A long time coming...
365 days exactly, well actually 366 considering last year was a leap year.
The day started like any other. I had gone to church that morning by myself, since Shannon was visiting Ryan in Virginia. After church I went and picked up my friends very young daughter Abby and we went back to the house for the afternoon of cartoons, dress up, silly play time. When we got to the house, our puppy had pooped on the floor and decided that the best course of action after that would be to dance in it and then all over the house. Grumbling I packed Abby back into the car and we went to Food Lion to get carpet cleaner. I remember Abby walked around half singing "We gotta get carpet cleaner cause Jovi pooped the floor". I called Shannon during this whole ordeal, extremely frustrated that he had spent 3 days doing nothing but having fun in Virginia while I carried out the tasks of reality...tasks like working, babysitting, potty training obnoxious little dogs. When Shannon answered the phone I figured he had just been sleeping, and because I was already so upset I laid into him about all the reasons he needed to come home immediately. More specifically "Shannon you need to come home, this dog has pooped all over the floor and I'm sick of taking care of it". He, still half asleep, said okay honey and we hung up the phone. No I love yous, no I miss yous, just lay out the facts of the afternoon and then say goodbye.
No clue, whatsoever, that this was my last conversation with him. You never know when someone is going to die, if you had any indication of their impending death, you would live every moment with them to the fullest. You would forget silly quarrels and ridiculous situations and you would simply treasure sharing the same air with them for however many seconds they had left. Regret #1...I yelled at him about dog poop.
After I had settled down, I went to a bible study with Abby's mom, Jill. I called Ryan as I passed the mall and remember more vividly than anything him saying "Shannons sick again...with the stomach stuff". I remember at that moment driving over the bridge that passes over Highway 301 and thinking "Great...here we go again". In talking with Ryan he said that they didn't think it was too bad, and that Shannon would probably just be released. I asked Ryan if Shannon was asleep, and he said that he was, and I then said...well if he wakes up will you please have him call me so I can talk to him. Regret #2...I didn't push harder to talk to him.
That night I went to the bible study, not even that concerned. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was extremely concerned, but Shannon had been sick so many times before and why would this time be different...he would get better like he always did. I went home that night, went to bed and was awaken by the sound of my cell phone at 12:30am. It was the Dr. asking me if it was okay if they put in a central IV line. They were having a hard time with his blood pressure, he wasn't doing well at all, maybe you should come up here Mrs. Webb. I said, I will make arrangements and come in the morning. Regret #3...I didn't drop everything to go be with him.
These are the accounts of March 24, 2008 aka the day it all started. This is the only day that I have regrets. Three things I wish I had done differently. Three things that I have gone over in my head countless times. I think of Peter, denying Christ 3 times before the Cock crowed. How he must have felt after Jesus had died knowing that he had been given 3 opportunities to do something different, to make something better, and he did not do it. In the same token I am comforted by the story, by the mere fact that Jesus knew Peter would respond this way. Jesus knew I would respond the way I did. Jesus knew I would have regrets...but just as Jesus embraced Peter after he denied him, He has embraced my heart with regards to these regrets. Life is but a vapor...theres no time like the present...life is too short for regrets. How true this are to me.
The next few days were blurs.
Monday I came to Virginia, by that time he was in shock and put on a ventilator. I sat and watched him suffer. But I remained clear headed, calling people for prayer, calling family to come to Virginia to be with us. 4:30am that night I get a call "Mrs. Webb your husband has taken a turn for the worse". I raced to that hospital room, running the entire way. It was freezing cold outside and I was running as fast as I could. When I got there his heart had stopped but they had brought him back.
Tuesday, the great migration began from North Carolina as half the church and half our family came to Virginia. Every day the Dr. would not give us hope...his organs were shutting down, he needs dialysis bad, the fluid is building up around abdomen, he needs surgery but he is too critically ill.
Wednesday they tell us he's developed a blood issue and there could be complications. He is still critically ill...if he makes it they need to move him to another hospital. More church people, more family. We have taken up residence in the ICU waiting room...all 30 of us, sometimes more. So many visitors...so many prayers. While I am still clear headed I make funeral plans...just in case.
