In beginning this blog (something that had been brainstormed for months), I finally had a breakthrough with the Lord and wrote my first post. I was so excited, and felt like after months of being in an emotionally-struggling place that I was finally “getting a leg up”. I had spent months asking the Lord for vision, and telling him that I just wanted to “help broken people…” Surely this meant that life was going to start moving forward again? After patiently waiting, was God opening up a door/platform for me to share my story of the last two years?
After writing Under Construction, I started a second draft-post titled Peeling Back. (The blog was still in early design-mode, so they hadn’t been published publicly yet.) When I look back and read those posts now, it feels surreal reading my own words. Because what that Ashley didn’t know, was that 5 short days after writing that post my world would be completely turned upside down...again.
Monday, December 12, 2016.
I’m sitting in the Apple Store trying to convince them to fix my ever-frustrating laptop, when my phone rings...it’s mom. I hit the ignore button so I can continue my appointment, and she immediately calls back. When she called the second time I remember just staring down at the phone for a second...contemplating sending it to voicemail again. This time, for whatever reason, I felt something was off and answered.
And I will never forget the panic in my mother’s voice, or the look on the tech guy’s face as I gathered my things to leave.
Dakota had a seizure. His heart stopped. EMS was taking him to the hospital.
By the time I fought through traffic and arrived at the hospital, the ER had him on a ventilator and his heart rate was in the 40’s. I remember feeling worried, but a piece of me was still convinced that he was going to wake up.
That’s what Dakota did...he always woke up.
But this time was different. A week spent in the ICU searching for any type of improvement only revealed more and more damage.
By Thursday, it was confirmed- Dakota would never wake up again and to keep him on the ventilator meant keeping his body in a bed but never actually getting Dakota back.
We had to make some incredibly hard decisions that day, and as a family we decided to discontinue life support measures the following day. The heaviness, and numbness, and brokenness all wrapped up into one day was almost unbearable.
The staff at University Hospital was beyond supportive. They helped walk us through all of the impossible things ahead of us...from meeting with Childlife Specialists to help figure out how to tell our younger siblings, working through paperwork with the Organ Transplant Team, and inviting family and friends to come say goodbyes.
The next morning, I walked into the hospital knowing it was my turn to say goodbye.
How in the world do you say goodbye to someone forever?
I pulled out my stethoscope and listened to his heartbeat. How is it that with the same stethoscope that I use to listen to new life...was I now using to listen to someone at the end of theirs?
Those moments in his hospital room are forever ingrained in me.
I don’t know how long I was in there, but I stayed until peace found me.
Dakota Dale Alexander passed away December 16, 2016 at 11:19pm.
I’m not quite to a place yet to share the details of the rest of that day. Mainly, because I’m still working through some of that trauma myself. But what I can say is this, when I left that hospital I felt like a piece of my brain had been broken...along with my heart. But God planted some amazing people in my path to carry me through those first few weeks. And for that, I will be forever grateful. <3
The night before Dakota’s funeral service, I locked myself in my hotel room knowing I was going to write a eulogy to read the next day. For me, words bring healing...and it was something I had to at least try to do. As I prayed that night, the Lord helped me articulate the stirrings of my heart onto paper until I had nothing left in me. And I had the most peaceful sleep that I’d had all week.
The next day my dear friend Krysta had driven 2 hours to be with me at the service, listened to me practice the eulogy and gave me the courage to read what I’d written. I asked the Lord to give me strength to speak with courage and hope- and He provided.
Towards the end of the eulogy, I glanced over and realized Krysta was recording on her phone. I hadn’t even thought to have her do that, but afterwards was so thankful she did. I had no idea how much I was going to need it later.
I’m sharing a copy of that video with you here. The words are all true...and I definitely believed them deeply when I wrote them- but I’m finding I’m needing to remind myself often of those words and the peace they brought.
Don’t get me wrong...this journey through grief is overwhelming. And I still have days where the waves of heartache and panic try to drown me.
But I hold onto those words from that day,
“ I don’t know all of the answers, and I don’t think this ache will ever go away. But I trust in God’s goodness, in His graciousness for our pain, and His promise of everlasting life.”