I’d collapsed into an unfamiliar bed about 45 minutes before, my body 150 lbs of lead. My muscles ached because I’d been awake since 6 the previous morning and it was now almost 5. My dear friends Nicole and Russell has been kind enough to put us up for what was left of the night. My mom was lying next to me, also failing to sleep. I heard my phone beep— who was texting me at this ungodly hour on this ungodly night? The sender wasn’t saved in my contacts but I could tell by the tone, the warmth and the familiarity of the message that this was someone I should know. It was an expression of shock and sincere sorrow over the loss of my precious husband just hours before. I’d only been given the news at midnight myself. I asked the texter to identify himself, noting that I did not have the number saved. I found that it was Tyler, one of Chris’ oldest friends. I thanked him for reaching out. Despite spending a couple hours in bed and being beyond fatigued, I was completely unable to sleep. At 7 the next morning my mom and I went to McDonald’s to get some breakfast. The Indiana Organ Donation network called me while there to do all the necessary questioning. The woman I spoke with was compassionate and professional. I let her know at the beginning that we had a toddler and that I was 18 weeks pregnant with another baby. One of her medical history questions about Chris was, “Has he been sexually active in the last five years?” I began to laugh, hard, and then she did, too. “I mean, I’m having his second baby in two years,” I said through giggles. It was absurd and comical. She laughed as she explained she’s required to ask all the questions no matter what... and it was a good release of tension on a dark morning.
I later learned people had taken the liberty of posting the news to social media ahead of me, the pregnant widow; ahead of the bereaved parents, ahead of his siblings. I’m still horrified over that 4 years later. I figured this out because I called one of my best friends around 9 am the morning after his death. Jen was living in LA then and had been an integral part of what was “Chris and Aimee”. She double dated with us to Prom, she told me I was stupid when I tried to dump him back in high school; she was very much a part of “us”. I called to tell her and she’d already heard through a family member, who’d heard it on Facebook. I felt like I’d been robbed— this was someone I wanted to hear it straight from my lips. Mom and I drove back to Carbondale to pick up my little Abbi, my little daughter who wasn’t going to ever see her dada again in the land of the living. I had no concept of how to even begin with this. All the way there, the baby who would be known as Aurora kicked and danced beneath my seatbelt, as if saying, “Hey Mom! We’re going to make it!” We picked Abbi up from Dr. Bishop & Carla’s, where she was happily playing with their little yorkie. This was new because she’d always been scared of cats and dogs previously. I wanted to tell Chris... We returned back to my home in Marion. I told Abbi all I could think to and even this she wasn’t old enough to comprehend at 16 months. “Dada went to heaven with Jesus. Dada can’t come home again.” We all took a three hour nap, turning off our phones. When I woke up, I had multiple missed calls. The news had wanted interviews, and had done them with friends. A candlelight vigil was being held at one of our churches that night. Mom and I were invited to my Gram-in-law’s. At Gram’s house, I sat in the living room in front of the tv. I saw my husband’s face on the evening news and my dear friends being interviewed about him. To say it was surreal would be the understatement of the century. I wasn’t hungry but my friend Pennie made me a plate of food and instructed me, assertively yet lovingly, to eat. A bunch of us family sat, hung out, cried, talked... That evening after Mom and I went back to my house, I got ready to sleep. It was about 9 and I was going to get in bed, as my body was just done. My contacts were out, pajamas on, and I heard Mom answer the door. I was confused... who could be here so late? I walked out to the living room as I realized by the voice it was my OB doc, Bishop. The man had been gradually adopting me as a daughter since the loss of my dad four months prior. “I was just on my way home from the office,” he said. My house was 20 miles out of his way “home” from the office, but okay. He hugged me tight. “How are you doing?” he asked. I have no clue of my response, but I’m sure it was honest. He told me I could reschedule my upcoming 19-week sonogram if I wanted to. I told him, “Absolutely not! That’s one of the few bright spots in my life right now.” After that precious dad hugged me again, he left for home.
I went to bed. Day one as a widow was in the books. I had a lifetime ahead...