As I opened my car door I thought I heard crying. It was 8:40 pm on Friday, October 11, 2013 and I had just gotten some Udon soup (to go) from the local teriyaki restaurant. The closer I came to the front door the more I knew something was wrong. Lorelai was crying hysterically as if she was about to throw up.
The front door was open and there was a heaviness in the room that you could cut with a knife. Something wasn’t right. I quickly put the Udon soup down and stepped towards Lorelai with a hurried pace asking what was wrong.
“I didn’t know daddy,” she responded “I didn’t know.”
“Didn’t know what Lorelai? What are you talking about.”
“I thought Papa was playing.”
Now I knew why my spirit was in check: My dad! I turned to see something going on in the other room. I quickly barked at Lorelai, Luke and Colt to get in the bedroom. When I bark my kids listen and they ran to the bedroom.
As I walked into where my dad was I was startled to see how blue his face was. My brother-in-law Joel, who lives next door, was giving him CPR. My mom was giving Joel instructions from the 911 operator as he administered CPR.
“1, 2, 3, 4” Joel said to himself while pumping my dad’s chest. I ran to position my dad’s head up and as I lifted his head it was limp; he was still not breathing.
I pleaded with him. “Dad, come on dad, help is on the way. I can hear the sirens.” Joel continued to give CPR. I even asked if he needed me to take over but Joel was determined and with how dialed in he was I didn’t dare get in his way.
The paramedics arrived along with four police officers and what seemed like a fleet of vehicles. They stormed through the front door and quickly positioned my dad where they wanted him to be. I had to get to Lorelai, she was still very very upset.
I found out from Lorelai that as they (Lorelai, Luke and Colt) were watching the classic B&W film, Huckleberry Fin, with Papa he slouched over and fell to the floor. Lorelai was sitting next to him and since she thought he was playing kept watching tv. My mom found my dad laying on the ground and asked Lorelai what happened. This scared Lorelai and she thought it might have been her fault.
All I could do was hold my little girl. She was so upset and I reminded her that although she can be sad, we are not afraid. “Where do we go when we die?” I asked her.
“We go to heaven!” Her brother Luke replied with a smile.
“Yes, we go to heaven,” I said with a reassurance to my baby girl. Her sister Taya was sleeping at a friends house and wasn’t a part of last night so I had to make sure Lorelai was taken care of. She began to wipe her tears. I told her that it wasn’t her fault and no matter what happened we know that with Christ we have eternal life. This was still very hard for her, she loves her Papa and the bond that she has with my parents will always be the strongest of the grand-kids since they never had a daughter. Lorelai, had become the daughter they never had.
I called Chris and put him on speaker phone. He immediately started praying in the spirit. This has been a long year for all of us but we are prepared since this is my dad’s third heart attack since February.
Joel and I watched as the paramedics did their thing. I held the phone in a position that my dad could hear but not close enough to disrupt the what was going on in the room.
“We speak LIFE!” Chris shouted through the speaker. “LIFE.”
I’ll be honest with you, as I watched my dad lay there blue in the face, knowing all that he had been through this past year and knowing where we end up after death, I wondered if he was given a choice would he even want to come back. He hadn’t been breathing for close to 30 minutes now. Could he really come back?
“LIFE!” Chris shouted.
“LIFE!” He yelled again.
“LIFE!” Kept coming through the phone. I looked at Joel and shrugged my shoulders, he nodded his head in support. We weren’t necessarily holding on to a lot of hope that my dad would recover but what do we know.
Chris asked to talk to my mom. I gave her the phone and could hear the instruction he was giving her. “Go touch dad and speak LIFE into him.”
I watched as she maneuvered through a maze of eight giant men and their instruments.
“Wayne! Wayne!” She yelled. “This is NOT your time. Remember? You want to see your great grandchildren!!!”
“Great grandchildren” I thought. Really?
One of the paramedics gently grabbed my mom’s elbow and escorted her out of the room, he sat her down to give her the bad news. I took the phone and barked at my brother for putting her in that position, he pushed back but I turned the speaker phone off. This wasn’t the time for brother’s to argue.
I walked over to my mom. I had to reassure her that the paramedics were right, we had to let dad go. It had been too long, he was too far gone to continue.
“Mrs. Ritchie, there is nothing more we can do for your husband.” They explained.
“No, no, please keep trying” she begged.
“I’m sorry ma’am but we’ve done all we could do.”
“Tell me one thing” my mom asked, “If I was there, could this have been prevented? Maybe if I called 911 sooner?”
“No ma’am, there is nothing you could have done to change this outcome.”
She started to weep, I hugged her and said “Mom, we knew this day was coming.” Although Chris was not on speaker I could hear me screaming through the phone ‘LIFE.’ I think he would have smacked me if he could reach through the phone.
“WAYYYYNEEEE” my mom shouted again. She looked at the paramedic asking if they could at least take him to the hospital. He shook his head no.
I said “I’m here mom” and she looked at me and barked, “You’re not Wayne.” There was a lot going on but this cut through, she was right, and I was learning a valuable lesson.
“We have something” one of the paramedics said from the other room.
“Yes!” She proclaimed as she jumped up from her chair. “Waaaayne! WAKE UP!”
I sat there stunned as the paramedics rushed back in the room.
“We have a pulse,” someone said.
“Awesome” someone else added.
I looked at Joel and he gave me the thumbs up sign. “What was happening?” I thought.
They put my dad on the stretcher, 45 minutes after they arrived, and rushed him to the hospital. They reported that he was breathing on his own in the ambulance. I was shocked. How could my dad survive this? Why was he even fighting to continue living on a broken world with a broken body living paycheck to paycheck when the pearly gates were only seconds away.
We arrived at the hospital, they started to do what they had to do. As he was carted by I didn’t recognize my dad, it was some guy with tubes all over his body. Why was he fighting? I couldn’t shake this thought.
The thought would not leave me as the hours passed in the ICU. What is wrong with me? Why didn’t I hold onto life as much as my brother or mom? Throughout this whole ordeal there was even a moment I looked at Lindsay and said ‘you better let me go when it’s my turn.’ She thinks I’m weird but still smiled nodding her head in agreement.
My mom pulled me aside reassuring me that my dad has always talked about wanting to live. This life is important to him and the time he has with the grand-kids and teaching Sunday school, this is important stuff in my dad’s life. She firmly believes this is not his time.
The morning after we are still waiting for his recovery. Anytime your brain has more than 30 minutes of no oxygen there could be serious brain damage. My brother is on his way up. As you can guess, we have fundamental differences in how we look at death. I’ve never feared death and treat it as the necessary step in continuing the journey God has put us on. To a fault I’ve boasted about how a Christian should live as it relates to death for in death there is….
There’s that word again.
2013 has been the year of growth for me. I’ve read book after book after book and am so much closer to the destiny God has for me. My philosophy in how I live is to learn as much as I can every single day. Yesterday I learned from a dead man that although Heaven is so close, what is here on earth in the physical is worth fighting for.
It’s worth living.