Many things in life are unexpected.
A car breaking down, a child getting ill, some challenges in life are unexpected. But nothing has been more unexpected in our lives than what happened the weekend of September 6th, 2013.
Friday both Katelee and Ethan had baseball games. Grandma and Grandpa Snickers didn’t show up, but we figured Grandma just wasn’t feeling up to it that night. We went to dinner after the games were over and then headed home. It was late for us, but it was a Friday. When we got home Chris got a text from his dad that his mother was in the hospital and wanted a blessing. Chris helped put Ashlee to bed and then headed out to the hospital to administer to his mother. It had been a long day and I went to bed. I watched a bit of TV but eventually fell asleep and didn’t wake back up until Chris got home a little after 1am. I asked how his mom was doing and he said she has sepsis, an infection they don’t know the origin of, and was having some problems breathing. See was on oxygen, but the infectious disease doctor was going to be in tomorrow to see her. At this point I felt like everything was normal, Karolyn had been to the hospital many times and was always ok, so we both fell asleep.
Ethan had a baseball game Saturday morning that we woke up early for. Chris looked at his phone and realized he had a text from his dad. Karolyn had been placed on a ventilator in the middle of the night and was not doing well. We decided he needed to head back out to the hospital to be with his dad and I took the kids to the baseball game. When he got to the hospital they were still waiting for a few doctors to visit and then they would have more information. After the game my dad and I stayed to do some field clean up. During this field clean up I got a text from Chris saying the doctors had just been in and it was not looking good at all. He didn’t want the kids to see Grandma this way, but he felt like they should probably come out and see her one last time. My heart stopped as I read this message, how could it be this bad, this quick? I grabbed my dad and we headed to my parent’s house to get the kids. Ethan and I got cleaned up, we ate lunch and then my parents took the kids to Matt’s gun shop (right around the corner from the hospital) and I headed to the hospital. I wanted to see how Karolyn looked and if it was best for the kids to really see her. When I got there Chris told me that she was semi-conscious and could nod her head. Once I heard that I felt like the kids should come. They needed to talk to her and let her here them, let her know they wanted her to fight. (As I type this it sounds a bit silly, of course she knew they wanted her to fight, but maybe just maybe hearing their voices would give her a drive to fight!) My parents brought the kids over and we took them in to see her. Katelee came in, looked around and the many IV’s and ventilator and then said, “I don’t want to be here!” She walked out into the hallway with my mother. Ashlee didn’t know what was going on, Chris held her up so she could see Grandma and we told Grandma that the kids were there. She opened her eyes the best she could and nodded. Ethan was a little hesitant to talk to Grandma, he didn’t know what to say to her. (What six year old would?) He touched her hand and Ashlee talked in her quiet voice, which she never uses. My dad told her she would have been proud of Ethan at his game today. She did nod at my dad and then we decided that was long enough for the kids. My parents took the kids home and I stayed to be there a little longer. Chris’ sister got there from SLC a little later and Chris and I headed over to his parent’s house to get a few things.
While at the house Chris made a few phone calls to family that wanted updates. My heart broke as I looked around and saw Karolyn’s glasses on the table, shoes by the door, purse on the bench and other things that indicated she would be right back. My heart again broke listening to my sweet husband, struggling to talk on the phone with family due to tears. He was loving and truthful when asked how she was doing and tried to keep a positive vibe for the other person on the line. After a bit we headed back to the hospital. Poor Jim was so tired and Lisa was rubbing her mother’s hands trying to get the blue to go away. Chris and I broke the news that we were pregnant to Karolyn and Jim and we asked her to be nice as she picked a spirit for us. I stayed for a while longer and then decided I should go be with the kids. Chris stayed a little longer after I left, but headed home around 7pm. He felt ok leaving since Lisa was there to be with them. My prayers that night were more like pleading and begging with God to allow a miracle to happen. Let my kids’ grandma pull through so they could enjoy her laughter and sweet spirit longer. I sobbed as I prayed ending with a prayer for comfort to accept his will, but not really meaning it…
The next morning Chris’ two brothers were flying in from Dallas. Chris had planned on picking them up and dropping them off at the hospital and then heading back for church meetings. That night Ethan had been up all night coughing and not feeling well. Chris got up early, dressed for church and took Ethan to the doctor. He then went and picked up his brothers and then dropped Ethan off back at home. The kids said hello to their Uncles and then they headed off to the hospital. Once Chris got there he decided against leaving and going to church, which we both felt was the right decision. I took the kids to church with the intent to stay for all of it and have my parents pick Ethan up after sacrament since he wasn’t feeling well. Of course those plans changed after realizing how emotional I was. I cried during the entire special musical and nearly sobbed when my friend came into the bathroom and hugged me and offered to do whatever she could to help out. I decided then that I needed to be with my husband and support him and so I had my parents take all of the kids and I headed back out to the hospital.
