I Feel Like I Should Warn You: Traumatic Experience

I don’t know how to organize these thoughts, so I’m just going to write.

July 11th, it was a shitty day. I mean the day itself was good. I got to see my uncle, and interact with him on a different level. He didn’t have any medicine that made him foggy or sleepy because he had a doctor appointment at 4. We watched a little TV in the morning, and talked about learning sign language. We were gonna watch a movie that night, because it was Tuesday, and Tuesday was our movie nights. But we were going to watch it when we got back from an intro event, if he was still up. He kept asking about renting Skull Island, but we were just gonna watch another movie because the extra two bucks wasn’t worth being able to watch it two weeks earlier I guess. I feel bad about that. He really wanted to see it with us. He really liked watching movies with us, even if he fell asleep, he just liked us being there with him.

Well, when we got back from the event, everyone was still up, but they were watching some other show in the living room, and we went to the bedroom and waited until a little bit after Nanny and Poppy went to bed. It wasn’t even our main priority to watch a movie, cuz Uncle Howie was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake him.

About 30 minutes after Nanny and Poppy went to bed, Travis and I went out to the kitchen for a snack. It was abnormally quiet. Normally the TV was on… and normally we could hear my uncle snoring. His breathing was actually the reason he went to the Dr earlier. He was diagnosed with a fungal infection and given antibiotics and inhalers to help with the breathing.

It was also weird because the table lamp was on, and he never really wanted the lights on, they bothered his eyes. I just figured Nanny and forgotten and Howie was already sleeping so he didn’t say anything.

When I went to get the butter knife to make my pb&j, I looked through the little opening we have into the living room. Howie wasn’t snoring, and I figured maybe the medicine was working already, but I kept staring, and I couldn’t tell from far away if he was breathing. I asked Travis, “Travis can you tell if he’s breathing??” Travis checked through the same little window area, but we couldn’t tell one way or the other. He had to be breathing. It had to be the medicine working…

I justified not freaking out because if something was wrong the cat would know, right? She’d be freaking out, right? So I finished making my sandwich and I took one bite.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to check. Even if he was sleeping and I had to wake him up, he could just go back to sleep. I needed to know my uncle was okay.

So I went over… and as I got closer I realized how white he was. Whiter than normal…I went to touch him to wake him up….”Howie.” His arm was cold. “Howie…. Howie…”


He wouldn’t wake up. I screamed. Nanny and Poppy started coming out and my heart broke all over again because I didn’t want my grandma to see him. I wanted to protect her from that pain. Everyone was frantic and I couldn’t even process phone, or 911… I just was consumed. Travis got Nanny the phone, and he guided me to the bedroom where I collapsed on the floor. He held me, shaking.. we were both shaking and he held me when I feel like I might actually shatter. I felt the most unstable I have ever felt. My poppy called for Travis… and he told me to stay in the room. Poppy needed help getting him on the floor. He was a very big man. Then I heard the dispatch woman on speakerphone…1-2-3-4 I could tell they were doing CPR, but there was no hope, he was ice cold. I couldn’t imagine being out there. but at the same time that’s all I could think about. My uncle was gone. He was like my big brother…. Uncle Howie is gone.

I saw lights outside the window. Paramedics were here. I yelled that to Nanny and Poppy. I guess Nanny was outside yelling for help. They came in and started doing all of the things they had to do. Travis came back into the room, clenching and unclenching his hand, the way he does when he’s overwhelmed and doesn’t know what to do. He was staring off in shock. This time I got up and gave him a hug. The next two hours I basically hid in the room. Travis would go out occasionally and be there for Nanny and Poppy. I managed to get one step passed the hallway and I saw his body under a blanket on the floor and I had to hide away again.

I felt hollow. I felt like my insides to a run for it.

Then thankfully, the baby started kicking. I was terrified that my scream would somehow hurt the baby. I kept trying to breathe myself calm, but every time I got a breath that wasn’t shaky, it seemed more tears and despair followed. I thanked Travis for being out there because I couldn’t… I apologized to Nanny for not being able to be out there. She told me not to be sorry.

Travis suggested that we go outside for some fresh air. I walked by, looking down and left. anywhere but the living room.

The swell of emotions that I was thinking and feeling were overwhelming. I thought I should call my mom, and Travis was like yes.. I didn’t know. I’d never dealt with this…. I called my mom… I told her what happened. It was peaceful, though, he died in his sleep. He’s not hurting anymore. Ten years he was hurting and disabled (but “not enough” for SSI to help him out a little bit)… he’s not hurting anymore. But we still cried. He might not be hurting, but we were (and are) sad.

