FYI: This is not my usual witty post. If you are in my family, you lived this from your own perspective, and might not want to read it. This is really for me, because if I put it all down here, it takes up less space in my head. For all the friends who were praying for us during this time, but didn’t know why, this is why. It was hard to write this, and will be hard to read.
July 19, 2013, 1:00 am.
It’s never a good thing when your parents call you at 1am.
Dad left me a voicemail saying to call back when I could. I had been asleep and debated calling him back right away, or just waiting until the morning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep without finding out why he called. He said the last three words I expected to hear. “Tori, Maddie died.”
There was a sinking feeling as it felt like all blood drained out of my body.
Dad knew I had heard him. “Uncle Stuart and Aunt Erin came home from visiting school with Emily and found her.”
“Oh my God.”
He told me what they knew, which was precious little so far, and we said good night.
They hadn’t been able to get a hold of Meredith in China yet, so I facebooked her telling her to call home asap. I told Stephen and he held me. No tears, just shocked.
Meredith called me around 6:30am because mom wasn’t logged into Skype. I tried to tell her what happened, but our connection was terrible, all she got was that someone had died and I urged her to call mom.
I went to work. I emailed the rest of the staff and the prayer chain, telling them what had happened. My 21 year old cousin had died. We didn’t know how yet. Please pray for the family. Then I cried. I sat at my desk, alone in my office, and cried.
I obsessively checked Facebook and my email for any updates that day. Any information. How it happened. Funeral plans. I knew I would get a phone call as soon as anything new came up, but I couldn’t stop. I think I just wanted to see activity by my family, to know that even though I was alone in my office, alone in the whole church building, they were still there, and we were together.
Finally we had a memorial service time. We booked flights to Denver. Stephen almost didn’t come because he was going to be busy with work, but then was able to book a flight after an important meeting, and just get into Denver later than I was. During the week before flying to Denver, I started devouring books. I read and read and read, losing myself in romances and fantasies. It was better than thinking about what had happened.
I flew to Denver by myself. I picked a seat next to a mom and daughter, who promptly introduced herself as Hayden as soon as I sat down. She looked to be about 10, and ordered tomato juice when the flight attendant came around. Her mom, Kim, slept the entire way. As we reached our stop in Houston, Hayden’s sisters sitting behind us introduced themselves as well, and we chatted for a bit. I told them I was going to see my family in Denver. We disembarked and as we parted ways in the terminal, the girls all said, “Bye Tori! Have fun with your family!” Their cheerful innocence stayed with me the rest of my solo journey, and was such a blessing.
We gathered at the Colorado Wrights’ house. We all agreed it was good to see each other, but wished it wasn’t for this reason. We learned what had caused Maddie’s death. She was home alone and fell asleep at the kitchen table, slumped in her chair in such a way that her airway was cut off. It wasn’t alcohol poisoning. She wasn’t drunk. She didn’t do any drugs. She just fell asleep and didn’t wake up. I know it is hard for some people to believe your body wouldn’t wake you up if you couldn’t breathe. But it happens. Think about people who suffer from sleep apnea. They stop breathing or have long pauses in between breaths while sleeping.
The memorial service was wonderful and terrible. It was our first family funeral. Emily sang “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from the Phantom of the Opera, and it was beautiful. I don’t know how she did it, because just remembering it right now is making me cry. I was so glad Stephen was able to come. Meredith was Skyped in from China for the service.
We know Maddie is with Jesus. But it is hard for a memorial service or funeral to be a celebration of life when that life was so short. Right now it still just hurts.