Tuesday, June 4, 2013

remembering Max: saying goodbye.


i don't remember how this day began. i've been trying to remember but i just can't. it might be because the day before never really ended and so the day never really had the kind of "wake-up" that normal days do. and i guess that makes sense because this was in no way a normal day. the way i remember Friday March 15, 2013 is in snapshots. and not in video or photo snap shots -- because all of our cameras and phones were dead by this point. not a single picture was taken on Friday. instead, my memories are much like slide-show snapshots - where in my mind, one conversation jumps to the next. one moment with Max jumps to the next - without any real fluidity or transition.

...

8 am or so - a new nurse came in.  Max's pain and discomfort seemed much more severe.

...

Dr. Eusterbrock came in. recommended morphine for the pain, and very shortly after administered the medicine.

...

Max's alertness was gone.

...

his color faded. and continued to change throughout the day.

...

his breathing became very slow. and labored.

...

the girls were cranky. lots of fighting. Gammy + Pops took them to breakfast.

...

silence. 
yawning. 
exhaustion.

...

Ruth, our social worker came in. "have you talked to the girls about death?"

that last word "death" echoed over and over and over. it was really coming. we had talked to them about Max being sick but never about death. that was going to be hard. she encouraged us to prepare the girls for what was coming soon. 

...

the girls came back. M and i decided to heed Ruth's advice and talk to the girls. they were playing a game. Alice was stealing cards. Ellie was getting upset. it was like watching myself talk to a class of bored high school students about some calculus equation while the students were busy poking each other and passing notes. and yet it wasn't a boring teacher. it was me. talking to my kids. i heard myself tell them, "but that's what's so special about what we believe. and about temples. daddy and mommy were married in a temple, and because of that our family will be together forever. that means that even though Max is going to die very soon, we will also get to see him and be with him someday, as long as we try our best to be good and do good." M and i looked at each other. i had always been grateful for our eternal marriage - but in that moment, it was an invaluable blessing to me and my little family.

and then someone hit someone else and the moment passed. i didn't know if they understood. death is an impossible subject so i couldn't blame them if they had been ignoring me.

...

less silence. 
more yawning. 
more exhaustion.
...
 
it was a cold morning. but it was sunny outside. the girls were restless. there was a playground right around the corner from our room and i was overwhelmed with the desire for Max to feel the fresh air on his face. he'd never felt that before. so we bundled him up like a lil burrito, and trekked out into the cold to let his sisters play and for Max to feel real air.

the play-yard was in the middle of downtown Oakland. around us were loud trains and cars and city sounds. and yet we couldn't see any of that because big, giant magnolia trees surrounded us on every side. the brisk breeze filled the air with that sweet smell of the magnolia blooms. the girls ran up and down the structure, going down the slides and chasing each other. and there Max sat, cuddled in my arms, listening to his sisters' feet run and their little mouths giggle. for a moment, it felt like things were normal. like we were at a park by our house, introducing our new baby to our world. there isn't a single photo of this scene, and i'm strangely happy about that... because i'm afraid they'd taint my memory of that idyllic moment. it was perfect. because of that morning, magnolias will always be Max's flower, and i'll always love them.


...

we were all back inside. i could tell Ellie was having a hard time. i asked her to come with me to the cafeteria. even though i didn't really want to leave Max's side, i sensed she needed some one-on-one time and attention from her mama, and i conveniently needed to eat. i let her pick whatever she wanted (pudding, anyone?), and she picked our seats in the back corner of this huge room. i was taking a bite from my disgrace of a sandwich (why is hospital food so appalling?), and Ellie was playing with her pudding/jello thing (how could you resist? it is too jiggly to be considered food), when her sweet honey-colored eyes peered up at me and she timidly asked, 
"Mama?" 
"Yes, Ellie?"
"Is Max going to die?"
"Yes, Ellie. he is going to die very soon."
[silence. and a few tears trickling down my cheeks.]
"Mama?"
"Yes Ellie?"
"Will every baby I have always die?"
[heart breaks.]
"No Ellie. this is a very unique thing. babies don't usually die. in fact, they almost never die."
"But Max is going to die?"
"Yes, Max is going to die."
and then she stopped playing with her food. and she looked down. and suddenly she broke into uncontrollable sobs. i couldn't console her. it was like the whole thing clicked. she understood that she was saying goodbye to her baby brother. and the only way i got her to gain control was by telling her,
"Ellie, it is ok to be sad. this is so very sad. let's go give Max another hug."
and she put her arms around me, and didn't let go until we saw Max, and then she flung those arms around him...and held him tight for the longest time. 

and that was the start of the goodbyes.


... 

many other doctors and nurses came in and out throughout the day. their words are the biggest blur of the day, almost like the buzzing of bees.