When I got there my niece was in town from Cedar City and Karolyn’s brother and niece were also there. The mood was light, just like Karolyn would have liked it and everyone talked and laughed at the stories being told. The ICU staff was so nice and kind and didn’t ever once complain that we had too many people in her room or were being too loud… Pretty soon it was just Karolyn’s kids, husband, granddaughter and daughter in law left. We stood and sat around, taking turns rubbing her arms and wiping away small tears that would fall from Karolyn’s eyes. I decided to leave around 5 or so and headed to my parent’s house to eat and get the kids. Chris met us all there a little later. We headed home and Chris helped get the kids to bed and then headed back to the hospital. Later as I knelt down to pray, I pleaded for comfort and the will to accept the plan our Father had in store for our family. I expressed my opinion of the unfair and injustice of my kids losing a grandparent as such a young age, the injustice at the world losing such a great lady and especially of my losing a great mother in law so young. I sobbed for minutes with no words being uttered, but I know my Heavenly Father heard every pleading and pain within my heart.
Around nine I got a call from Chris letting me know they had decided that once Karolyn’s sister got into town and spend as much time with her as she wanted, they were going to take her off of the ventilator. Chris asked that I come out and join the family for that. I immediately got off the phone and called my mother. Without hesitation she agreed to head over and watch the kids so I could be out there. Pretty soon my mother and father were at our door, my dad in his work uniform in case he had to head to work from our home. I broke down when they got there, my emotions completely overtaking me. I asked my dad for a father’s blessing and he granted that to me. I was overcome by the spirit and felt a sense of comfort I desperately needed to feel. My dad then drove me out to the hospital and visited with Chris’ family for a while. He then went in and said his good-byes to Karolyn, of course telling her to say hi to his dad and let him know he missed him. He left a while later after hanging out with the family more.
Around eleven everyone went in separately and spent as much time with Karolyn saying our own good-byes. What do you say to someone for the very last time? Chris went in and I followed him about 10 or so minutes later. I told her I wished she had been a horrible mother in law, so this would have been easier, but then I thanked her for not being a terrible mother in law. Thanked her for being the best grandma my kids could have, thanked her for loving me so much and doing so much for our family. I wiped away tears that fell from her eyes, and I know deep down she heard us. Around midnight we all gathered back in her room and had a family prayer. Her boys and husband then gave her a blessing. The nurses then came in and prepared Karolyn to be taken off of the ventilator which was now doing all of her breathing. Once that was done we all gathered around her bed and watched as she took her last breaths. About 8 minutes later she took her last breath and passed into the next life.
Karolyn’s body was overcome with an infection it just could not fight off. With her going through chemo her body just wasn’t in fighting shape. Her kidneys shut down, circulation worsened and soon other internal organs began to shut down as well.
Silent tears fell from each of our eyes and hugs were given freely. We stayed in her room for about another hour and then headed back to their house. Chris later commented that the hardest and saddest part for him was not watching his mother take her last breath, but leaving her body all alone in her hospital room after she passed. I would agree, that part was tough, but it was no longer Karolyn, just her body. Her spirit wasn’t there any more. We visited at the house for a bit longer and then headed back home so my parents could get back home.
The next few days are a blur of activity. I worked Tuesday, but then took the rest of the week off. Chris had the whole week off. The funeral was planned and many other things taken care of. During this time Ethan told me when we were alone that Sunday night while he was doing a breathing treatment with Grandma Jiggs, that Grandma Snickers had spoken to him. He said he heard her voice say that she loved him and was going to miss him very much. Ethan immediately after telling me this broke down. His cousin had a similar experience. I know Karolyn loved her grandkids more than anything and so I believe she did tell Ethan that. Lisa, Julie and I went and dressed Karolyn in her temple clothes on Thursday and then we all headed up to Spanish Fork on Friday. My Aunt Net was so kind in changing her plans for the weekend and allowing my family to stay with her. She spoiled us rotten, with all the food, treats and love we could handle.
