May 31, 2012
As I write these words I am still not sure what to say. A couple of months ago I felt the same way as I wrote about a young man, Matt Waller, only sixteen years old and how he was snatched from this life in the tragic moment of an auto crash. The point of the story was trying to find a reason to praise in the face of such heartbreak.
As I sat to write the story I thought at first, what right did I have to even consider Laus Deo in the face of such tragedy? If you missed the first story, Laus Deo is Latin for Praise be to God and it is also the phrase inscribed at the top of the Washington Monument. Several times I considered not writing the piece but it simply would not leave me alone and so I wrote what I felt I had to.
It is what scripture tells us to do, to praise God even through the sadness. We are told to look for the good that will come in all things for those that love God but it is sometimes the hardest thing we are called to do.
That is where I am again today. Not really sure what to say but knowing it needs to be said. You see, the month of May 2012 is forever a part of our family history.
The month began with my husband again having heart issues. Nothing terribly major but a major annoyance and something we were hoping would stay quiet. Especially since I had just lost my job and our insurance benefits. Still, we knew we could face the renewed issue. God had seen us through this many times over the past few years.
As we began to make arrangements for my husband to get the follow up care he would need we received word my husband’s father had been admitted to the hospital to repair a broken leg but there was a problem.
Clarence Vivio, Moola to his friends had fallen from his porch the week before and had not awakened from the surgery required to set his broken leg. On May 2, 2012 my father in law passed away.
We began to make hasty arrangements to go north. My husband had worn a heart monitor for a couple of days in the midst of the chaos but his pending heart issues were pushed aside as we prepared to say goodbye to a man that had lived seventy-eight years.
Clarence had out lived his wife Rita for five years and most would say he was ready for a reunion but for those left behind good-bye is never easy. My heart broke for my husband and his siblings, especially his only sister. Is it ever easy for daddy’s little girl to say goodbye? It was hardest for her I think… or so it seemed… but having raised four boys myself, just as my in-laws had done I know they grieve differently… but just as deeply.
The service was beautiful, a Catholic Mass, topped off with a poem written just for Clarence from a life long friend and the declaration from our niece that her grandfather did in fact know Jesus Christ.
She had decided someone needed to ask her grandfather, what many assumed, just to make sure. She had told him she was a Christian and wanted to make certain he would be in heaven with her. When she asked if he knew Jesus was God’s Son and had died for his sins, his reply was, I learned that in first grade. She said but do you believe it? To which he smiled and nodded he did.
As we laid Clarence to rest conversation quickly turned to the reunion he and Rita were having. The time we spent with my husband’s family was a beautiful reflection of a life lived and a legacy left behind.
As we returned to Tennessee we began to slowly return to our normal routine. My husband had a business trip scheduled and I decided to go along. I was unemployed so we decided, why not? I could use a break and he would like the company. Our kids are all sixteen and above so we were sure they would survive just fine on their own.
We had a great time. He went to the conferences while I rested, caught up on some reading and a few writing projects. The four days went by too quickly and as we headed home my husband’s doctor called to schedule a hospital stay the next week. They were changing his heart medication and would need to admit my husband to the hospital for observation. Not exactly the news we were hoping for but after the few days break we felt renewed and faced the challenge with optimism.
The following Wednesday I drove my husband to Vanderbilt Hospital and checked him in. He was fine so I left after an hour or so and went to join our church for the mid week services. The lesson and worship time was great. I left feeling better than I had in weeks but really worn out from the days events.
I talked to my husband, told him good night and went to sleep as soon as I got home. At 3:00 A.M. my phone rang. It was one of those calls you get in the middle of the night and you know there is something wrong.
My first thoughts were of my husband in the hospital, could something have happened? I answered the phone quickly and discovered the voice on the other end was my brother in Kentucky. Our father had just had a stroke and was on his way to the hospital. He and my mother were still in the car following the ambulance. Even though my brother had told me things didn’t look good, I still felt my dad would pull-through. An hour later my brother called again from the hospital in Kentucky, dad was non-responsive and they were flying him to Vanderbilt.
All the way to Nashville I prayed. I knew God could heal what doctor’s could not so I began to ask for a miracle. I arrived at the hospital before my dad. I called a friend that has a daughter working with the Life Flight program at Vanderbilt. I was hoping for some insight as to when the helicopter from Kentucky would arrive. As I was talking with my friend my husband called from his room on the seventh floor. He could hear a helicopter about to land. It had to be my dad. I rushed into the emergency room and after a few minutes was allowed to join daddy in trauma.
Nothing can prepare you for the moment you see a loved one lying in the trauma bay at Vanderbilt Hospital. I had been there before with one of my sons after a car accident but from the moment I stepped into his room I knew he was injured but would be okay, with my dad it was much different, my fears had been confirmed. Non-responsive meant completely unaware or what seemed to be unaware but that didn’t seem possible. He was fine just a few hours earlier. He and my mom had a great evening. They actually fell asleep holding hands she told me later. He had joked and visited with his friends at church that night and had spent the entire day on the tractor in the field.
How could things change so quickly… in a moment? I continued to pray and the doctors continued to advise me there was simply no hope. My mother, brother, one of my nephews and a family friend arrived right after my dad. We all knew but continued to hope and pray.
It wasn’t long till my sister, her son and granddaughter joined us as well. Over the course of the next twenty-four hours several more family members and friends joined the bedside vigil as we prayed to God for a miracle… begged daddy to hear us… move just a little… give us some hope… but finally on May 18, 2012 at about 3:00 A.M. we let go and let God call him home.
An hour or so later I went upstairs to see my husband as my family headed to Kentucky to make plans for a funeral that seemed impossible to consider.
Daddy had been fine one minute and the next… but hadn’t that been the same for Matt… for Clarence… One minute my father in law was simply reaching out to open the door from his front porch… the next he was lying on the ground with a broken leg that would lead to his last moments with us as well.
How things can change in a moment… an hour… seven days… a month?
In those moments how hard is it to always say Laus Deo? Especially when life can be so hard?
I think back on Matt’s parents and loved ones again and how I doubt they will really see the Laus Deo of their experience till they can look back on this life… reunited in eternity with the one they love and lost so young.
Maybe that was why I needed to write about Matt. To prepare me for my own moment of Laus Deo! Through tears.
It is a lesson we all must learn. Christ told us all this life would be hard. It is not a surprise.
And so even now as my own heart breaks…
I still can say…
Laus Deo! For lives lived well.
Laus Deo! For legacies and loved ones left behind.
Laus Deo! For Jesus Christ and the Christ like love shown to us all.
Laus Deo! For the eternity to come.
And again with a heavy heart of grief I struggle but still I say… Laus Deo! For the Month of May.
Clarence J. Vivio
July 21, 1933 – May 2, 2012
Larry A. Wilson
August 28, 1938 – May 18, 2012