Wednesday, June 7, 2017

10 Years: A Narrative Poem

   One of my intentions for the 10th anniversary of Knox's death and accident was to write down what happened. I had never done that as it always seemed so daunting, but there is something to naming things and farther than naming them, telling the story. I don't have a strong explanation for it though I am sure there has been study on "story telling" but it is powerful and I'd imagine the story would vary the way in which it is powerful.  Telling the story can diffuse the power it has over you, offer comfort to other people, give people the chance to relate and empathize and perhaps feel less alone, to reduce speculation, etc.
   I tried writing it out several times. It just didn't work. I'd start writing and then think that needs explaining, and then that needs explaining , and then that. Choosing what to include and what not to include and just never feeling like it was complete or alive. Stories should feel alive and more than just some words on a page.
   One night last week, I was laying in bed with Janey while she went to sleep and it just started coming out in this form and I turned to the notes on my phone and typed it out. When it was done, it felt done and complete.  I am not a poet by any means and hesitate to even call it a poem(poim!), but I don't know what else it would be!

  Matthew Knox Anderson

Blue-eyed Knoxie standing by my side,
Giving my leg a tug begging for a bite.
Those blue eyes pleading; I can't say no,
A piece of pepperoni from my hand to his.

My attention returns to making pizza;
His attention gets drawn elsewhere.
I finish the pizza and in the oven it goes,
Where is Knox I ask; check outside.

There is water on the floor; why is that?
The sound of water running is heard;
It seems to come from above my head.
Oh- my toilet must be running again.

I head down the hall for the stairs.
I gasp! Running water is heard again,
Not a toilet running; way too loud!
Up the stairs I race knowing what I'll find.

Speeding up I round the corner,
Water gushing from the faucet; so loud!
His body face down; bobbing up and down,
A scream echoes through the house.

Frantically I scoop him from that tub;
The scream tapers to a whisper.
He is pale, cold, lifeless--
Desperate, I put my mouth to his.

My eyes meet my friends'; begging 
Please help me! what do I do?
One takes him from me; working 
One calls 911, "there is an emergency."

Kids starting coming up the stairs.
Please don't come closer; don't look!
Back outside they go; scared, confused--
CPR continues. He vomits; breathe Knox! 

My daughter phones her grandma
"Knox, I think he's dead."
I scream, I cry, I beg, I plead,
"Lord please, no, do not take him!"

Still no breath. CPR continues.
Where is the ambulance?
St. Joes is only two blocks away;
Up and down the stairs waiting--

I run out to meet them;
Standing on the lawn pleading still.
Feeling naked and exposed; helpless--
God, feels close and reassurin.

Next thing I know, I'm in the ambulance.
Up front with the driver; tears streaming,
Neighbors watching from their lawns.
Bitterly I cry - "Where are your kids?"

At the ER, Knox behind closed doors,
"Is their anyone we can call?" asks the nurse.
"Yes, please call my mom and my sister;
Call all my friends; ask them to pray."

Head on the counter, I sob and pray
I look up to see Jon come in 
His face one big question 
What has happened? Confusion.

How could we let this happen?
We love our children dearly;
We watch them and care for them.
We knew that drain didn't work well.

How could we not see? How?
This is all my fault. All my worry,
All my anxiousness in recent past,
All my need to hear .It was in vain.

They have him breathing they say.
But don't have hope. He won't make it.
I beg them- "Be merciful to him!
Please don't let him suffer."

We are led into the room.
This doesn't look my Knox.
I am so sorry. So very sorry.
He is only breathing by machine.

Friends come and peer in the window,
Beckoned in, they offer comfort.
This isn't your fault. I am so sorry.
You didn't know. I didn't know. 

He needs different equipment 
And needs to me moved; storms all around.
Helicopters can't fly; ambulance not right,
We wait and wait some more; hours pass.

Finally, an ambulance from Temple arrives.
They load him up; we are to follow.
Wrench in plans; CPS shows up,
"Ma'am! Ma'am! We must talk to you!"

I can't. My son. I must go with him. 
He cannot die without me there 
"Ma'am, you don't understand 
An accident happened in your home!"

I understand. An accident; a tragedy.
I don't need this explained to me.
I have to talk to your children;
I have to make sure they are safe.

It is midnight. They are asleep; safe.
A friend steps in, "Sir, they are asleep
Safe at my house. There is no need
Tomorrow; tomorrow is soon enough"

The tears which haven't stopped 
Continue the downward streams.
My son is going die and it is my fault.
They are going to take my other children, too.

