It begins where many stories of death begin, with the dying. In my son's death, the part of me that was his mom had to die as well. It is interesting how that relationship works. I can't very well continue to be his mother, he is no longer here.
There are no words of goodbye. There is no chance to have a last thought-out conversation. And in all my dreams, this is the one thing I keep holding on to … that one more chance to be with him again. This is the one that haunts me. This story will be those words. This story will be the story of the short chapter that was his life, as he will remain forever 25.
Gabe's death came on a very auspicious day and time ...
I was at Saint Mercy's Hospital in Sacramento, with my daughter, Anni, and her husband, Chris. Anni was in labor, about to give birth to her second child, a baby girl. We'd been there all night, the labor was dragging out, going on twenty hours already.
The call came that no mother ever wants to get.
Chris' phone rang and I could tell it was serious. After a few words were exchanged he handed me the phone and said it was for me. Funny that a call for me would come on his cell. It was Mary, my grandson's other grandmother. She was back at Anni's house, taking care of my grandson, Jesse, while his mother was in the hospital.
But this call had nothing to do with Jesse. This call was for me. She told me that the military had just come to the house, Anni's house, asking for us. She told them we were at the hospital, and though it was beyond their usual protocol, they were now on their way to the hospital to find us.
They wouldn't tell Mary anything more, but she'd been through this kind of visit from the military before, and she knew what it meant. Mary was a close part of our family and she knew that Gabe was in the Army in Afghanistan. She knew. She called to warn us, to prepare us, for the news that was to come.
The next several hours were a blur. I remember them calling me, or me calling them, before they arrived at the hospital. They wouldn't say anything more, it had to wait until they were there in person. They were probably about ten or twenty minutes away.
I called Heidi, my oldest daughter. She was also on her way to the hospital, to be there with her sister. I had never announced a death before. I remember asking her to pull over first. I remember her arriving at the hospital while I was waiting out front and running to me. We embraced and cried.
Soon, the military officers arrived. They gave us the canned speech, which I prefer not to remember. They are trained only one way. The chaplain from the hospital came to offer condolences.
I was in shock and one of the stupid things I did was ask the officers to go give the news to Anni. I don't know why I thought that might be a good idea. She yelled at them and made them leave.
Still in shock and needing to do something, my next steps were to start calling close family members: my mom, my sisters and brothers. I had to call my ex-husband's family to track him down. He hadn't been part of my kids lives growing up and now he lived in Deleware. So, it surprised me most of all when telling him was one of the hardest calls I made, telling him that the child we created together was dead.
I needed to get back to the room with Anni. She was now very close to delivering her baby and she needed to focus on her baby's needs at the moment. To do this, she had to put thoughts of her brother aside.
Soon we were blessed with a healthy baby girl. The baby was a true blessing.
Yet, I was hurting, trying to grasp at how I could lose my baby. And Anni was having a hard time with us in the room. She didn't want the negative energy around the newborn. Anni is a strong, practical and smart woman and mother and she just couldn't have us there.
So we left. Heidi went home with her family. I went back to Anni's house to sleep on her couch, where I'd been staying while I was there. I was alone and with my sorrow.