The Funeral

Note: This all starts with Life is Precious on the right. Start there and read up. My regulars, you’ll be shocked to see how much I’ve posted today!

What a beautiful day for a funeral. Really. I mean, this is what you think about. Or what I think about. Besides wondering if I’ll make it through my talk.

We assembled at the funeral home, said our final farewells, a few prayers and made our way to the church.

It was packed. Absolutely packed. Mom and Lynn didn’t want to walk down the aisle, so they went in the side door.

The rest of us were in the back of the church. The priest started with a prayer, we spread the pall over Tim’s casket and then walked forward to our pew.

Uh oh. It was hitting me now. Not now. I love this song (Eagle’s Wings) and I want to sing it. I couldn’t. I wasn’t crying, but I couldn’t sing.

Renee was doing the second reading, and I could see her walk to the altar out of the corner of my eye. She was sitting in back with Erin, just in case she had to feed her during the service. I knew she would do an awesome job, but I couldn’t look at her. She did us proud. She nailed it.

Then, I was feeling OK. I could sing, I could talk, I didn’t have to bite my lip.

I was thinking ahead and was worried about the sign of peace, thinking I would lose it then. I didn’t.

OK, I thought, I’m going to do this, but then I was worried about Brendan and Tommy, and whether or not they’d get through their talk.

The time came. Tommy went first. He was nervous. But he nailed it. Perfect humor and perfect explanation of the ‘twin thing.’ I joked with him before he went up and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I’m not going to listen.”

I went first at my Dad’s, and I think that’s how I made it through that one — barely.

Tommy finished and I was still feeling OK. Brendan and I went up to the altar together. This 13-year-old stood in front of about 300 people, not too mention his Dad’s coffin, and hit a homerun. He was fabulous. I had told him that people would laugh, and they did. That helped him. And I thought it would help me.

I was wrong.

I had a very general opening and then a couple of jokes. I got through that without too much trouble, but I knew as soon as I opened my mouth that I wasn’t going to get through the entire thing — the best thing I’ve ever written, and I wasn’t going to be able to finish it.

It was five pages long. Midway through page three, I lost it. Then I dropped the papers. Picked them up and said, “good thing I numbered them.” Everyone laughed. I thought I could do it again. But this was just the part where I was getting to the more emotional parts.

I knew I was toast.

I looked over to Father Perkins and he (thankfully) came over to pick up where I left off while I sat sobbing like a baby.

I knew where he was, heck, I practically had it memorized. I also knew that I wanted to say the last line myself. So as he got to that part, I stood up, moved closer to the lectern and he realized what I was doing. I then said the last line like I wanted to and returned, still sobbing madly, to the pew.

The first thing my Mom said was, “You were right. That was the best thing you’ve ever written.”

I could hear sobs everywhere. I wasn’t trying to make people cry. Or feel sorry for me. I was trying to get them to know Tim better than they did. I had learned so much about him in the past few days from his work colleagues. I wanted them, and others, to know the Tim I knew. And, regardless of whether I read some of it or the priest read some of it, when it was over, they knew.

So, if you’d like to read what I couldn’t make it through, here it is — my eulogy to my brother Tim — the best thing I’ve ever written:

Note: It’s written in all caps. That’s not a mistake. It’s just how I type things when I’m giving a talk. Hope it’s not too difficult to read.

FIRST OF ALL, ON BEHALF OF THE O’FARRELL FAMILY, THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT. IT’S A PRETTY AMAZING THING. I KNOW NOT EVERYONE WILL BE AT THE CEMETERY, BUT I DO HOPE YOU’LL JOIN US AFTERWARDS AT THE CALABRESE CLUB IN WESTERLY FOR FOOD AND FELLOWSHIP.

ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING THINGS FOR ME THROUGHOUT THIS PROCESS HAS BEEN LEARNING ABOUT TIM’S WORK LIFE. THE WORDS PEOPLE HAVE EXPRESSED ABOUT TIM HAVE BEEN NOTHING SHORT OF AMAZING.