Saturday morning we headed into Spanish Fork for the family viewing. We set up the room and when the body arrived, the boys brought her in, including Ethan. He was so honored to be a pallbearer for his grandmother. He was an emotional mess the entire viewing, the devastating realization that his Grandma Snickers was gone pure evidence in his tears, sobs and face. The girls were their normal self, Katelee followed her cousin Spencer around Ashlee went wherever there were treats or attention. Ethan placed a colored picture in with Grandma before the casket was closed and then sat on Grandpa Snicker’s lap for the family prayer and sobbed. He broke everyone’s hearts, especially this mother’s heart! The body was then moved to the cemetery for the graveside services.
Ethan was the cutest pallbearer, serving with pride and love. He stood with all of the pallbearers during the services, standing in front of his great Uncle Brent the whole time. He held it together, though at times you could tell he wanted to breakdown. Chris conducted the services, Brian did the Eulogy, Lisa did the kid’s talk. I then read a poem I wrote for the services, followed by Sarah who did the Grandkid’s talk and then Chris did an awesome job on his closing remarks. Cory then dedicated the grave. It was a beautiful service for a remarkable and beautiful woman. The kids placed flowers on the grave, Ashlee explored the cemetery and found the perfect headstones to sit on. Katelee followed her cousin Spencer around some more and Ethan eventually discovered the pile of dirt and started jumping off of it.
We eventually left and headed back to my aunt’s house. Aunt Net and Uncle Randy took the kids to have some fun while Chris and I went to the family luncheon. After the luncheon we headed back and took a nap while Aunt Net and Uncle Randy took the kids to have some more fun. (I told you we were spoiled!!!) Later that night we had a birthday party for Katelee at Aunt Lisa’s house. Aunt Lisa went out of her way to make is super special for Kate, getting her an amazing cake, decorations and matching plates and cups. My sweet Cousin Tiffany even came with her kids to celebrate so Katelee would have some kids at her party.
We came home the next day to face the new reality of our lives. We headed back to work and school and have tried to slowly grow accustom to the new “normal.” A few nights ago I laid with Ethan as he sobbed uncontrollable about how much he missed his grandma. He told me all of the things he use to do with his grandma, all of the things she use to let him do and how much he loved and missed her. My mother heart didn’t know what to do. I just cried and laid next to him, telling him everything was going to be ok. He would keep saying, “The important thing to remember is that Grandma is with her parents now.” Or, “The important thing to remember is that Grandma is with Jesus and doesn’t feel pain any more.” The poor boy, he knows everything will work out, he just is human and doesn’t know how to apply it completely to our simple minds. He still has moments where he will cry and say he misses her and when we go over to Grandpa’s house he reminds me that we should still say Grandma and Grandpa’s house, because it was her house too! He has such a strong spirit and knowledge; I often stand in awe of the things he comes up with. The girls have moved on, seemingly un-phased by it all. I think Katelee has put up her guard and Ashlee is just too young to comprehend it all.
My heart is saddened that this baby within me will not get to do the same things with Grandma Snickers as the other kids did, but my heart is also gladdened knowing that this baby will get to do things with Grandma Snickers that the other kids didn’t get to do. I have learned more from this that you should always leave the ones you care about with them knowing how much you love them. You never know when you won’t have that chance again. The last time we saw Karolyn was at Katelee and Ethan’s baseball game that Tuesday. She came to as many games as she could. I always made the kids give hugs and thank them for coming and I’m so grateful I did that. I also gave hugs that night and am thankful for that. “If you love em tell them!”
Through this pain I have been reminded time and time again how much we are loved. How great my family and friends are. How willing and quick they are to serve us. As I prayed for comfort, our family and friends reached out to provide that. As we watched Karolyn slip from this life to the next, we were reminded how special and fragile life is. We received cards of sympathy, flowers, texts, hugs and so much more from those that love us. Each expression of love towards us did not go unnoticed and was appreciated beyond our ability to express. This has been a tough time for our family, but those around us have made it much easier to bear.
We talk of Grandma Snickers often, we miss her often and tears are still shed in remembrance of her often.