Thursday...it happens. His blood pressure skyrockets and then falls. And when I step into the room after it all happened I took one look at knew he was gone. "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord". That was my first thought.
Friday the Dr. says...he seems to be improving, but yesterdays episode has us concerned, he needs a CAT scan and he's stable enough to be moved...hours later, he tells us...He's bled into his brain, he's only living off machines. Start thinking about when to take him off the machines. Make phone calls. Think about funeral. Think about service to honor Shannon before he dies. Think about Shannons son. Think about how lonely I am. Think about dog poop. Think about family. Think about his mom and dads heart breaking. Think about nephews. Think about God...Thank God. Walk from the Dr. consult into Shannons room...shut door, shut curtain...raise my hands and profusely thank God for this life, our life together. Our love. Thank you God thank you God. Never forget how gracious and amazing is the Love of God...the love that carries the love that heals...that night have service for Shannon (where ironically several members of my Lynchburg family happened to show up...people I did not even know then, who I have grown to love now). 12:15am prepare for machines to be turned off. 12:30am machines turned off, we all gather around the bed, I hold Shannons head in my hands and I proceed to remember, remember anything and everything I could about his smell, the way his face felt, his beard, his ears, his cheeck. 12:34...beep beep nothing. He's gone.
12:35am...walk out of the room into the waiting area and tell everyone that Shannon is with Jesus. Proceed to crumple on the floor and brain turns off...I remember being held, I remember going to a hotel, I remember Jessica holding me as I slept. The next morning, the blur sets in...Cinammon Rolls, Car ride with my head in Laura's lap, Red shirt I wore to the funeral home. Blur and more blur. Meeting with people, planning the funeral, picking out his clothes to be buried in, going to the church to listen to the praise team practice for the funeral, have dance parties as an attempt to comfort me.
Tuesday. Have funeral. Ironic word...irony in the fact that such a horrible thing contains the word fun in it. It is not. Standing for hours, hugging strangers, not eating, wishing it was all over. Never once shedding a tear.
Wednesday we buried him. At that point I had entered he zombie bubble and I was numb. Everything a blur. Only one thing clear and that was that God held me in His hand. That my heart was breaking but those amazing nail scarred hands were holding the broken pieces together. In our brokenness do we find our deepest strength.
I have dreaded this week. A year later. The rehasing of regrets. The flood of memories. The realization that he's gone all over again. And in the midst of this I have one clear thought. Honeybuns.
Honeybuns?! In the midst of my pain, God gives me a beautiful memory of a beautiful sister marching into the hospital with a bucket of honeybunds. I look at her and say " I can't I'm trying to stay on my diet" and she says "Sarah I'm your sister and I know whats best for you...now eat the honeybun". So as I sit here writing all this, remembering everything, trying my hardest to find joy in the mundane things of life... God gives me the gift of remembering honeybuns...and more importantly the love that surrounded me then and surrounds me now. This was a year of trying and testing, a year of love and loss, a year of learning and growing. This was my defining moment where I can crumple and fall, or stand and find my strength. I hope that the way I handled this year was pleasing to God. There were times that I have been extremely ashamed and angry, but no matter how tough it seems to get I always find God standing at my door, politely knocking and asking to come in and just sit with me. And in these moments where its just Him and I...I find peace.
Although Shannon is gone, he is not forgotten. The lessons he taught me will forever live on. The love that he shared has spread like wildfire and inspired others to share that same love. And everytime someone practices the love that Shannon showed them, Shannon lives on forever. Oh Shannon...I really wish I had not yelled at you about dog poop. But at the same time, I know that you have been kicking it with Jesus for a year now...fishing in heavenly ponds with Catfish that are probably made of pure gold. You are rocking it out with your Glorified Taylor Guitar in your glorified body. You are chillin with David and Abraham and your Papaw. You are happy, you are whole, you are living your dream. I miss you and will always hold a special place in my heart for you....I dance with joy in my life knowing that you are exactly where you have always wanted to be. And I know that you would be proud of me and happy for me and where my life is going. And even though I yelled at you about dog poop, I know that you really know that I loved you very much.
So happy...not birthday, and death day sounds too grim. How about, Happy Heaven Day....that more fitting of a title for your homecoming.