ONE CONVERSATION IN PARTICULAR, REALLY TAUGHT ME THAT THERE’S A DIFFERENT SIDE TO TIM I NEVER KNEW. THE WORKING TIM.

THE PERSON I WAS TALKING TO ACTUALLY USED THE WORD DYNAMIC TO DESCRIBE MY BROTHER. I SAID, TIM O’FARRELL, RIGHT?

OH YEAH, HE TOLD ME. ABSOLUTELY DYNAMIC. HE MADE PEOPLE LAUGH. HE CRACKED JOKES. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, THIS PERSON TOLD ME, HE GOT THINGS DONE. AND PEOPLE RESPONDED TO HIM.

THAT I BELIEVE. MY BROTHER ALWAYS GOT THINGS DONE.

BUT DYNAMIC? I’M STILL NOT SURE I BELIEVE IT.

RESERVED? YES.

STOIC? NO QUESTION.

SERIOUS? WITHOUT A DOUBT.

THOSE ARE WORDS I WOULD USE TO DESCRIBE MY BROTHER TIM.

BUT THEN IT HIT ME.

THIS PERSON KNOWS ONE SIDE OF MY BROTHER. I, AND OTHERS, KNOW OTHER SIDES OF HIM.

AND FOR THE NEXT COUPLE OF MINUTES, I’D LIKE TO SHARE SOME MEMORIES WITH YOU ABOUT THE TIM O’FARRELL I KNOW.

SEEMS LIKE EVERY HOLIDAY MEAL, WE END UP REHASHING FUNNY FAMILY STORIES AROUND THE TABLE. ONE OF MY FAVORITES IS THE TIME TIMMY HURT HIS WRIST OR ARM – I DON’T REMEMBER WHICH. WHATEVER IT WAS, IT WAS BUGGING HIM SO MUCH. BUT MY MOM DIDN’T BUY IT. SHE FINALLY TOLD HIM THAT IF HE WANTED TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL, HE SHOULD TAKE THE INSURANCE CARD, GET ON HIS BIKE AND GO. IT WASN’T LONG THEREAFTER THAT MY MOTHER GOT A CALL. TIMMY NEEDED TO BE PICKED UP. HE WAS IN A CAST!

PHONE CONVERSATIONS WITH TIM ARE ALWAYS FUN. IMAGINE SOMETHING LIKE THIS.

HELLO.

MICHAEL.

YEAH.

YOU GOING TO MA’S?

YUP.

WHAT TIME?

NOON.

SEE YOU THEN.

OK.

NOW THAT’S DYNAMIC – WOULDN’T YOU SAY?

MY BROTHER TOM GOT MARRIED A COUPLE MONTHS AGO IN INDIANA. I FLEW OUT. TIMMY DROVE – AS DID MY MOM AND MY SISTER. LYNN AND MOM LEFT AN ENTIRE DAY BEFORE TIMMY. HE CAUGHT UP TO THEM NOT TO FAR FROM THE FINAL DESTINATION – MAKING UP NEARLY A DAY’S HEAD START.

THEN, ONCE HE GOT THERE, HE HAD TWO THINGS ON HIS MIND – NEITHER ONE OF WHICH SEEMED TO BE HIS BROTHER’S WEDDING. NOPE. HE WAS MORE FOCUSED ON FINDING A PLACE TO WASH HIS TRUCK AND THEN GETTING BACK TO THE HOTEL QUICKLY BECAUSE IT HAD FREE SPEED CHANNEL.

ON A MORE PERSONAL SIDE, I DON’T THINK ANYONE HERE EVEN KNOWS THIS – YOU KNOW US O’FARRELLS, WE’RE NOT KNOWN FOR SHARING A WHOLE LOT – BUT TIM SAID ONE OF THE MOST MEANINGFUL THINGS ANYONE HAS EVER SAID TO ME.

