Real heroes just fade away, by Julie Whitefeather
Dec 09, 2008 16:35:14

We live in a world where there is no escape from images of death - the media bombards us with them at ever turn. Whether it is a movie, a television show, a game or a book there is little escaping it. Many times we are presented with a story where the hero of the drama dies valiantly in some grandiose manner. But life is rarely like that.

Early this morning my sister and I got the telephone call everyone dreads. A phone rings in the middle of the night and a voice on the other end of the telephone, usually a nurse or a doctor, tells you to come quickly for the end to which we all must come is near.

A hurried drive through the early morning darkness finds you surrounded by white walls, harsh florescent lighting and beeping machines. It is said that a picture tells a thousand words and the second sight that greets you upon entering the room is the sight of a machine that tells the whole story in an instant - a crash cart.

I say the second sight for the first site is of a woman who is my sister, my Mother Superior and my only family, and she is holding the had of a woman I have come to know only as "mom." In fact I once made the mistake of calling her "Alice" and her wry reply was simply "who's that?"

The hours pass.
Nurses come and go.
Many are the tears and prays that make their way to the Heavens.

But eventually the tears stem their flow, however briefly, and the prayers are said. My sister simply sits by the side of the bed holding mom's hand as the slow rhythmic breathing is heard above the hiss of flowing oxygen and the occasional beeping of monitors. A nurse's aid comes through the door an hour later and washes mom's hair. Time passes in a manner that I have never experienced before, each moment seeming an eternity, yet at the same time passing all too quickly. At shift change two nurses come in, quickly donning blue gowns and gloves in a well practiced manner. They busy themselves about their patient, checking her condition; only to discover that the blood pressure monitor is no longer able to measure the flow of blood. Still, mom's slow rhythmic breathing fills the room - in and out, in and out - measuring the beats of time and life.

Eventually a third nurse stops by the room offering her condolences in the same well practiced manner with which she dons her glove and gown. Yet I can't help thinking that it would be nearly impossible to spend much of your life dealing with death without insulating yourself in some way. In fact we each insulate ourselves from death; we see so much virtual death that it is hard not to. We are used to seeing the hero of a story die saving someone else's life, only to return in another story the next week.

This third nurse adds another page to the story by leaving the room - and taking the crash cart with her. Mom wishes are "DNR" and the white bulletin board on the wall opposite the retreating crash cart reflect that. Next to the word "Plan" it says simply "make comfortable."

The retreat of the crash cart is followed shortly by the entry of another participant in this little story - a chaplain named Gwyneth Wright. If there is any practice in the chaplains manner it doesn't show. Her concern is genuine, her prayers sincere, and her advice profound:

"When we are born we cry and those around us laugh. When we die, we laugh as those around us cry."

The chaplains words reflect an answer to prayers for a peaceful death and an end to mom's suffering.

For the past five years it has been an honor to be part of the story of Alice Kosac's life. In that time mom, my sister and I have shared much: tears, laughter and even at times a few harsh words. But if I have shared a part in Alice Kosac's life, she has also had a role in mine. The role she has had in the first five year's of my life as a nun is a unique one - she has been a teacher. The care that my sister and I gave mom has taught many lessons that have helped changed both our lives. In fact in very real ways, those changes helped saved my life and my sisters life.

The hiss of the flow of oxygen is still constant but the rhythm of mom's breathing is slower now. The measure of mom's life decreases as each breath comes slower and slower...

...and eventually they just stop.

The hero of my life, the hero of my sisters life, the woman who taught us so many of life's lessons for the last five years breathes her last. This time the hero did not die in a hail of gunfire, she did not die valiantly rescuing children from a fire. This time the hero of the story died the way so many others before her have.

Real heroes just fade away.

-Julie Whitefeather

Submitted by Brent on Dec 09, 2008 16:35:14 CST (comments: 8)


'I'm so sorry for your loss' by FarSpace
Submitted on 2008-12-10 05:05:49 CST
I'm so sorry for your loss Julie & Frances, I'm sure she was a great woman, after all she did pretty great by you two. Thank you for thinking of us by letting us know what happened, that means allot.

'=(' by Jmo
Submitted on 2008-12-10 06:33:07 CST
Srs Frances And Julie,

Words cannot begin to express what you two must be feeling. I am truly sorry for your personal loss of such a remarkable and influential person in your lives. Losing someone close is never easy, as some of us know first hand. May you both find peace in Alice's passing, and rejoice that even though you will miss her deeply here, she is smiling down on you both from Heaven, where you will see her again some day. You all are in my thoughts and prayers.

Jmo (Jeremy)

':(' by MagicKira
Submitted on 2008-12-11 00:15:27 CST
There's nothing I can say that either has not been said nor will bring you enough comfort with your loss. You are in my thoughts and prayers as well.

'Love is stronger than death' by Seritaph
Submitted on 2008-12-11 18:06:21 CST
I rarely have words in times like these, only feelings. Which is why I let others much smarter speak for me. I dedicate one of my favorite songs to you Julie, Fran and your family.

"In our lives we hunger for things we cannot touch.
All the thoughts unaltered and all the feelings unexpressed
Lay upon our hearts like the mist upon our breath.
But awoke by grief our spirits speak,
How could you believe that the life within the seed
that grew arms that reached and heart that beat
and lips that smiled and eyes that cried could ever die.

Here come the blue skies; here come the spring tides,
when the rivers run high and the tears run dry.
When everything that dies shall rise.

Love is stronger than death."

'Thank you' by Julie
Submitted on 2008-12-11 21:35:05 CST
It has been some of the four toughest scariest days of my life these last four days. I have dreaded these days for the last five years as they hung over my head like a sword of Damacles. Thank you for the sympathy and thank you so much Seritaph for the song.


'Words...' by eljeppy
Submitted on 2008-12-12 17:03:18 CST
Her light shines through you both

Good wishes and love

'Word...' by Julie
Submitted on 2008-12-13 16:57:33 CST
I wrote the article for me more than anything else. The idea for the article came from a passing thought in the back of my head during those three hours. I once attended a very small class taught by Jim Belushi back when only his brother John was famous. He spoke of going through emotional events in his life imagining a "little green man sitting on his shoulder taking notes" about what is going on as it happened to him. As I took note of my surroundings during those hours the difference between real death and that which we experience in video games struck me and was something I needed to write about.


p.s. sorry if the article was too much of a downer

'No words' by potshot
Submitted on 2008-12-16 07:40:50 CST

My deepest condolences for your loss.

I read this post last week and haven't been able to comment until now because it just hits too close to home. My own experience so closely mirrored yours as to be almost unbelievable in its similarity.

The call in the night. The frantic drive. The other family members. The release after nearly a year of suffering which was somehow both expected and at the same time all too soon. The unfathomable sorrow and the ensuing peace. Transcendence and loss.

I remember those hours as if they were yesterday and they will stay with me always. Thank you for sharing.

Peace be with you and yours.

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