Beautiful Gabriel. Thirty-one forever.
Handsome and witty like his dad. Loving music like his mom and talented with the guitar like Jimi Hendrix (well, I think so).
My son Gabriel struggled with addiction. Gabriel overdosed April 8, 2013. The day of the 2013 NCAA final game.
While U of L was getting ready to battle for NCAA victory title, my son lay in an intensive care unit, battling for his life. April 8 was also the day of my nephew David’s funeral.
My oldest sister’s son had died in a motor vehicle accident in his hometown of Searcy, Arkansas, on Thursday, April 4. This was also the last day I spoke to Gabriel to tell him of the tragic news. And to tell him I loved him.
April 8, the evening of my nephew’s funeral in Searcy, our Louisville family gathered in the hotel lobby to watch Louisville battle Michigan for the 2013 NCAA basketball title.
As I was sitting down with family to watch the game, my phone rang. Immediately I noticed the number to be from Gabriel’s recovery house director in Indianapolis. Gabriel had been in sober living off and on for three years. The director and I spoke briefly, long enough for him to inform me Gabriel had overdosed just before the game, his heart had stopped, a friend performed CPR until paramedics arrived, epinephrine was given because he had experienced cardiac arrest, and he was rushed to a nearby hospital. I was assured he was “stable.”
Being a nurse for thirty years, I knew this could mean anything from, he will be fine, to, he has a blood pressure, but he is near death, and in grave condition.
The latter proved to be the case.
For four days he lay in a coma. Brain scans and tests revealed he had anoxic encephalopathy. Some of his brain initially had activity, but by the end of the fourth day, he had herniated his brain stem, a part of his brain which houses vital functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory breathing. In layperson’s terms: Gabriel had lost the last of any brain function he had left.
We had been by Gabriel’s side when he herniated his brain stem, and witnessed his dramatic decline. He had worsened, instead of improved. Doctors compassionately broke the grim news, Gabriel was never going to wake up. Never.
We asked for tests to be redone, to reconfirm, to make sure procedure was followed to the tee. My husband and I stood by his side during testing. As a nurse, I just had to see for myself that there was not one loose testing lead, not one careless mistake made during any testing.
There was a point I lay over my son’s body, praying, crying, and begging God not to take him.
“I can’t say like Job, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord’. I can’t say it God. I can’t say it.”
Help me to be able to say, like Job, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’” Job 1:18-22
My husband and I went to the chapel afterwards to pray and to talk about the decision options the doctors had given us. One, they could keep him alive on the respirator, feed him through a tube in his stomach, and move him to a nursing home or we could take him home on life support, with a life expectancy of only a few months. Or make the decision to allow him to go naturally and in peace.
Natural death to us was the way we chose.
Before Gabriel’s monitors were taken off, John 11: 43-44 popped in my mind. The part in the story where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and said to the people “Take off the grave cloth and let him go.”
Even though Lazarus was raised from the dead on the earth, I sensed God saying to me:
“Take off the grave cloth and let Gabriel come to me.”
So, I asked the nurse if I could remove all the monitors and wires (his grave cloth). God’s peace covered me as I removed his monitors and whispered, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
He passed peacefully with me holding him in my arms and his father laying his ear on his chest to hear the last beats of his heart. Surrounded by sisters, his brother, niece, uncle, and aunt. A family lavishing him with our last moments of love, many kisses, and many tears.
Because of what Christ has done, sacrificing His life, so my son Gabriel could live and because of Christ’s atoning power, I rejoice in knowing, in the end, we get our Gabriel back. So for now, we grieve with hope.
Until that day, you be a good boy Charlie Brown.