THE IRONIC PART OF THIS STORY – HE SAID IT AT MY BACHELOR PARTY.
THAT NIGHT, I FOUND MYSELF THE BUTT OF MANY JOKES AS MY FRIENDS WENT AROUND THE TABLE ROASTING ME.

MY BROTHER TOM GOT IN THE ACT, SHARING SOME EMBARASSING STORY. EVEN MY DAD GOT INVOLVED IN THIS LITTLE GAME, REALLY TAKING THE OPPORTUNITY TO BUST ON ME.

THEN IT WAS TIMMY’S TURN. I HAD TAKEN SUCH A VERBAL BEATING, HE COULD HAVE EASILY JUST PILED ON AND FOLLOW THE LEAD OF HIS BROTHER AND FATHER.THAT’S WHAT I EXPECTED.

BUT HE DIDN’T DO THAT.

INSTEAD, HE TOLD ME HE RESPECTED ME AND HOW I GOT TO THAT POINT IN MY LIFE. HE THEN TOLD ME – AND THE REST OF THE GROUP – THAT HE WAS PROUD OF ME. I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT. I NEVER EXPECTED IT. ESPECIALLY THEN – AT MY BACHELOR PARTY.

IT’S SUCH A SIMPLE PHRASE. BUT IT CARRIES A LOT OF MEANING. AND GIVEN THE TIMING OF WHEN HE SAID THAT, IT MEANT THAT MUCH MORE TO ME.

IT ALSO MEANT A LOT TO ME BECAUSE, DESPITE HAVING TWIN BROTHERS, THAT THREE MINUTE OR SO HEAD START TIM HAD OVER TOM IN THIS WORLD CLASSIFIED TIM AS MY BIG BROTHER. TOM IS MY OLDER BROTHER. TIM IS ALWAYS MY BIG BROTHER. AND WHAT LITTLE BROTHER DOESN’T TRY TO IMPRESS HIS BIG BROTHER?

WE NEVER TALKED ABOUT WHAT HE SAID TO ME. NOT LATER THAT NIGHT, NOT EVER. BUT IT HAS ALWAYS SAT WITH ME AS A MEANINGFUL MEMORY.

ANOTHER THING I’VE LEARNED RECENTLY IS JUST HOW PRECIOUS LIFE IS. MY BROTHER TOM CALLED ME LAST MONDAY WITH THE NEWS OF TIM’S COLLAPSE JUST AS MY WIFE AND I WERE GETTING READY TO TAKE OUR NEW DAUGHTER HOME FROM THE HOSPITAL.

I ALMOST DIDN’T BELIEVE TOMMY. HOW IN THE WORLD COULD WHAT HE WAS SAYING BE POSSIBLE? BUT, IT WAS MORE THAN POSSIBLE. IT WAS TRUE.

AS WE LEARNED MORE ABOUT TIM’S CONDITION, ONE OF MY THOUGHTS WENT TO MY NEW DAUGHTER, ERIN.

I WAS ALREADY FEELING JEALOUSY FOR HER TOWARD HER LESS THAN YEAR OLD COUSIN, LAUREN, MY SISTER LYNN’S DAUGHTER.

YOU SEE, LAUREN DOESN’T KNOW IT YET, BUT SHE IS A VERY LUCKY GIRL. EVERY TIME TIM WAS ANYWHERE NEAR LAUREN, HE HAD TO HOLD HER AND PLAY WITH HER.

IT WAS ALWAYS FUN TO SEE BECAUSE THAT WAS A SIDE OF TIM I HAD NEVER SEEN BEFORE. AND I REALLY NEVER GAVE IT SOME THOUGHT – UNTIL I REALIZED THAT MY DAUGHTER WILL NEVER GET TO PLAY WITH HER UNCLE TIM.

WE ALL HAVE DIFFERENT SIDES. AND IT’S RARE THAT ONE PERSON SEES ALL SIDES OF ANOTHER PERSON. EVEN TIM’S WIFE SUE WILL LEARN MORE ABOUT HER HUSBAND AS YOU SHARE YOUR STORIES WITH HER.