...

and then it came. i was sitting on a chair holding Max. it was about 4:00 in the afternoon. my mom and dad were with the girls while they were watching a movie. M was sitting on the bed next to me. the room was still. i knew it was about to happen. i just knew. i looked down at Max and watched him take a breath. i looked at M and said, "i think this is it, for real." he looked at me, a little confused at first because he had just seen him breathe, too. and then together we watched him. it was almost as if i could feel his giant spirit leaving that tiny, frail body. in that same moment, Dr. Eusterbrock walked in. i could barely utter the words, "i'm ... pretty ... sure ... it's happening ... now ..."

and there he stood with us, standing over M and me and little Max, until his little body finally felt only like a little body. and Dr E. listened to him, and gave us a sympathetic nod. 

hot tears drench my face as i recall this moment and try to communicate what it was like. i don't know what to say. what i felt then is what i feel now -- it is an incredibly sacred experience to be with someone when they die. and while i ache that things happened this way, i am also filled with a new kind of love. i want to love more fiercely and freely - and that's because of Max's life and his death. 

...

everyone had the chance to say goodbye. i'll never forget my mom singing to Max, and bathing him in her tears. i'll never forget my girls kissing his nose and forehead and hands - and telling him he's the best baby in the whole world. i'll never forget my dad holding him and thanking him for coming back on his birthday. i'll never forget Dr. Eusterbrock's entrance into that room, with such impeccable timing, and then his tight embrace, offering his most sincere condolences. i'll never forget M's parents' tight hugs and cuddles -- the last ones i think. i'll never forget M, holding tight to Max - for the longest time - not wanting to let go. i'll never forget my last hug and kiss to that little boy - and touching those sweet little imperfect hands one last time and kissing that perfect nose. i loved those little imperfect hands and that perfect lil nose. and i'll never forget the sweet nurse wrapping sweet Max up in a blanket and taking him away, crying all the while. saying goodbye to a baby is just unnatural, there's no way around it. 

and yet we had to do it. and we did it. and i'll never be the same for it. 

and truthfully, i don't want to be.

Max's life and his death has awakened a part of me that i didn't know existed. he has taught me so very many things - some of which i hope to be able to share throughout my life, as well as here on my blog in the coming months and years. above all else, he has given me a changed perspective. i want to do good. i want to be good. i want my marriage to be good. i want to teach my kids how to do good and be good -- so that someday we can all be good enough to be with Max again ... in a perfect place, where saying goodbye is something we'll never have to do again.

there's nothing i want more.


...

afterword: 

words cannot adequately express my gratitude to each and every one of you for the countless ways that you have reached out to me and my family throughout this whole experience. we have been carried by your prayers, kind acts of service, messages, and incredible expressions of love. thank you for loving my family. thank you for taking the time to let us know you love us. thank you for loving lil ole me. and mostly, thank you for loving our Max. he truly is the greatest, and i'm honored to have shared him (and to be able to continue to share him) with each of you. God is good.

...

xoxo

27 comments:

Camille said...

Marci,

There aren't any words I can think to say besides thank you. Thank you for sharing his sweet story with us, for your example of love and testimony if the Savior. I can't seem to stop the tears. Please know I continually pray for peace for your amazing family.

Love,
Camille

Lisa Johnson said...

I just read your blog post (with tears streaming down my cheeks), and then right after that, I read this blog post:

http://natalienortonblog.com/2013/06/03/to-all-of-us/

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your faith, courage, testimony, and love. What a BRUTIFUL (brutal & beautiful) thing you have experienced. Much ♥ to all of you!!!

Jacki said...

the best baby in the whole world.

perhaps the best mom, too.

i hope i can help my daughters through rough times as beautifully as you have.

Kristi said...

Marci I am so so sorry. Thank you for sharing this with everyone. It is wonderful that you have handled this experience as amazingly as you have - so brave. And whats even more remarkable is that you have come out of it a better, stronger, more determined person. That is truly remarkable. What an inspiration and example you are to so many people. So grateful for our knowledge that we can be together FOREVER one day. What an angel that little Max is.

Jenny said...

Thanks for sharing your story Marci. Such a beautiful and heartbreaking thing. I absolutely love the magnolia tree symbolism and that yours had its first bloom on Memorial Day. No coincidence, I'm sure.

LaurenA said...

Becca said...

Love you guys! I'm so glad you wrote this down. What a life changing experience. Love that perfect mighty max.

Hilary said...

I just want to reach through my computer and give you a big hug. Tears are streaming down my face. Thank you for sharing with it. Love you!

Ashley Myntti said...

I love you Marci!!!!

{amy k.} said...

not sure what words can adequately describe the tears streaming down my face, so to you my friend, i will simply say thank you. thank you for sharing your sweet max with all of us. thank you for sharing his story and your family's journey. your love and testimony amaze me and i can only hope to be as faithful and strong as you! think of you often! love you!

