He was in room 302 of the ICU. From his bed he could see the double doors which led out to the corridor leaving the ICU; his room was the last room on that end of the ward.
I walked over to my husband and I told him that I was going to meet him off of the medical plane in Connecticut in less than 24 hours; he was due to fly out, on April 27, 2007. I worked so hard to keep Eddie alive because I wanted nothing more than for him to live! He needed to get back to Connecticut so his children could be with him but I was so worried that he would die in Florida and I would have to bury him there. All I could think of was his family and friends, I didn’t want to rob them of the chance to attend his funeral and I wanted him buried close to home in the VA cemetery as we had arranged.
The day was April 26, 2007 the day I was set to go get my daughter. We had discussed the whole trip back to Connecticut. He was going to fly home on a medical flight and I was going to drive our car back home and pick Serena up along the way. Together she and I were going to meet Eddie off the plane at Yale. I was working myself up for a couple of days; there was no way in hell that I wanted to leave him.
I trusted no one with his care; it worried me fiercely just the thought of leaving him for a few hours. As his advocate I spoke for him and I protected him, so leaving him, again, was the most horrendous event to ever take place in my life. He hated that fact that I was leaving and I could tell he was deeply saddened by the fact that “this was it” this was goodbye.
Finally, when I gathered up the courage to stand up and walk to my love and tell him I was leaving, he put up his right hand and with his pointer finger he pointed up to the sky to say wait! I was so crushed inside as I walked over to him and got as close as I could; he reached out for me and he softly grabbed my cheeks, looked deeply into my eyes and pulled my head down to his chest and laid my head to his heart. I was crying and bleeding inside, all I wanted was to stay with him but I couldn’t....my heart told me it was time to get Serena.
Painfully, after a few minutes I lifted my head and I told him it was time, it was Serena’s turn; she needed me. I expressed to him the most intimate words I had ever shared with him; it was a moment that only a man and wife could share, so deeply personal and painful.
I hadn’t kissed Eddie on the lips the whole time we were in the hospital.
His lips and mouth were not kissable for the most part. He either had a tube in his mouth or major damage to his lips and mouth. It wasn’t until the day I was saying goodbye that I kissed him. I looked into his eyes and I gently lifted the back of his head, as if I were filling my hands with water. When we were face to face I kissed his lips. I pressed down firmly so he could really feel my love. After I kissed him he had a look of excitement and amazement because, like I said we hadn’t kissed in eighteen days; I knew he was happy about kissing me. I said “Eddie did you like that?” He shook his head yes and he smiled with his wide eyes; I kissed his lips again then I kissed his forehead. I left behind a bloody kiss print; the blood from his lips covered mine.
There were tears rolling down my face while I told him good-bye, but before I left, with so much regret in my heart, I told him that he could stop fighting and holding on for my sake. I told him I couldn’t stand to see him suffer. With tears pouring down my face I turned around and I walked out of his room. My God that was so painful, I swear that my heart was cut in half when I left that hospital.
I drove for fifteen hours; along the way I stopped at a pay phone somewhere in Georgia and I called Eddie’s nurse. I wanted to know his status and she assured me he was doing well. I told her to tell him I loved him and that I would see him soon. I also told her to let him know I was in Georgia and still heading North up 95.
Finally, I made it to Maryland where Serena lay sound asleep at my cousin’s house.
It was very early in the morning when I asked to speak to the nurse on duty. She told me that Ed was critical and he had been placed back on life support! I was shocked because I had only been away from him for fifteen hours and already he was back on life support! It was insane to me, I had worked for eighteen days helping him recover at the hospital and when I left him he was off of life support.
The doctor told me that I needed to get back there ASAP, but I was dead tired from driving all night and I would have never made it to him on time if I drove! I was afraid that Serena would be at risk in the car with me because of my lethargy. And to make matters worse, the doctor gave the phone to a nurse to speak with me; I can recall arguing with her; she was a southern woman with an annoying Southern accent and she constantly referred to me as Sugar, Honey, Sweetie and f---ing whatever. I told her that I needed her to treat me like a grown woman and stop patronizing me.
I was delegating the type of care to provide my husband with but she kept insisting that I was making the wrong choices; I was telling her to do whatever she could to keep him alive, I told her I was on my way and that I needed her to keep him alive! But like I said, she continued to patronize me with her honey pies and sugar peas! What an ignorant person she was; I hated her. I remember she even said at one point, “he’s gone….no he’s back.” She drove me crazy to talk to but she was the only one who I could talk to about what was happening to Eddie; I was in Maryland and he was in Florida.
The only other person that I had to talk to from Florida was Leah.
She was a Jehovah’s Witness whom I had befriended. And it was her that I called when I was in Maryland; she was already at Eddie’s room when I called her. The hospital recognized that Leah and I had become close during the eighteen days at the ICU, so they felt comfortable answering her questions about Eddie. But when it came time for them to allow her at his bedside while I was stuck in Maryland, the nursing staff did not permit it. Not until I demanded it, that is.
I can remember screaming at the nurses, warning them that if they didn’t let my spiritual friends near his body, I would sue them for not respecting my wishes. I told the nurses that I didn’t want him to die alone. One nurse, the southern one, said, “He is with us now, he won’t die alone.” It made me ill to think he was all alone with them; after all they were the ones I had trusted to take care of him in the first place.
My cousin Elaine told me that my uncle Robert had many frequent flyer miles from all of his business trips; I called him early that morning and I told him about my crisis and he simply asked me exactly what I needed from him. I told him I needed to fly me and my baby BACK to Florida to be with Eddie before he died! And about 10 minutes later, he had purchased and arranged for Serena and me to catch a round trip flight out of Baltimore only 30 minutes later.
I grabbed Serena’s hand and told her she needed to be brave one more time. At first she was scared about the idea of flying but I gingerly explained to Serena that there was nothing scarier than what her dad was going through, and then she agreed and packed up her things. Elaine brought us to the airport and we boarded the plane and headed to Chicago, yeah Chicago. It made no sense but we had to go up to Chicago to change planes then head back down to Florida.
It was absolute torture for me to head into the opposite direction of my dying husband.
My only sense of comfort was that I had my baby next to me. We were about to find out Ed’s fate together. One of my fears was that I would have to return back to Serena bearing news of her daddy’s death. I dreaded that thought so to me it was a miracle that she was with me. The flight to Chicago took us an hour or so and it was within that hour that Eddie died.
Our new friends Steve and Nancy were waiting for us as we walked to the end of the plane tunnel into the airport; they were also Jehovah’s Witnesses. We were back in sunny Florida only to experience extreme darkness.
Steve drove while Serena and I impatiently sat in the back seat of his car. We were extremely anxious to get to Eddie. I borrowed Steve’s phone and I called the hospital. When the southern nurse picked up the phone she told me he was dead. I couldn’t believe it and neither could Serena!
The medical staff at the hospital was expecting Serena and me to come view his body. So when we arrived they met us in the family waiting room to talk to us about Ed’s passing. A clergyman walked us to outside Ed’s room. When we first saw him his eyes were wide open and yellowed. He looked like he had really been through hell. All of the tubes were still hanging out of his body. He had a catheter in his heart, a life support tube hanging from his mouth only half assembled and he was left uncovered. It was no way to present a body for a now widow and orphan. I was disgusted and I was in shock. I couldn’t cry. Serena didn’t cry either. Together we were in shock. The last thing that I can remember the supervising nurse saying to me was “He died because you left him; you were apparently his life force.”