BUT WHATEVER SIDE YOU SAW OF TIM – THE STOIC, THE RESERVED, OR, OK, EVEN THE DYNAMIC – HOLD THOSE MEMORIES CLOSE. DON’T LET THEM GO. DON’T LET HIM GO.

REMEMBER MY BIG BROTHER AS YOU KNEW HIM – A CHILDHOOD FRIEND, A COLLEAGUE, A FAMILY MEMBER – WHATEVER HE WAS TO YOU..

BECAUSE I KNOW, HE’S WATCHING US RIGHT NOW. HE AND MY DAD. I KNOW THEY ARE WATCHING. AND I KNOW THEY ARE LISTENING.

SO, TIM, IT MAY BE THIRTEEN YEARS LATER, BUT JUST AS YOU SAID TO ME, I SAY TO YOU NOW – I’M PROUD OF YOU.


The Wake

Note: This ‘series’ begins with Life is Precious. Catch up on the right, starting there and working up if you’re just starting. Loyal readers, both of you, can catch up, too, since I’m posting a bunch at once.

I remember planning my Dad’s services. My Mom didn’t want a wake. “Nobody will come,” she said.

More than 200 people showed up.

Growing consensus was that Tim’s was going to be significant. It was. And then some.

One of the local papers put the obits online and creates a virtual guest book for people to leave condolences. Tim’s was up to more than five pages long — mostly from his work colleagues. That was just incredible to see. We knew they were going to show up — but were amazed at the actual turn out, both at the wake and again at the funeral. It really showed us a great deal about Tim and the lives he touched.

The wake was from 5 to 8 p.m. It was almost non stop the entire time, save for the last half hour or so. More than 400 people came to pay their respects. More than 400! My friends, Lynn’s friends, Tom’s friends, Mom’s friends, Sue’s friends, Marc’s friends, Brendan’s friends. Just unreal.

Probably 75 people from Tim’s work came. They travelled more than 90 minutes to be here. One guy even came from New Hampshire. All had glowing words about my brother. Again, it was just incredible.

We laughed a lot. It was comforting.

My sister and I were standing next to each other, trying to figure out who was who in line. Then we had to say a number of times that we were brother and sister, not husband and wife. That was funny.

We were keeping track of some of our favorite lines throughout the night — including one guy who came right up to Lynn and said, “Good to see you. Who are you?” We just cracked up.

Then there was this guy who leaned in to kiss Lynn. I was like, Who’s kissing my sister? I had no idea. She had no idea. Turns out it was our neighbor from across the street while growing up. Neither of us recognized him.

Renee and Erin were there. It was Renee’s first time to really be a part of this, besides dealing with me during the course of the ordeal, and keeping our homelife in order. Erin was the star of the show, everyone wanting to see the new little one who was bringing so much needed joy during such a horrible time in our family.

We were exhausted afterwards. Three hours on our feet, 400 people. It was a lot. But it was good. It was, dare I say it, fun. We learned so much. We heard so much about the good time brought to a lot of people.

And, jeez, as I say that I forgot one other element that I should have mentioned earlier.

We had heard a couple days earlier about the organ donation process.

They were using Tim’s liver for research. But, more importantly, two patients got a new kidney because of him.

That was the best news. I wonder if someday we’ll learn more about those people. But that’s not nearly as important as them learning one day about the person whose kidney they now have.


Tim, Part IV

Note: this ‘series’ starts with Life is Precious on the left. If you’re new, start there and read oldest to newest, if you want to, that is. If you’re returning, I’ve posted a few here at once.

The next few days are a blur. A lot of it is.

We met at the funeral home. We helped Sue pick out a casket, set a wake time, finalize pallbearers.

I finished the obit and worked with the funeral home to have it placed in various papers.

I worked with Brendan on his eulogy, helping him focus on good times and thoughts he had with his Dad. Could a 13-year-old really handle this?

I met with the priest to go over readings and music selection.

