonal allergies). He ended up working from home both Thursday and Friday and in the midst of everything Gabriel got sick, too. Thankfully, our baby only had a high fever (not high enough to go to the hospital or anything) for less than 24 hours. He refused all solid foods, but nursed every couple hours per usual and remained hydrated. At some point I contracted a sore throat - but that along with feeling achey was all I got. By Friday, things were looking up for us and even though Michael was still suffering a bit we were pretty much recuperated. At least, we were recuperated enough to travel to Indiana for a very dear friend's wedding!
Nothing was going to keep me away from that wedding. There were moments on Friday (due to everyone's recuperation processes) that I wondered, "Should we stay home instead? Are we going to be able to do this?" But my husband never doubted the travel plans, so off to the airport we went.
However, it wasn't meant to be. Blessings often come in disguise - and this past weekend was one glaring example of how God's plans are always so much better than ours.
We arrived at the airport Friday evening. We were a little tired, but so excited for the wedding fun that was to be had. On top of that, we had plans to see my parents in my hometown before we headed up for the wedding. When we tried to check our bag we were notified by the little kiosk that there was an error: our flight had been cancelled. What?!?! Nooooo!
We made our way into the line of people dealing with similar scenarios. Was it supposed to be bad weather? I had no idea, but apparently a lot of flights were being cancelled.
Shortly before we left for the airport we received word from my mother-in-law that Michael's maternal grandmother (Halmoni, which is "grandmother" in Korean) was having emergency surgery. It was something sudden with her colon and we were waiting to see what happened.
As we waited in line to discuss our flight's cancellation, I turned to Michael to run through some possible scenarios. If we couldn't get to Indiana, maybe we could try and get a flight to Cleveland to be with his family instead? We agreed that this was a good idea, but unfortunately this was also not a possibility. We worked on getting refunds for our flights, hotel, and rental car, picked up some Chinese food, and returned home - lamenting the fact that we couldn't fly anywhere. We were still waiting to figure out if we needed to drive to Ohio, but knew that with how late it was we wouldn't leave until Saturday morning. If all was well we would hold off on visiting until Memorial Day Weekend as originally planned.
We should have been better prepared, but we weren't. As I was resting (because Gabriel decided to get up far earlier than normal), Michael received the call. We needed to get to Ohio ASAP. At first, Michael had been saying he would go on his own if need be, but when the call came we both knew that between everything going on in his family, how long the drive was, and the fact that he was still recovering there was no way he would be going it alone.
I took a quick shower, we threw some outfits and toiletries in a duffle bag, and boom- we were out the door and on the road (no small feat with a baby, might I add). We said some prayers, I led a rosary while Michael drove, and we did whatever we needed to help Gabriel out, but it was mostly a quiet trip. No music. Just our tired thoughts and prayers.
It's too tiring and unnecessary to go into all of the medical details, but we had a very long weekend traveling with Gabriel (it takes close to 8 hours with him) and got all-too familiar with the waiting room in the ICU.
|ICU waiting room. Grateful the hospital staff turned a blind eye to their |
"no children under 14" rule the entire weekend.
Halmoni was suffering from ischemic colitis. A lot had happened very quickly and things weren't looking good. Shortly after we arrived, a doctor sat with our family for a solid half hour explaining everything that had gone on thus far, answering questions, and weighing in on possible scenarios. Because her entire large intestine was dead and had been removed and the fact that she was now in multi-system failure, the mortality rate he gave us was high. Not high enough to dispel all hope, but high enough for us to brace ourselves for the worst. Fortunately, she was awake and we were able to go visit her. She couldn't speak due to the tube in her throat, but she could hear us just fine. We said all the things you can say in such a situation.
Fortunately for us, Halmoni was at a Catholic hospital. Michael and I returned in the morning just in time for the 9am Mass in the chapel before heading upstairs for the overnight updates. Things were somewhat better.
There wasn't a lot of change as we sat around on Sunday and we were very optimistic. Her body was fighting an infection and she had been put on dialysis the previous night - but they had successfully weaned her off of some meds and she was much more alert. She fully understood everything we said as we told her that we had to return to Philadelphia, but that she just needed to rest and we would come back and visit her next weekend. And, of course, that we loved her.
While we were on the road, things took a turn for the worse when they tried to wean her off of more meds, but there was still hope. We continued driving in silence, waiting. We arrived late Sunday night - emotionally and physically weary.
Monday morning we received the call from Michael's parents. Halmoni passed away around 6am. She had no chance of making it through the night and she was ready to go. They were able to be with her, speak with her, say goodbye, and she wasn't in pain when it happened.
Typically I don't like to share such stories on my blog - stories that are heartbreaking and give readers an insight into any hard times our family may be having - but this one is different. Seven years ago, when Michael's paternal grandfather passed away, Michael was unable to make it home in time to say goodbye. He drove frantically from his engineering co-op in Indiana but got there a couple hours too late. This weekend we were supposed to be in Indiana celebrating love and marriage with lots of wonderful people. As heart-wrenching as it was to know what we were missing out on, our cancelled flight was the best thing that could have happened to our family this weekend. We made it to Ohio, Michael had quality time to say what he wanted to say to his grandmother, and we were able to be there with the rest of his family. Gabriel did what he does best - which is to bring joy to others, regardless of whatever else may be happening around him.
|Halmoni with her great-grandson in December 2013. So much joy.|
Michael and I have already experienced the loss of all our grandfathers, but it was just this year that my Grammie passed away and now his Halmoni. Fortunately we were able to see my Grammie a few months before her passing, but I certainly wasn't there when we knew the end was drawing nearer. I'm so thankful that we could do this for Michael, his family, and most of all, his Halmoni. If you had asked me last week, I would have told you that nothing could keep me away from Steph's wedding. However, God truly watched out for us and took care of our family in the way He knew we needed. Had we been at the wedding, we couldn't have said goodbye or been there with Michael's family. Had we been at the wedding, our joyous celebration would have been clouded by doubts and worries about how to change our travel plans and whether or not we could do so in time. Instead, God shut down the possibility of us being at the wedding in order to clearly send us directly to Ohio.
Amid the sadness and the grieving, Michael and I had some beautiful conversations this past weekend. At one point, he revealed to me how much more at peace he was with whatever happened than he had ever been with his paternal grandfather's death. Why? Because he was experiencing this situation now as a Catholic - as a man who believes in life eternal and trusts in God's plans to take care of us beyond death. We know that Halmoni doesn't simply disappear forever when she leaves this earth; her soul lives on and we can pray for her and she for us. How grateful I am for all of this.
It's worth saying that Halmoni will be deeply missed. I have always loved my interactions with her - from the first time Michael brought me home to meet his family. She had such a fun-loving sense of humor. She was always cooking Korean dishes, telling us to "eat, eat." She loved her family dearly and helped raise Michael and his sister from a very young age. It breaks my heart when I think of how much love she gave to everyone - but it's a happy kind of heartbreak that knows I will always smile when I think back on all the memories I have of her - dancing at our wedding, playing with Gabriel, forcing me to wear her slippers so I don't catch a cold, and all the other things a loving grandmother does. I'll never forget her words of wisdom every time we would visit: "Don't work too much. Too much stress is not worth it. Don't fight. Enjoy each other. Just be happy, okay?"
|Halmoni breaking it down on the dance floor at our wedding. Brian Powell Photography.|
Overall, our little family is doing very well. But please pray for the rest of Michael's family - especially his mother, who is an only child who just lost her only remaining parent. Please, please lift them up in prayer so that they may all find comfort and peace during this time.
"Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen.
May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen."