Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Out of Dreams Comes Inspiration

Last night was a rough sleeping night for me to say the least.  Many a night I wake for some unknown reasons. To my dismay, I am often unable to return to sleep.  Last night was one of those nights, mostly.
Awakened in the middle of the night by who knows what, I looked at the clock.  2:40 A.M.  I rolled over and closed my eyes trying my best to bring back the sleep that so often escapes me.  This time when I reached out to grab hold of restful sleep, I got lucky and caught it!  I drifted off to Slumberland and passed over the bridge to Dreamland. And what a dream it was!

Walking through the halls of a hospital, a young nurse stops me and tells me that my services are needed. "Who? Me? I'm no medical professional. Are you crazy?" I say to no one but myself. But for some unknown reason I follow the nurse directly into a hospital room. The room was dimly lit, casting shadows everywhere you turned. 

As I came further into the room, I noticed a beautiful, young woman of color, in her early twenties very much pregnant, all alone with no family or friends and in pre-mature labor.A woman whose name I will never know. One look into her eyes and I knew the fear she was facing.  Her baby was coming all too early. The doctors have told her that the chances of her baby's survival were quite grim. In that moment, looking into her tear-filled eyes, I knew I could not leave the room. I've been where she is now and knew that she needed someone who had been there, who has walked this long and painful mile in life. I pulled up a stool, slowly sat down and took her hand in mine and told her she was no longer alone. I sat with her  while she told me all of her dreams for her unborn child.  She didn't plan the pregnancy and she didn't know the sex of her soon to be child. Through the entire labor which wasn't fierce but slow and oddly gentle, we held hands and spoke of her hopes for her child.

At last her blessing arrived, but had no breath. The doctors made an attempt to revive the lifeless body before us, but to no avail. In that moment, they informed this youg lady that her child, a boy, had expired.  Burning hot tears filled both of our eyes.  She asked to see him so that she could kiss her child and tell her how much he was wanted and loved I rose, walked across the room.  I took his tiny body from the nurse and wrapped him in a warm blanket and placed a tiny little woolen hat on his bald little head. I brought him to his mother's waiting arms and gently kissed his head. I asked her "What would you like to name your son?" Her response came quietly and shyly. "I hadn't picked a name yet. I don't know what to name him. What would it matter? He didn't live." Oh how my heart ached for her I said to her, "But he did live. He lived for several months within you. He was part of you. He deserves a name.  Who in life made you smile? Who gave you great joy? Choose that name. A name that will make you smile each time you hear it said or when you speak it." After a long pause, she answered.  "I want to name him Harry. My life has been tumultuous and happiness was always found for me in reading all of the Harry Potter books. It's silly, but it means something to me" "Harry, it is", I told the doctors.

I sat with this young mother for a while longer, helping her to bathe her child and taking photos for her to remember and cherish her precious son. All things that weren't done for me. I didn't want this mother having any regrets that she didn't get to spend the time to be with her baby and to properly begin the grieving process After several hours when the mother was ready, she allowed the nurses to take her child from her.  We sat for a long time, just holding on to each others' hands and crying together.  Two mothers who knew loss in similar ways.  Holding each other up, giving each other the strength they so deperately needed from each other. As a feeling of peace cam over both of us the young lady and the room began to fade away into the darkness and slowy disappeared.  Gone, but not to be forgotten.

Awakened by the ending of this dream, I looked at the clock on my night table.  3:06 A.M.  Wow! What a dream, an amazing adventure.  Upon waking I had to lay there for quite a while trying to discern if this was a dream or a reality for it seemed all to real.  I could still feel this girl's hand in mine and hear her voice saying "Thank you." All day long this has replayed in my mind and I have been trying to figure out just what my mind was telling me to do. 

Since then, I have looked into the certifications needed to be a neo-natal death counselor.  I'm not saying it's a career path that I will be taking but it has certianly given me food for thought. Maybe this is God's calling for me.... Guess it's time to pary for guidance. 

Amazing how God works His way into our lives...

Friday, August 24, 2012

I'll Always Be Her Little Phyllis

This week, the Big E, the monkey boys and I took a nice four day vacation to Chicago.  The five plus hour drive was well worth the scenery. The plan was to enjoy every nano-second. From the visit to Lego Discovery Center to the trip into town for a day at Navy Pier.  It was supposed to be a heavenly (and well-deserved) vacation for this family.