And I actually went into work. I had to, at least for a half day to try and have some normalcy in my life and to forget about stuff for a while.

Some people were surprised at ‘how well I was doing.’ I wasn’t doing well. I may have come across that way, but my way to deal with stress sometimes is humor. That’s what I was trying to be. Happy go lucky and funny Mike. And maybe that did help me for a bit, as were primarily focused on the ‘business’ of things.

But I knew it would change. That I would have one more breakdown. I just hoped it wasn’t during my eulogy.

Then you start getting crazy about certain things. People are always good about food and stuff. Well, after my Dad died, one my Mom’s friends made the most amazing comfort food. It was like a cheeseburger casserole thing. Just incredible.

All I could think about was, “Wait, will Mrs. R be making that? When will we get it?!”

Yeah, this is how your mind works when your brother dies.


Tim, Part III

Note: If you’re just finding this, look at the links on the right and start with the “Life is Precious” post and work your way up. If you’ve been here recently, I’ve just posted a couple, so you can pick up where you left off, if you’re so inclined.

Driving home Thursday was strange. I was thinking about Marc. Where was he? Was he going to make it?

I was thinking about my mom. She already buried her husband. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to bury a child.

I thought about my brother. He seemed strong, yet shaken. But he rarely showed emotion. But, it’s a ‘twin thing’, I’m sure. I don’t think anyone who isn’t a twin can understand what he was going through.

I thought about my sister. Her daughter was Tim’s new favorite. And, she was about to lose one of her older brothers. As she said to me, “I’m in this great place. It’s called denial.”

I thought about both of my nephews together. 22 and 13. I lost my dad when I was 30. It hurt a ton. I can’t imagine what these guys are going to feel.

I thought about my wife and my daughter. I’ve barely spent enough time with them. Friends and family helping out to keep them company.

I thought about my self and told myself I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself. Yes, I just had a kid. I wanted the attention for that. I wanted people to be able to enjoy her and the moment. But, that will come. This isn’t about me, I told myself. It’s about Tim. And we need to be strong for him. And for his family.

Then I thought about what I wanted to write — because I was going to speak at his funeral. Or at least I was going to try and do it. As was my brother and Tim’s youngest son. I had the thing written in my head on the drive home. It was so easy.

I got home, filled in Renee and friends that were here and tried to focus on Aidan and Erin for a bit. That helped. How could it not?

Then I wrote out my eulogy. Is that wrong? To write it before the person is officially dead? Well, that’s what I did. And, I was so proud. It was the best thing I’ve ever written. The hard part was going to be actually reading it.

I was going to stay home from the hospital on Friday — expecting a phone call with news that never came. I felt incredibly guilty all day. I should be there with my family. I should be here with my family. But, again, this isn’t about me. My emotions, though, were all over the place. I’ve never felt anything like this. And, I hope I never feel it again.

Brendan, my nephew, stayed here Friday night. He and I drove up Saturday morning. Nothing changed. Nothing new. Marc was getting closer. He landed in Providence and was an hour away. He arrived. So young, so thin and so mature. And we are all so proud of what he is doing.

He went back to see his dad. Then we all had our last alone time with Tim. I had really already done it, so I went in, said a couple of prayers to him, told him I would miss him and that I loved him and went back to the waiting room.

After we all had gone, we just packed up and left. The organ donor team was next to do their thing — and another reason to be proud of Tim. I also got a list of all the nurses who worked on my brother. I would need that to write the note to the hospital president later and let him know how incredible his staff is.

We had an appointment for the funeral home on Monday. So that meant the wake would be Wednesday and the funeral Thursday.

Somehow it went from being so emotional to so factual — so business like. I had already started his obituary, too. I can’t help it. Better to do it in a normal frame of mind, I guess.

The support we were all getting was incredible. Cousins came up to the hospital, as did friend of Tim and Sue’s, as did a representative of his work. It was all so incredible. Particularly from his work. We knew he was good at what he did, but we learned so much more about Tim during this process. Sad in a way, but so rewarding in another.

