*Chelsea and our Daughter Charlotte a year before her death*
I have survived this life through most things that would put a grown man down on one knee. The church and my father took away my innocence, my mother, who twice
attempted suicide, left me in ruins at a young age and my Aunt Vicki, who was more of a mother to me and a Grandma to my daughter than my mother ever was during those years of my life, passed away way before her time. But amongst the life-changing, mind-numbing physical and mental abuse I endured throughout my young life, nothing ever could have prepared me for that night which filled my heart with such sorrow and changed my life forever.
That previous night, I was sitting on my couch laughing and laughing. I was on the phone with Charlotte my daughter and her mother Chelsea. Charlotte was just being her silly self before bed that night. She even got a little lesson in life, which was no matter how bad it gets to always laugh and love. It was a happy evening especially for me. Charlotte’s mom and I had been separated for a few years, fighting and just being cruel to each other. So being able to talk to the girl I fell in love with so many years ago was something I had been waiting for a long time. I knew she felt the same way because she would laugh at things I said where there was no reason to laugh. I knew she missed who we used to be. The us that fell apart after Charlotte was born. We had said our good nights shortly after and I let her know that I didn’t forget where I was picking up our daughter after work the next day. My days with her were every Thursday through Sunday. And Chelsea was going to a concert Thursday night and wanted to be reassured that everything was taken care of so she could go have fun. So I reassured her. I told her to not worry and to enjoy her evening. We said our good nights and hung up.
That was the last time I would talk to her ever again.
I woke up the next morning dreading work. I hated my job. When I arrived at work, I clocked in and was told I’d be doing the inventory that day. I worked for an auto parts company named Riebes Auto. I loved working in the store, it was the people I worked with, mainly my boss. I grabbed a clipboard, pulled out my phone to plug in my headphones. Music always made my day better. And work went by much faster it seemed.
As I was about to choose the playlist that would get me through my shift, I noticed Charlotte’s aunt (on her mother’s side) had called me several times since I had clocked in. Everyone knew that I never picked up my phone calls during work unless it was an emergency, in that case continue to call and I’d eventually pick up. Four missed calls seemed an emergency so I was going to cut out back to return her call just as she started calling again.
I shouted to my boss that I had an important call to take as I was walking by his office waving my phone so he could see. It really wouldn’t have justified my lie in his eyes by seeing the very object I was using to do the lying with. He stared at me with a scowl that I ignored and continued to walk out. I didn’t like him and he didn’t like me. It was forced. We both knew that. I pushed the door wide open and the sun hit my eyes and I covered my eyes and answered the phone.
“Hey, Chrissy, what’s up?”
I heard nothing at first. Chrissy and I didn’t get along really at all. I was surprised she was calling me for anything. Then I heard the long deep gasp of breath she took. She was sobbing. My heart sank. Her calling me at work, crying like she was meant something had happened to the one I have loved for so long.
“She is in the hospital Matt, she got hurt, she hurt her self…” she trailed off. The other sister grabbed the phone. More coherent.
“Matt, this is Hope. Chelsea overdosed on narcotics. It’s what the doctors are saying as of right now. Hope starts to get quiet. I can tell she is becoming extremely emotional, as was I. “Matt, they don’t think she is going to make it. She was almost ten minutes without oxygen to her brain and they brought her here to Sutter hospital. She is on life support, hooked up to an oxygen tank. She has rapid eye movement, which they say is good. But if she doesn’t improve by Saturday, we have a very hard decision to make. We may have to pull the plug.”
My phone dropped from my hands and I became dizzy. I couldn’t breathe. I found a chair and sat down. My heart was pounding so loud it was drowning out the surrounding sound. I couldn’t pull myself up and my coworkers were staring, the look they were giving me was that of one who knew the pain I was in and want to help but decided not to. I finally stood up, dizzy and my nose running profusely. Hope gathered herself and said, “Please come down and tell her goodbye.” She hung up the phone. I sat down in a chair before my dizziness got the best of me. I pulled out a cigarette and lit up, inhaled and blew it out.
My supervisor reluctantly agreed to let me take the rest of the day off to do what I had to do. It took some convincing, and he asked how long I was going to be out. He didn’t believe me, I could tell. But it didn’t matter at that moment. I told him the rest of the day if I could, she was on life support and want going to make it. I wanted time. And I needed to pick up my daughter as well. With that, he agreed and I left. Now speeding down the highway, going 85 miles an hour, dodging in and out of traffic, called my mother and told her. I also asked her if she could go grab Charlotte from her other grandparents for me but do not bring her to the hospital. I wasn’t ready to tell her yet and I didn’t want her to see her mother like that and have it be her last memory of her. Charlotte was four, going on five and I did not want to scare or scar her. That decision however, was a somewhat difficult one. Setting her mother in that condition wouldn’t be all wise but I didn’t want Charlotte’s last memory of her mother to be a lingering sad moment and her be in a confusing state of shock and her not understandingll why. My mother agreed.
