We don’t really ever understand death until be moment we are staring it right in the eye. I never once thought I would ever watch my child die – right before my eyes. Gavin's death was unique. Unique probably isn’t even touching the emotions that lurked in his cold hospital room on that November day just three years ago.
I thought I had it all planned out. I had a vision of the way I wanted Gavin to die. After all, if God wasn’t going to give me a say in determining his fate, I for sure wanted to take control over the style in which he would pass. I wanted so bad to hold him as he took his last breath, in a beautiful moment between mother and son.
It didn’t happen.
On November 6th, after Gavin had not taken a breath on his own in more than 48 hours, the decision was made in accordance with the DNR Adam and I had put into place, that it was time to say goodbye. We lifted Gavin’s swollen body off his bed with the vent attached still breathing for him and had one final moment as a family. We had Madison come in and say goodbye to her brother, as I held him in my tired arms, with tears pouring out of my soul. I remember not getting the response from Madison I wanted – what I thought I needed – what She needed. She didn’t understand. She had no concept of the fact that this would be the last time she will ever physically be able to see her little brother. She was four years old – of course she didn’t understand. I wanted to make that memory for her – but looking back three years later, she never even needed that moment – her memories were already made.
We asked everyone to leave the room for one final moment with our baby boy. The pain was so intense. My soul ached so deep as if it was being ripped away from my flesh – in a way I guess it was.
The doctors came back in the room to watch as the ventilator was removed. My groans filled the room as the doctors were preparing to call his time of death. But this is where his story took a dramatic turn.
After removing the ventilator – he didn’t die.
In fact, he started breathing.
Talk about dealing with plan B after pouring your soul into Plan A, right?
I could never have imagined what would happen in the next 52 hours that would test my faith in all things God.
Inhale. Exhale. The breaths just kept coming.
Just a few hours after life support was removed Gavin was sitting up in his crib thrashing from side to side. You see, he was breathing, but it wasn’t effective and he basically began to drown in his own fluids that were starting to fill his little lungs. He would wake up with severe air hunger – panicked, scared and in respiratory distress.
This is were the battle began. He was in severe pain. Not only was he in respiratory failure but he was in multi organ failure. His body was dying and it was painful. His mind was delusional, in a psychotic break. He needed to be medicated to eliminate his suffering, yet every time we would give more meds his lungs would fill a little bit more. He would go in cycles where his oxygen would stay up in the high 80’s and then drop to the 70’s. Each and every time he would cycle we would embrace him and say good-bye.
Over and over. The anguish each and every time was just as raw as the first time we said our goodbyes.
This lasted for 52 hours. Did you read that? Do you understand that? 52 hours of watching Gavin drown right in front of our eyes. By hour 50 the room was filled with a sound that still chills my soul. Inhale. Exhale. It was as if a fright train was nearing. His lungs so full they were beginning to overflow out his nose and mouth.
Yet he still fought through, desperately trying to get air.
By hour 51 he had finally found peace. His oxygen saturations were in the 50’s and he was gone, though his heart still was going strong. We were exhausted – trying to stay awake so we would not miss one sound of his breath. I sat at his bedside and fervently ran my fingers through his blond hair almost pulling it at the roots, my other hand pushed firm on his chest feeling every beat of his heart.
I remember vividly feeling his heart stop.
Total and complete peace.
If you’re still reading and haven’t needed to step away I want you to know this.
We are still alive.
Our souls are still thriving.
We have been restored.
As I said in my last post, you may never experience anything like this but you will experience pain. Sometimes the healing we all so desperately pray for doesn’t happen in the manner we pray for it to happen. Sometimes we can’t hold our children as we say goodbye and embrace them as they take their final breath. Sometimes our plans for both life and death don’t pan out – but it doesn’t mean the plan went wrong.
God used those last 52 hours with our son to do amazing things. Many of which are not even possible to put into words, as they were moments that formed and shaped our souls – going way beyond earthly events but bridging over into the spiritual.
After we touched his lifeless body one last time we walked out those hospital doors.
Life was forever changed.
On November 8th 2009 at 10:52pm Gavin took his very last breath here on earth and received the healing and peace he deserved.
On November 8th 2009 at 10:53pm Adam and I began our healing.
Healing is possible.