All I remember thinking was, these next few days aren’t going to be easy.


Tim, Part II

So I went home Monday night, the 11th of June, excited to see my new daughter, born just a day before, and nervous about my brother. He was going to be OK, right?

Tuesday and Wednesday are a blur. I don’t remember much. Mostly anecdotal things. Like on Tuesday, how I brought my iPod to the hospital to play music, believing Tim would somehow hear what I was playing for him.

I first played AC/DC, his favorite band. Then I started to play Styx. I didn’t like a certain song, so I got up to change it. The next song coming up? Don’t Let It End This Way.

I then played Motley Crue for him — at least I did until one of their songs started playing. It’s called Kickstart My Heart.

I mean, the irony is the cruelest. And there’s really no way to make this up — especially when driving home Tuesday night, the first song I hear on the radio is How to Save a Life.

I’m not sure of this joke being played on me. But I don’t like it.

What I also remember most about Tuesday and Wednesday is how amazing this hospital was. Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA. The Cardiac ICU nurses, in particular, are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

They gave such respect, not just to us, but to Tim. The way they bathed him. The way they talked to him. The way they touched him. The utmost in professionalism and in human decency.

I asked one nurse, Beth, how she did this. Didn’t she get attached? Of course we get attached, she said. How can you not?

I don’t remember a lot more, other than hearing that they were going to do an EEG, which basically measures for any brain activity. When I heard that, I think it hit me. I lost it at my brother’s bedside a couple of times. Each time, a nurse was right there with a comforting arm and peaceful word. I cannot say enough about these people.

Throughout all this, we knew that Marc had been contacted in Iraq and the process of getting him home had begun.

Thursday morning, about 6 a.m., Sue called to say Tim took a turn for the worse overnight. I was planning on staying home to rest that day, but I just looked at Renee and said, “I’ve gotta go up.” Ten minutes later, I was out the door.

I live the closest to the hospital, so I was the first one there, besides Sue. I got there about 8. Shortly thereafter, the attending physician took Sue and I into a conference room. Joining us were two other doctors, three nurses and a chaplain.

The doctor said what I think we all believed to be true by this time. Tim had no brain activity. He was, in effect, brain dead. I don’t know how this doctor did it. But he was so good. He was telling a man’s wife and younger brother that our worst fears were coming true.

And somehow, he did it in a way that we were comforted. Again, I completely broke down. This was my moment. Things changed for me a bit after this. I looked up at one point during my cryfest and two of the three nurses were crying with me. The chaplain had her hand on Sue.

These people were just amazing. The doctor went on to say they would do all they could to make sure Tim would make it until Marc got here. He was honest and said he didn’t think it was possible, because by this time we knew we wouldn’t see Marc until Saturday. But he said they would try. That’s all we could ask for. The respect was just unbelievable.

The rest of the family arrived shortly there after, my mom, sister, brother (Tim’s twin) and Tim’s son. We shared the news.

Then we had meetings with the social worker to discuss different things. We talked about wakes. Funerals. Pallbearers. Eulogies. Organ donation. Everything. It was surreal.

There was a white board in the room. I wrote, “Love you, Tim” on it. I didn’t know what else to do.

Then, I had gone downstairs to get something to eat. When I came back up, the man in the ICU waiting room, knew who I was and said, “They are waiting for you in the room.”

Oh God, I thought. Already?!

I go in there and nothing has changed with Tim. But, there was a huge food platter with sandwiches, drinks, chips, cookies etc. This was from the nursing staff. Again, these people. I don’t know what else to say. The utmost in care and respect.

Thursday night, I was ready to go home. I said I wasn’t coming back Friday. I needed to rest.

My sister asked if I was going to be OK with that — meaning, I wasn’t there when my Dad died and she was afraid of how I would be if I missed this.

I was fine, I told her. I made my peace. I said my goodbye — which I had done after Sue and I talked with the doctors and nurses earlier in the morning. Another bedside meltdown.

