Chapter 1 – The End and the Beginning
by Jerry Sittser
In this beginning chapter Sittser describes his loss. The horrific tragedy that fell upon him while driving home with his family. His story is gripping and leaves you with a sense of loss that is beyond my own. But it’s the way he describes his pain that left me with a sense that someone else besides me understood what sudden loss can do to a person. How seeing the one(s) you love die right before your eyes and the feeling of helplessness that is so overwhelming you want to die.
The way he describes his initial experience was much like mine. The shock is so unbelievable that you can’t imagine that such an event has taken place. The flashbacks to the series of events leading up to the loss is excruciating to read because I too had those flashbacks. Reliving each moment over and over again until you fell to the floor in absolute exhaustion crying and wailing because the pain had to come out.
Sittser lost his wife of two decades, his mother and his third born son in a horrible automobile accident. I can’t even imagine what it was like to lose three people for me just losing one, my daughter was so incredibly difficult that the thought of losing three loved ones at once was beyond what I could comprehend.
“I was so bewildered that I was unable to voice questions or think rationally. I felt wild with fear and agitation, as if I was being stalked by some deranged killer from whom I couldn’t escape. I could not stop crying. I could not silence the deafening noise of crunching metal, screaming sirens, and wailing children. I could not rid my eyes of the vision of violence, of shattering glass or shattered bodies. All I wanted was to be dead.” – Jerry Sittser
The above description, although it not my own experience, is very much the feeling I had when I watched as my daughter was being resuscitated for the fourth and final time. I’ve written before about the experience of watching as the hospital staff surrounded her bed on numerous occasion throughout the night bringing her back to life. Yet during the early morning of October 13th 2006, I watched in horror as the nurse climbed up on the bed and was performing CPR while the doctors where shouting out orders to keep the medications going.
All the while I’m looking at the monitors, as a nurse, knowing that what was about to happen next was going to be the worst moment of my life. As my eyes met the nurse who was pumping my daughter’s chest I saw all I needed to see. Her pain, her helplessness and her compassion said it all. As the doctor said to me “she can’t take much more, it’s time to say goodbye” – the words I will never ever forget.
So as I read his description of his flashbacks and reliving the moment. I too relived that moment for so many months. But as time as gone by the violence of it has diminished. But the sorrow that it created is still profoundly real.
One other thing that Sittser reveals about his own first few weeks after his loss that I found to be parallel is that one day you wake up and realize you haven’t cried for the first time. I thought in the beginning that it was a sign I was on the mend, that I was beginning to come out of the gloomy fog I had been living in.
“The tears came for forty days, and then they stopped, at least for a few days….It was only after the forty days that my mourning became too deep for tears.” – Jerry Sittser
At the end of chapter one, Sittser describes what it is like to have your life turned upside down and the choice to move on is the only one. That there is no way to avoid the pain. He called it “suffer and adjust” which is basically what I did. And as I have said before it’s a work in progress.
until next time,