And so it began that way.  Until breakfast at our hotel on day two of the trip. The day our boys have been dreaming of for two years now - a day in Lego Discovery Center.  That's when the texts, phone calls and emails starting bombarding my cell phone and Facebook page.  I knew it could only be bad news when ALL of my maternal cousins were telling me to call them. Picked a cousin from the list and dialed her cell.  I knew what she was going to tell me but I didn't want to hear it.
"Aunt Phyllis passed away very early this morning."  ~~Dead silence ~~ "Somehow I knew it, " I told her.
At that very minute, my heart shattered into a billion pieces.  My aunt, my God Mother and most importantly my friend had been taken from us all too soon.  No more suffering with her leg problems, no more crying, no more aching for relief from the disease plaguing her body. But even with all that in mind, I didn't want it to be true. 
And then the worst of all thoughts hit me. My Mom? Oh my God! Did anyone call my Mom? Please God, don't let me be the one to have to tell her that her baby sister has died.  I'd rather die myself than to break the news to her.  It will break her heart.  Unfortunately for me, my cousin didn't know if anyone contacted my Mom yet.
After hanging up the phone with Cecilia, I slowly, hesitantly,  dialed my Mom's number. Busy signal. So I tried her cell.  It was answered on the second ring. After the pleasantries we always exchange, it was time to ask.  "Did you get any calls from Florida?", I asked while trying to brace myself for the possibility of breaking the news. "Yes, I did and I guess you did too."  And with that I exploded in tears. I couldn't breathe, my body shaking with the pain of a heart ache that nothing on this Earth could heal. Mom explained what happened and it just wouldn't set in. "Why? Why didn't God heal her? Why did He have to take her pain away this way?  Why? Why? Why?"
My Mom and I talked for a long time and then she said to me "I'm so glad you weren't mad at each other anymore. You keeping in touch with her made her happy."  Yes, Aunt Phyllis and I had our fair share of arguments. We are both Aries babies and have stubborn streaks a mile long. But we always said we're sorry and we always put the bad times where they belonged, in the past never to be brought up again.  And we always told each other like it was.  We sugar coated nothing. But I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Our fights brought us closer and made us understand each other more. For that I am grateful.
And then during my conversation with my Mom, something told my brain what the date was... August 21st. One week until Uncle Zig's birthday.  God saw fit to bring Aunt Phyllis home one week before her true love's birthday.  Uncle Zig was smiling that day knowing his bride was coming to Heaven to be with him after three years apart. How befitting!
Suddenly it all sank in. I'll never get to hear her laugh again, or get a text from her with a picture of her latest creation whether it was crocheted or sewn. I'll never hear her say "I just dont get this Face Page stuff. You're gonna have to tell me again." No more conversations about all of i
I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.  Over and over again that day in talking with several of my cousins, we sobbed. And then we laughed hard remembering all of the great and crazy times we had with her.
Because we live in Michigan and she in Florida, she never met my sons.  But everywhere I look around my house I see her.  The boys know who she is and how important she is to me and what a pivotal role she played in my life and in a round about way in theirs too. 
She's here all around us. In the afghan that she helped cross stitch with my Grandmother, in the quilts she made for my children, in jewelry she gave me. I will never lose sight of her.
She will be engraved forever in my memories and in my heart.  I'll never forget the 18 Summers spent at 174 Pleasant St., Ronkonkoma, New York. Or the trips to the Smithtown Mall walking thru the parking lot, holding hands (even at age 18) singing on the top of our lungs:
              Aunt Phyllis:  "I'm the Big Phyllis!"
              Me: "And I am the little Phyllis!"
Lord how we made my Mom crazy with that!! Every single time we went to the Mall, THAT was our tune! Didn't care who heard us or thought we were completely insane.
She used to tell me that I was her practice baby. What an honor that was to have. And I wouldn't trade that for the World!
On my sixth birthday, pregnant and at full term with her oldest child, she made me the most amazing bunny-shaped birthday cake.  It was the birthday I remember the clearest. The next day she gave birth to my cousin, Eva Marie, one of the best gifts I ever received. (Six years later, she gave me another of my best gifts, her son Richard.)
When Uncle Zig, the kids and she moved to Philadelphia, I was head over heals ecstatic! They were finally in MY town.  I didn't have to wait for holidays or Summer to see her and spend time with her or my cousins! We spent many a night around her kitchen table eating her World Famous Lasagna and Baked Ziti. (She was part Italian after all!) 
When she moved to Florida, I cried. I didn't want her to leave, but knew she had to. It was for the best. My first post high school Summer of working, I hopped a plane for a two week visit.  By then I hadn't seen her or Uncle Zig (who was a SUPER COOL DUDE!) for more than a year.  I think I gave her the biggest hug ever the day I arrived! And I had the privlege to go a few more times and stay in her home. 
The most precious and memorable trip to Florida took place in May 2002, the Spring after the birth and death of my first child.  Of all the family members I wanted to share Samatha's memory book with, she was the most important person!  We spent quite a long time going through each photo. She hugged the book as tightly as she would have hugged my baby girl. And she let me cry and get out all the heart ache I had been holding in.  She instinctively knew that I needed her at that moment and she gave me her all. I will be eternally grateful for that love.
That was just who Phyllis Theresa Petty Schnell Ekloff was... a Giver.  Giver of unconditional love, kindness, smiles, shoulders to lean on, a sympathetic ear to listen when you needed it.  A great giver of tremendously loving hugs, sweet kisses, gigantic belly laughs and tons of smiles.  A talented seamstress, quilter, chrocheter, knitter.  You name it, she could do it.  And she shared her talents with each and every person she ever met.  So many people in the world have a little piece of the Big Phyllis, but I'm so glad I got a bigger piece than most!
Until we meet again Auntie, I'll love you for always, I'll like you forever. As long as I'm living MY Big Phyllis you'll be! xoxoxo