I was still playing music for him. And, I had even taken a picture of Erin on my cellphone and showed that to him — so he could meet his niece. He knew about her, but he hadn’t seen her — until then.

Oh, one other crazy note. One of the doctors on Tim’s team? Yeah, his last name is Hope. Dr. Hope. Can you believe that? This is stuff you can’t make up.

I left Thursday thinking it would be the last time I would see my brother.


Tim, Part I

Well, here we go.

I guess it’s safe to say that when I first started this blog, I never expected to be writing about this.

I mean, I did write something about my dad. But he passed seven years ago.

Maybe this is morbid thinking, but I actually had a conversation with someone this afternoon. The point being that as you get older, maybe the thought comes into your mind that you might bury a parent in your lifetime. But, again, you never think of this.

The ‘this’ I’m referring to — well, if you’ve been following along, you already know — the death of my brother, Tim.

I’m not even sure where to start with this. All I know is my fingers are probably going to be moving quickly along the keyboard. So much inside. So much needs to come out. Not sure if it’ll be one post or more. Probably more.

So there we were, my wife and I, sitting in the hospital on Monday, June 11, just a little more than 24 hours after giving birth to our beautiful daughter, Erin.

We were waiting for the discharge to happen so we could take our new girl home and let her see her house for the first time.

Then my cellphone rang. It was a call that changed everything.

My brothers are twins. I also have a sister. Mom and my sister had been by to visit, as had Tim’s wife, Sue. I hadn’t heard from my brother Tom. He had a lot going on his plate, so I didn’t think of anything of it.

And, when I saw his name on my caller ID, I simply thought he was calling to say that he wouldn’t make it to the hospital, but that he’d be by at some point soon to visit and meet his new niece.

Oh how I wish that’s what he said.

I don’t remember the exact words, but it was something like, “Michael. Timmy collapsed. He’s on life support. He’s at a hospital in Massachusetts. You need to call Lynn. I’m on my way to get mom and then heading up.”

Um, what? This is my happy moment. What? No, really, what?

I hung up, gave Renee the news, found a nurse to help us speed up the process of getting out of there and called my sister, who was equally shocked.

So then we coordinate. Where are we going? How are we getting there? Who’s riding with who? Wait, who is going to stay with Renee and Erin? What about Aidan? He’s due home soon. Oh, OK, Renee’s parents can stay at the house. Phew.

More scattered information before waiting for my sister to get to my house so we can ride together. Mom already in the car with Tom on the way. Tim’s wife Sue already there. Their 13-year-old son with family. Their 22-year-old son is, well, in Iraq.

Tim loved motocross, watching and riding. Well, for two days, he was at a track in Mass. where he could have a fantasy camp type experience and ride on this track. He was on his bike, at the starting line when he collapsed.

With Lynn with me now, we started heading north to some place called Noble Hospital. Tom called. Tim is being transferred to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Well, good news, I guess. Bigger (and we assume better) hospital, ready to handle this sort of thing. And, a closer drive.

We get there, Lynn and I the last to arrive. We make our way to the ER. What a madhouse. People all over the place. Beds in the hallway. People in handcuffs. People fighting.

Everyone looks shaken. Where’s Tim? Can we see him?

We make our way through a myriad of ER patients to this corner curtain area in the ER.

And there’s my big brother. (I know. They are twins. But Tim was first. So that makes him my big brother.) Laying on the table. Wait, this really is happening. Three hours earlier I was in a hospital with a precious new life. Now, here I am, trying to listen, to gather information and looking at my brother — hoping, praying.

At this point, while it was clear he wasn’t in good shape, I certainly had no reason to believe that he wouldn’t pull through. I mean, people recover from heart attacks. Right? He’ll recover. He’ll eat better. Do more. But he’ll be OK.

My first point of concern came shortly after. He was transferred up to the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. We all went upstairs to that waiting room. The message was, give us 15 to 20 minutes to get him stable and then we’ll come to get you and let you in to visit.