I pulled into the parking lot and parked. I shot out of my car and ran into the ICU as quickly as I could be ignoring the multitude of hospital staff members telling me to slow down and no running. It didn’t matter at that point so I carried on. As I entered the hallway connected to the room she was in, her family was standing all over the place. Her boyfriend’s family were there too, in full force. And over half of them didn’t even know me. Or acknowledge me. Her boyfriend was in the room at that time so I went into the waiting room and just sat. I started to regain my breathing with tears streaming down my face. Shortly after her sister came to me and held out her hand and grabbed me up and hugged me and didn’t let me go. She says it’s alright and she will pull through. She leads me back to her room. I was nervous. I didn’t want to lose her. But there she was. Pale skinned with tubes running and out of her. Only machines were keeping her alive at this point. This wasn’t my Chelsea. She had lost so much weight and so pale. I sat down next to her and grabbed her hand. Tightly I squeezed and kissed the top of it.
“Please tell me you’re going to be okay. Please, I cannot do this without you. Charlie, she will miss you so much. She needs her momma. Pull through, okay? For all of us.” I whispered into her ear. I knew she could hear me. It is all I wanted, for her to be okay. To smile that smile. To laugh her laugh and to look at me with those beautiful green eyes. To even get mad at me and to tell me how wrong I was and that she was right. I told her she needed to be here and her time was not now. Not for a long time. Her mother Patty walked in to let me know some other family members wanted to say goodbye as well. I leaned over her and kissed her forehead. “Please be with us forever. I will always love you. And our daughter will grow up to be the best you.” I set her hand down gently and walked out.
Most if not all of her family and some of mine were all out in the hallway chattering away. Some even had light-hearted spirits and I wanted to know why were they not as devastated as I was. That we were going to lose someone so precious as she was. At that moment I look up to see my mother rounding the corner with my daughter in tow. My heart sank. My mom gave me a look to say she was sorry. I walked up to her with a look of despair. I wasn’t ready to tell my baby yet. And yet here I was about to just that.
“What happened to our plan? Why are you guys here?” I asked with an irritated tone in my voice.
“I’m sorry son, we did everything to get her mind off it. But she was the first one to see her mom in the state that she was in this morning and knew her mom was in the hospital and just demanded we take her to see her and you.” She says apologetically. I look down at my baby’s face who smiles right back at me. I bend down and pick her up.
“Why are these people here to see mommy?” she asks right away. A question I’m not ready to answer. I look at my mom and give her a look letting her know I was going to sit her down out in the lobby and talk to her. She nodded.
I found the furthest seat I could find, away from everyone and all the noise so I could have her undivided attention. I told my mother to keep people away if they were coming in our direction. I put her up on my lap and took a deep breath. ” How was your day today my love?” I asked quickly. Stalling, trying to figure out how to put this.
“It was okay.” She responded quickly. “Daddy, why are all these people here at the hospital? Where is my mommy, I want to go see her.”
“Charlie, do you remember how daddy is always going on and on about science? About space and the stars and galaxies. About the scientists many years ago who discovered if energy goes fast enough it turns into solid matter.?” I asked. I took this approach knowing that she would remember because wasn’t interested in it and always told me how boring science was.
“Yeah, your science is boring.”
“Right, well remember when I told you about the energy thing?” And remember when I said that when we die our energy would…”
“MOMMY DIED?” she yelled. “NO! she screamed, let me go see her!” She was crying by then and it was all I could do but to cry with her. I picked her up and held her tightly. Both of us in the middle of the hospital lobby crying. I explained to her what happened. That it was an accident and her mommy would never have done this on purpose. That she loved her very much. She would always be with us right here. I put her hand in mine and placed it on her heart.
“Forever?” she asked all snotty.
“Forever and ever.”
was 6:36 pm and my mom walked out to us and whispered in my ear. May 14th, 2011 my love and Charlotte’s mother had passed away. Charlotte buried her face in my chest and cried. I held her there what seemed like a lifetime and rocked her. She finally looked up at me and gave me a kiss.
“Even with mommy gone but in hearts, I still have you, daddy, right here with me and I will take care of you. The tears fell again as I smiled down at her. My heart was broken, to me, it almost seemed I wouldn’t, couldn’t move on. Live my life. Raise my daughter. Chelsea gave me what I was without as a child growing up. A family. My own family. Losing her, at that moment meant my family was shattered. But every day since, my daughter Charlotte reminds me we are very much a family.