We went back inside. They were counting all of his medications. Not just the pain meds, but EVERY SINGLE ONE. They were there for 2 hours…I kept stressing about the fact that Howie’s body was still lying there. I’ve never been around a freshly dead body. I only knew what I’d seen on movies and TV.

The people who were going to take his body got here and suggested that Nanny and Poppy go into another room, because people generally don’t want to see them move the body. Nanny got into eyesight and we lost it again. I told her to come sit on our bed and I hugged her. She kept apologizing for crying but I kept telling her not to. Just cry. it’s okay if I cry too, the baby will be okay. So we cried.

Then the man came and asked if we wanted to go say goodbye. I couldn’t. Nanny and Poppy went out, and Travis and I stayed in the room. I heard Nanny’s heart break again. I grasped at my pregnant belly, a mother should not have to say goodbye to her son like that.

After they took him away, Nanny and Poppy came back into our bedroom, and we all kind of just sat there. We were all tired but sleep seemed like a distant mirage. Except maybe for Poppy. Sleep comes easy for him under times of stress.

We all eventually went to bed, luckily I had Travis to hold me when it got to be too much. He kept me tethered to some ounce of stability. I didn’t fall asleep for a while, and Travis didn’t really sleep. I kept staring at the cartoons, hoping they would take my brain away from the place it was at.

The next day was filled with phone calls and emptiness. They went a couple places, they had to go to the morgue, then to the crematorium, and I answered the calls while they were gone. I had always been kind of apprehensive about answering the phone, but there was a certain level of responsibility. This was a family emergency and I am family. I knew that before but I guess I always thought someone else should get it. Travis cleaned up the house and reminded me I should write the messages down, and comforted me when reality, or trauma slapped me in the face again. I still don’t really want to be in the kitchen or living room by myself. I get lost in my thoughts and I think myself into a hole.

People started bringing food. So much food. I really had only ever seen movies where death was that close… I didn’t know people really brought food. and it made so much sense. How could we cook right now? The outpouring of support was beautiful. It sucked to need it but I’m glad it was there. My Great Aunt and Uncle, Howie’s Godparents, got into town, and then the service was on Friday morning.

So many people came together to pay their respects. Some of them lost him long before he died. I get that they lost a friend too, but they chose when it happened. I was kind of bitter at them. I have compassion for them, and understand sometimes humans do stupid things or don’t realize that their words leave scars… but when people…nevermind. I was and just am a little bitter that they’re choosing to care now, after all of these years. And of course putting it on facebook to show the world how much they cared, and how close they [once] were. My Uncle’s heart hurt from being abandoned from people that didn’t understand his health conditions, but of course they knew what they were talking about more than his doctors. Now they seem to ask for forgiveness from my Grandma… I’m sorry but that’s between you, yourself, and God…because Howie isn’t here to forgive you now. And I’m not talking about people who naturally drifted apart, I’m talking about and to the people who actually chose to sever the relationship they had, because they wanted to be right, or be in control. or save themselves from being close to him when his health failed. because that’s where the real pain is. It’s a lot easier to get over the death of someone who you haven’t seen or cared about in years. I’m sorry your guilt has overcome you. Take it up with God.

The next few days were filled with family and family friends, and lots of food, and lots of tears. Travis has been glue, holding me together, even when it’s been hard for him. He lost an uncle too.

I’m just glad that I’ve been able to be here for my grandparents. I’m glad that I was able to be here while my uncle was alive. I’m glad I was always authentic with him, even when it got uncomfortable, because he knew I cared about him. He knew I didn’t want to dismiss his depression, and that I wanted him to be happy. He was depressed but he appreciated the fact that I cared.

I am sad that he won’t get to hold my son. I am sad that he’s not here to be silly anymore.

I’m happy he’s not hurting.

Overall, I’m sad with moments of acceptance.

I love you Uncle Howie, may you Rest in Peace, and watch all of the movies you want up in heaven, and you can weightlift again, and your body doesn’t hurt and you’re happy. And you can hang out with Shelly. We all miss you but we know you’re in a better place and you can keep giving us little messages if you want.





2 thoughts on “I Feel Like I Should Warn You: Traumatic Experience

Add yours

  1. Oh, Hailey. I always used to joke that my heart had been broken so many times it was held together with superglue and duct tape. I didn’t think my heart could break anymore, but it has. I try and “focus on the good” and I know he is at peace now but I’ve always been the selfish one and right now I just wish he was here.
    I want my brother back. I want my children’s Uncle back. I want my parent’s son back. I want my aunt & uncles nephew back. I want my grandson to have met his really cool great uncle. Howie, you live on within us…until we meet again. Hailey, I love you and am here for you in anyway you need.


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