Well, more than an hour passes. Why aren’t they coming out? So, there’s a phone in the waiting room. I call into the unit. No, we can’t see him. Not yet.

Another 20 minutes passes. Then a nurse comes out. His nurse. Her name is Beth. She talks to Sue. I sort of listen in. It’s not good news. Hard time getting him stable. Can’t go in. Well, Sue can, but only for a minute. My mom wants to go in before we leave. She convinces Beth she should be able. She’s in for 20 minutes.

After she comes out, we (mom, sister and I) decide to go home for the night. We take Tim’s younger son with us. And, at the same time, we hope the hospital is reaching out to the Red Cross to get word to Iraq that Marc needs to come home. Now.

I’m still not sure what I felt when I left. But I can tell you it was something worse than when I arrived. Beth said it best. “We don’t have stable patients in the Cardiac ICU.”




Erin

If you haven’t read the previous post (scroll down), then you should.

A lot of stuff going on in my head. It’s slowly working its way out.

Since I’m not really sure which way to go right now, I’m headed in the chronological direction, which means you get the good news first.

Did I say good news? Because I meant fabulous news.

Did I say fabulous news? Because I meant amazing news.

On Sunday, June 10, our three-year-old son Aidan became a big brother to Erin Margaret, who clocked in at 8:04 a.m. weighing an even eight pounds and measuring 22 inches of just sweet perfection.

Now, my wife and I are always very prompt. Never late. Always early. But, little miss Erin? She arrived 10 days earlier than expected! We were ready (barely!).

When Aidan was born, my wife was in labor for nearly 16 hours, including three hours of hard pushing.

“They” say the second is about half the time. For us (well, ok, for her), it was less than half the time.

We went out for pizza Saturday night. My wife thought she felt a couple of things going on. But, we thought Braxton-Hicks because they stopped as soon as she moved or shifted.

At 10 p.m. or so, she noticed more. She wasn’t thinking anything of it, but I asked her to at least time them so we can see what we’re dealing with — which was soon to be the real deal.

I fell asleep downstairs watching the Red Sox when she came down about 2:30 and said, Ok, I think something’s going on.

We timed some more. Contractions were steady, but still a ways apart. But getting closer each time. I packed some of my stuff in her bag. We also called my mother-in-law with a heads-up. We had another friend come over first, actually. She got the call a little later when we knew we were going to the hospital.

At 4:15 a.m., things were more intense. We called the doctor, they said come on in. So, we said goodbye to our son as he slept peacefully, not knowing that his mom and dad wouldn’t be there in a couple of hours when he woke up.

“Miss Deb” came over to be at the house when Aidan woke up. Everything went fine. She later said that when she went into the room when Aidan woke, the first thing he said was, “Baby here yet?”

At the hospital just after 5 a.m. and the first exam calls Renee three centimeters. Contractions getting more intense and causing wicked back pain.

Progress over the next two hours. The epidural is put in at 7 a.m., and that might have triggered some things. Who knows?

All we know is that by 7:45, she had to push. And push hard.

The doc came in and said, “She’s having this baby now” and with just a few pushes from Renee and some deterimination from our little girl, Erin was soon out in this world.

The moment was just unreal. We didn’t know we were having a girl. And when they told us, it was just complete joy and emotional overload.

I cried hard twice this week. Once for Erin and once for my brother. Not sure which one was a harder cry, but I do know they were both filled with completely different emotions.

I didn’t cut Aidan’s cord, but I did it for Erin. Renee insisted. Like Aidan, I could hardly see at the time because of tears in my eyes. But, I got it done.

We then took lots of pictures, had a great time getting to know our little one and just relaxed, knowing that we wouldn’t get to do that much longer!

We had a great first night and were having a great second day when I got a phone call that would change everything.

In the meantime though, this little girl, this little Erin Margaret, has no idea how much joy and comfort she is bringing — just by being.

Daddy loves you, Erin Margaret.