How did we get here? Please help.
To Temple we race. I remember rain.
The backseat. Eyes closed; eyes staring.
Prayers, prayers pleading-- but knowing. 

We arrive to more CPS. I am so sorry.
"Ma'am I have no choice; I am sorry."
Can you please tell me what happened?
I relate what happens. I am so sorry.

He's in a room.  Tubes, wires, beeps.
Can you please tell us what happened? 
I relate what happens. I am so sorry. 
You need to understand his situation.

He isn't going to make it. 
If he does he won't be your Knox.
A vegetable if he makes it.
Lord be merciful to him, please. 

A drowning is a head injury;
The brain swells; there is damage.
Water needs to get out of his lungs,
This is part of the respirator's job 

So we wait for swelling to go down,
For water to leave the lungs.
People visit; take care of us,
They pray and hope; frightened 

Doctors and nurses come and go.
Can you please tell us what happened?
I relate what happened. I am so sorry. 
They pray for him; love him.

My parents come. Their faces pained.
I should have watched him bette.r
I apologize and feel ashamed!
No. No. We are so sorry. We love him. 

My kids at home with friends and family,
Questioned by CPS. Uncertain. Scared.
Where is our brother; will he return?
We should have watched out for him.

Church members praying together,
Disbelief that this could happen!
What can we do to help? 
Prayers all  around the world 

For the little boy in the big bed 
Or on the chair held by his mother.
His body so heavy and hard to hold,
A metaphor for the situation 

My friend rushes to the hospital,
Driving across states to be there.
By my side while I am by his side,
To weep, to question, to pray.

There is nothing anyone can do.
Beg for mercy-- however that can come,
Plead for peace and cry for comfort.
Sit with us; be with us; hope with us.

EEGs. Nothing. Nothing is there.
Confirmation of expectations.
Hard to hear, but already known.
But we wait some more; just in case.

Nurses care for him tenderly,
Speak to us with compassion.
Share their lives; are vulnerable,
Makes me feel safer; not so alone.

Sponge baths given tenderly,
Johnson's baby lotion rubbed in.
Much love in each and every touch,
So little time left; much to treasure.

We rock in the chair; head under my chin,
Or sleep in the bed curled up with him,
Stroking his soft blonde hair over and over.
Always a Joy, Never a burden.

Thank you Lord for this sweet boy,
The precious gift we didn't ask for.
But how we needed him; thankful!
He is loved so dearly by so many.

His siblings come to see him.
They climb in bed with him,
Hug him and love on him.
How do we tell them? It is not fair.

Have siblings ever loved each other
As well as these five have?
How will they say good-bye?
Their lives forever changed. It is not fair.

One final EEG. Still no signs of life.
Brain dead; a harsh reality. 
One final day; so little time.
On last tender bath, savoring each touch. 

Monday, April 23, 2007. 
The longest day I have ever known. 
Family all say goodbye. Head home.
Just Jon and I left-- to let him go.

7:00 P.M. It is time. No more tubes and wires. 
I hold him in my lap. We rock.
I stroke his soft blonde hair over and over.
Always a joy. Never a burden. 

I get so tired. I can hold him no more.
This makes me mad; I weep.
The nurse takes him; I climbed into bed.
She nestles him in my arms.

I drink him in. The smell, the feeling.
He is gasping for breath. Simply agony.
I stroke his soft blonde hair over and over. 
Always a joy. Never a burden. 

His breathing gets more labored.
He gets a shot for comfort.
His heart rate drops. Slower and slower.
His breath gets shorter. He is gone.

Three hours to die. It seems unfair;
I could have stroke his hair forever.
Always a joy, never a burden,
The precious gift; just what we needed.

We didn't linger; he was not there,
The body a mere shell; not a home.
Onward and upward heaven-bound,
Safe in the arms of Jesus now.

Barely able to walk, we left his room 
Into the waiting room full of elders.
Eye contact with a friend; horror there,
Like a mirror showing my distress.

So tired, spent. Held upright by others,
To the car, to the highway, to home.
Into the house, I am not ready.
I collapse in the couch near the door. 

Morning comes. Can this house be home?
Four kids now and empty as though none.
Signs of him everywhere; pacis... toys--
But no him. No him. Cannot be home.

Still God is good. We know He is.
We must believe it; proclaim it. 
Cling to it; know it, please God show us!
Always a joy; never a burden. Not now.

Go through the motions; hard things.
Caskets and cemetery plots; Babyland
All must be fair in babyland they say.
That's okay. This is not his home.

We worshiped; we wept. We sang.
We proclaimed God's goodness.
We put him in the ground. So cold.
We said our final goodbyes.

