The Day After
Reflections on Texas, nearing the 4th anniversary of the tragedy.
When I answered the phone, I already knew the conversation was not going to be easy. It
was Susan. By now I had been so camped out by the phone most of the family would wait for
me to answer it. They knew that Susan would ask for me anyway.
Twenty four hours earlier I had dumped her on a plane. With her mom and my sister, after a
sleepless night and an attempt earlier to get from the East Coast to Texas- she was on her way
to piece back together her shattered life.
What do you say to a mother who was visiting her dying daughter. Her dad and son already
dead, now she is calling with the status of Jennifer.
Hello? I said, not knowing what to expect.
Randy, it's Susan. We knew. I knew. The shit had gotten worse. Earlier when I dropped
Susan, Paulette and her mom off for their flight we held hope. Susan had talked to her friends
at the hospital. They held the phone to Jennifer's ears as Susan said hello. "They are running
test" is all they would say. The doctors and nurses would only say, "we are doing everything
"Hey, what's going on? You sound tired?" I was out of things to say really. Neither of us had
slept much, or though to of sleeping since about 5 PM on that awful day, now only a day and
a half past. I already knew that the life we knew was changed forever.
Susan told me a story that went something like this.
"We got to the airport and the airlines had let the church people picking me up through
security so they could meet us at the gate. We cried almost the whole flight, we could barely
think of getting any rest. We rushed to the hospital, it was all such a fog. When I got to the
hospital the doctors and nurses were explaining things to me as we entered the room. I saw my
baby there, on machines, unconscious. My eyes roamed her chart and monitors. I so wanted
there to be good news. I so wanted there to be hope. I so wanted to pick her up and make it
better. As the doctor was talking I began to see it for myself. They had done everything they
could do. Sever brain hemorrhage. Jennifer looked fine, but she was hurt bad. It was like she
was just sleeping and I just wanted to have her wake up.
Almost immediately I had to make the decision to take her off the machines. They told me
there was no hope.
I wanted to believe there was always hope. My faith called for that, right? Hadn't I come to
believe that prayer and God's love could do anything? But the nurse, the mother in me knew.
My baby was gone. I crawled up in bed as they removed the equipment. I held Jennifer close
to me. I held her until she died. She took her last breath in my arms."
I remember my head pounding the whole time. As I listed I could see my family hoping for
some good news in my voice, some expression on my face. They too wanted there to be hope.
Poor little Jennifer. If only she could make it then it wouldn't be that bad. With Jennifer
maybe Susan could survive the loss of Joshua and Donald?
"Jennifer is Dead" I said. "She did not make it." And then back to Susan. What could I say
now? The unthinkable has happened.
"Susan, I am so sorry. I will come and help you. You will get through this. We'll get through
it together." There was only silence and tears back home.
My heart broke for Susan. How could she get through this?
In years past I had always held some respect, some awe for grieving mothers. My work in
HIV and AIDS Services helped me see that the love of a mother can sadly be measured by the
depth of the grief they have when a child dies. I had drawn this link between what I saw in
friends to a prayer in my childhood, or my faith- the Hail Mary. The story of Mary, watching
the painful death of her son, always struck me as ironic. How blessed to see such pain?
In subsequent days, weeks and months I would watch Susan piece together her broken life. I
carried (and still do) link to her (and of all things,) that Hail Mary. I would hear the refrain in
my head "Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women" and think of Susan. Blessed? Blessed with
That is always what bugged me about that prayer. Blessed Art Thou? It came to me though,
that to know the pain of loss is to also know the joy of love. Susan's grief as a daughter and
as a mother was now as deep and wide as her love was as a daughter and mother. Blessed she
was in having two wonderful children. It didn't strike me as odd when during her pain she was
calm, prayerful and offering comfort to others. Susan recognized the blessing, so yes, in her
grief she was blessed. And like Mary, she knew the loss of a mother, twice, now like no one
I hung up the phone with Susan and began making plans to go to Texas. I tried to explain what
she was going through at the hospital, what I heard her going through. We were too wrapped
in our family stuff, our own pain. They didn't get it. I wondered if they ever would.
I remember the eulogy Susan gave for Jennifer and Joshua. She committed herself to a life that
celebrated the joy of motherhood. She encouraged us all to remember her kids as happy, loving
people and the best way to honor their early deaths would be to live life lovingly and kindly,
much like Jennifer and Joshua had.
Randy N. Marcotte - December 1, 2006