Dyan said...

Marci,

I love this sweet story. Max is so lucky to have you as mom and your joyful spirit. Reading this story makes me want to be a better mom, person, and friend. Miss you so much!

Love,
Dyan

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe, Amber, Ken and Ellie said...

You are so beautiful inside and out. I'm balling here reading this (like everyone else) not only for your loss, but your sweet sweet spirit and testimony that touches everyone who knows you. You have a special gift with words so thank you for sharing and helping strengthen others through your experience.

Joe said...

(Sorry for commenting under my husband's account the first time...I can't see how to delete it)

Adia J. said...

A friend of mine liked this on FB and I couldn't get through it. On May 5th we said good bye to our six week old preemie son. (I also have written about it on my blog.) I feel your pain. You are not alone. And you are loved.

Waltman said...

So beautiful Marci. Sweet you, sweet Ellie and sweet Max. Love you all!

Erika said...

Dear Marci,
A couple weeks ago I stumbled upon your blog (I've not done much blogging lately) and just glanced over it. My heart immediately was so sad for you and your family. I actually couldn't bring myself to read any more. Well tonight I finally sat down and have spent an hour reading your posts about sweet Max. I'm sitting here trying to stop crying. My second baby was born 7 wks early and spent time in the NICU and reading your story brought all of those memories back to me. While our situations are totally different, I felt in some small, tiny way that I knew what you were going thru with the NICU experience. Thank you so much for sharing it. You are an amazing writer. I am thankful that you shared your testimony, it is beautiful. I am so grateful for the knowledge that we have that families can be together forever. We are so blessed to have the gospel in our lives. Again, thank you so much for sharing. I am so glad I came back to read Max's precious life story, you have written it so beautifully. What a sweet family.

Love,
Erika

Linda said...

Dear Marci:
I have tried and tried many times to post and comment on your blog about MAX and end up erasing . I love you. I love you from here to the highest place, where probably your little Max is ... and back. Thank You for being willing to share this precious part of your life with me and so many. Max has set the bar for me and I will spend the rest of my life trying to live so I can have the privilege of being with you because I know for sure.... that you and yours will be there! All my words melt into the one Phrase that is always the truth: I love you forever.

Shaylynn... a girl, a story, a blog said...

I have no words, simply an abundant amount of love and admiration for who you are and what your loss and gain has taught me.

So much love for you all.

Christina @ The Murrayed Life said...

I was just led here by a friend and I am amazed and in awe by your strength and love and bravery. You were the family your sweet son needed and I'm so happy for him that he was surrounded by such unconditional love.

And your daughters. What amazing little girls. You are exactly who they need as well.

Your story will stay in my heart. Love and thoughts headed your way from Texas.

Adrienne said...

I've been gearing up to read everything about Max. Thank you thank you thank you. He has touched us all for the better. You have done a wonderful job writing this and I think about you all the time. I really wish I really knew you in high school.

Tara T said...

apparently any comments I make from my phone never get saved! boo, I've made so many other comments in the past that I'm seeing now never published. Hopefully a comment from my computer sticks ;)
Marci, you are amazing in every stinkin' way possible!!! I love how you write and how you can convey your thoughts/feelings/emotions to eloquently. To say I look up to is an understatement. You make me want to be a better person and love and have a super strong testimony just like you. Max seriously is the luckiest guy to have been brought to your family. Thanks so much for sharing the experience. Miss you guys!!!

Manohar singh Jodhpur said...

Wow, that was pretty interesting. Inspiring, as well. Thanks for sharing such inspiring experience with us. Great blog, congrats! Partywear saree

Liz said...

I don't know how I missed this post but so glad I read this tonight. I have tears streaming down my cheeks. I love you, your sweet girls, amazing husband and your mighty Max. I am inspired to be better. You are amazing! Love you!

Tara said...

Marci thank you for sharing such a beautiful story -- or account. How do you even say that?
I'm grateful you are able to share your testimony with everyone and I think of Max and the amazing miracle that his life continues to be. I'm so grateful for the Temple and the blessing of Eternal Families. You are an amazing person Marci! Thank you for being you.

erin said...

Thank you for sharing your story with the world. What a wonderful perspective you have on it all. Its a reminder to us all of why we are here and who we are here to become. Thank you. May God continue to bless your family.

Kim Boog said...

I sometimes hesitate to read your beautiful blog. I get so emotional. I literally feel like im aching along with you ... and yet you are so much stronger than i am. I love the beautiful description of your time with Max. The Park. Magnolias. ugh... Such beauty and pain and strength. mostly i find a great appreciation for The Gospel when i read your words about Max. I adore you.