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.