Before and After

matt Matthew Richard VanVelse

People in my life are hurting. It’s the kind of hurt that changes people. The sudden death of a 31-year-old, pending death of a 32-year-old, a 60-year-old living with ALS, and a 16-year-old lost in a car accident.

Two are family members, one a friend’s son’s fiancée, and the other a co-worker’s daughter. Three young lives finished and one woman’s horrible demise.

There is nothing I can say or do to make more than a minute’s difference. It won’t be okay. Time will not heal all wounds. There is a top ten list of things not to say and I know them. The best I can do for them is to accept their feelings of hopelessness. They do not need me to fix, explain, rationalize, or try to cheer them. It is what it is.

Earlier in the year my dear friend’s son found his beautiful fiancée dead. He thought she was asleep. He shouted to her from another room. He went to her and tapped her shoulder. She wasn’t breathing. He called 911. He moved her to the floor and did CPR begging her to wake up. She was dead. Young healthy women do not die on couches. There will always be a before and after Melanie died.

My nephew is dying of cancer. All treatments exhausted. His mother is in the hospital with a bleeding ulcer. She needs a blood transfusion. Grief is making her sick. Her son’s death is right around the corner. He is afraid to die. He is worried about his mother. You can’t die when your mother is in the hospital and you know it’s because you’re dying.

My cousin has ALS. She smiles. Her tears are saved for her husband. She tells her story on a website called Caring Bridge. After she invites you, you can read her updates. When she was diagnoised I reseached ALS. There had to be an experimental drug or new treatment. Wrong. There is a quick steady loss of all body function, but the brain remains in tact so she can be fully aware of her demise. With ALS you plan ahead. The trachea was put in place before she needed it. No question about needing it. The day will come; and it did. ..in the past 12 months she has lost the ability to walk, talk, and eat.

My co-worker’s daughter’s funeral was yesterday. She was sixteen. She played softball. She played the flute. She was the middle child of three. She had plans to meet some friends at the mall. Instead, she died in a car accident. Sudden loss. There were hundreds crowding the church, all in shock. Her parents will never feel whole again.

I am numb; filled with sadness for these families. Their losses are so devastating that there will forever be a before and after.

Follow-up: My 33-year-old nephew, Matt VanVelse, died on January 14, 2013.  My 60-year-old cousin with ALS died in February 2013 and another cousin, Jeff Hawkins died in April 2013, when his fiancée back up over him with her car.   My sister-in-law, Kathy VanVelse contracted ARDS in March and was in a drug induced comma for weeks and then remained unresponsive for months with a 10% chance of survival.  She is recovering.  It’s mid-August and she had her first outing this week.  She’s very weak, in a wheelchair, but a living breathing miracle.  Praise God…praying for her complete healing.

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