How do you do life when life departs?
I haven't the answer. God is good.
He gives grace and comfort;
He has patience and kindness.

Breathe in and breathe out.
The sun rises and the sun sets.
Time continues. You can't hold it back.
Life is still meant to be lived.

The phone rings. I hesitate. 
It is the police. I inhale.
Investigation over. Case closed. 
Ma'am, we want you to know,

We never thought anything but accident;
A tragic accident. We are so sorry.
I exhale. I sit. I weep. So sad.
Always a joy. Never a burden.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

When All Feels Lost -- the joy in a sad story

  * are raw and real if you don't want to read

    Something in this morning's sermon sparked this thought process. I listened to the sermon 3 times and couldn't find it so I can't really explain that other than it had to be in the part about the hard times often being good...along the lines of what Paul David Tripp calls Uncomfortable Grace. What I thought I heard was the idea of being completely exposed before God which sent my mind to the night of Knox's accident.
   I have never spoken of this publicly and I might change my mind later and delete; it is always hard to decide what to share and what not to share. The judgement house of people's minds is not a safe place and thus I tread carefully. The night Knox  died I was a bit hysterical, and in particular, the moments between when I found him and a later point of time, I felt completely exposed, naked so to speak in front of God and everyone else, but particularly God. Being exposed that way in front of God felt safe, and in front of everyone else it felt like"just punishment" and a unique kind of experience where something intensely private is known about you, but it is out of your control...a defeated feeling.
   I really only want to talk about the spiritual moments though. I walked down my stairs to the living room because my friend was doing CPR and my crying and vocal prayers were scaring her daughter and I wanted her to be able to concentrate. As I prayed out loud, in that moment, I knew that I had nothing but God. His presence was intensely real and I knew that He was with me while I begged and pleaded for Knox's life. That memory and the intensity of His presence along with His reassurance that regardless of what happened I would not  be abandoned and our family would come out the other side with some semblance of okayness is one of the things that helped me retain my faith through our ordeal.
   I felt so naked and exposed. I think being completely helpless makes one feel that way. But, I also felt very known. Though I begged and pleaded, I didn't need to; my heart was known. Though I felt His presence and reassurance, it was very uncomfortable. The word uncomfortable doesn't even begin to adequately express it. I didn't know for sure how it was going to pan out though I felt like He was saying "He isn't going to make it (which wasn't hard to imagine as the doctors pretty much gave us no hope), but this is passing through my hand, this is no surprise to me, and there will be much pain in the future but I am here." The pain, the horror, the intense sadness I can't begin to define was immeasurable, but so was God's presence. I am never going to be at a place where I am glad it happened(the idea seems absurd to me), but I am every grateful for the presence of God and the work He did in our family at the time. That feeling of closeness is hard to hold onto as time passes, not with the same intensity. I guess like in most situations, we  want the best of both worlds, right?
   Many people sent us prayers and scriptures while Knox was in the hospital and I have those saved; they all meant a great deal to us.  A lot of people sent the verse, Isaiah 43:2  "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." I remember a friend telling me that she felt like God had given her that verse and it meant He would live and would be okay. Every time I read that verse what I read was "Knox was not and is not alone" (which did mean he was okay). One of the worst parts about having a child die in an accident is feeling like you should have prevented it. You should have known. You should have been there 1 min earlier. Then as a mom, you cry and scream in your soul that when he needed you most, you were not there. You think how scared they must have been and how they must have wanted you, but you weren't there. Those thoughts were eating me alive. When Knox passed through those waters, God was with him. When he passed through the fire, God was with him. From the time he was first formed in my womb, God knew his inner most being and could know him, and love him, and care for him so much better than I. I can't express the relief when my thinking could shift out of the despair of not being his comfort to gratefulness for God's care.
   Maybe to a non-believer this all seems crazy; I imagine it would. There have been times it has rocked my faith to the core. Those times when the "remembering" hits and I think, "Did this really happen?" and I have to question, and rightly so, why God allowed it. The almighty God who can do all things could have saved him. He could have diverted his attention so he didn't go upstairs, he could have prompted me to go ahead and put him in his highchair for supper, he could have had him rescued, but that isn't what happened. That isn't all of the story though because part of the "remembering" is also remembering the intensity of His presence, His assurance of "the working for good" even if that good isn't something we can see before heaven, the community of both believers and non-believers who reached out to us and walked this road with us and continue to do so.
  Honestly, I hope I never have another experience where I feel so exposed again. I know, however, that if I do I won't be alone no matter how lonely it feels,and will continue to tell myself, "Whate'er My God Ordains is Right."