On September 9, 2001, my dad, who had been in the hospital for some time, passed away. I had only just returned home on Friday, September 7 from a flying trip (from Florida to Delaware) to see him. Dad had become an unhappy, disappointed, and angry person by the end of his life. Our last earthly goodbyes consisted of me reading Psalm 46 to him, and praying for him before I left the hospital. I had seen the telltale necrotic tissue on his back where he had undergone surgery – unnecessary surgery in my opinion – but the surgeons had scared my mother with the prediction that without it he would never walk again. As it happened, the surgery simply hastened his death, and he never recovered enough to even try to walk.
Mom found him gone when she entered his hospital room the morning of September 9, 2001. I cannot begin to imagine how she felt when she realized that he had left his earthly tabernacle. Dad had dedicated his life to smoothing the way for Mom as her father had done for her before my parents were married. Mom was ill prepared for life without someone to cushion the bumps and disasters along the road.
I was devastated, (though not really surprised) on that Sunday afternoon when my sister called with the news. It was just difficult to get my head wrapped around the thought that Dad had died. We had always connected all through my life, my dad and I. One of the last things we shared before I got married was me reading The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings to him. I felt bereft indeed.The what-ifs and the whys crowded my mind, and overflowed into my heart for many long months.
I wasn’t even sure I could get to the funeral – it just wasn’t feasible financially. Then, my brother who lives a couple of hours south of us called and invited me to ride up to Delaware with him to the funeral. My brother was recovering from sinus surgery, and his doctor told him that he should not fly. In fact, the doctor wasn’t overly happy about him taking a road trip at that point. But, it was his dad as well as mine, and we both wanted to get to the funeral and connect with family.
My brother was supposed to pick me up around 11 a.m. on September 11. A little after 10 a.m., I took my thirteen-year-old son to stay with friends until my husband could pick him up after work. When we walked into their house, the television was on, and I watched the twin towers collapse. I simply could not process well all of that on top of my dad’s death. Then, I realized that we’d actually be driving into the war zone.
It was around three o’clock when my brother arrived at my house. We drove part of the way, and stayed at a motel in South Carolina. There was no phone or cell service due to the national emergency, so we couldn’t talk to our loved ones – not where we were headed, nor from where we left. There was an surreal feeling as we watched the TV news, and saw the twin towers fall over, and over again. The only thought that kept going through my mind was relief that my dad had not lived to see what was happening in our country.
The next day, on our way to Delaware, we reached Washington, D.C. As we drove around the beltway, we saw the smoke still rising from the Pentagon – a sobering scene indeed. Finally, we reached my other brother’s home in Delaware. He had Mom with him, and I shared a bed with her for two nights while my Florida brother went to a motel since the house beds were all full.
At this point my memories play hide and seek with me. I remember a viewing with relatives, and friends present (a proceeding that I do not intend shall happen when I die). The funeral was held in the chapel at the Delaware Veteran’s Cemetery, and I recall giggling hysterically with my sister-in-law afterward over something said by the pastor who had the funeral sermon. He was eulogizing, and was talking about how wonderful he thought Dad was, and that he had never heard him complain about anything. Really? I remember pictures with my siblings, and going to the church for a quick lunch before my brother and I got into his Jeep to drive back to Florida. Talk was divided between stories about Dad, and the shock of what happened on 9/11 – and we used the Bay Bridge to avoid D.C. this time around.
My brother was in a lot of post-surgical pain at this point. I knew it was bad when he let me drive! We did not go far on Friday night, and took it fairly easy on Saturday. By Sunday morning, my brother was beginning to hemorrhage. We stopped for lunch at the Cracker Barrel in Savannah, and right after he ordered his food, he left the table for the men’s, still hemorrhaging, and leaving a pile of napkins he had already used up trying to stanch the flow. Our food came, and he still had not returned.
I had lost my appetite by then, but knew that I should try to eat. But, I was done quickly. My brother finally came back, and paid for lunch. Then he picked up his food, and we headed out to the Jeep. He had me pack his nose with tissues to try and stop the bleeding, but that was of little help. We decided it was time to find a hospital and get some help.
We exited I-95 as soon as we saw one of the blue hospital signs, then drove for about 45 minutes to get to it. It turned out to be a clinic, and after examining my brother, they gave him (legal) cocain to stop the bleeding (it worked) and Neosynefrin nasal spray in case of emergency. The spray had the effect of constricting his blood vessels and stopping the bleeding for the duration.
My brother being somewhat incapacitated, I drove the rest of the trip: about four or five hours to my house, where we got my husband to follow us down to my brother’s home – another couple of hours. We dropped Brother off at his apartment, and then headed back to our Forest home. After getting turned around once or twice, we got out of the city, and drove home with me glad that hubby was driving. It was after midnight, and I was fairly numb when, by God’s grace, we finally rolled into our driveway. But I was a long time trying to process both the national, and personal tragedies. And it was a few years before I could bear to eat at a Cracker Barrel again.