Puncture Wounds

About ten days ago we had a fight between two of the dogs in our household. Both large animals, and used to being in charge, once in a while they have a scuffle. Neither wanted to back down, so I foolishly and without thinking, put my arm in to separate them. In the frenzy of fur and flashing teeth, my dog mistook my reach for her collar as the “death bite” and she laid into my forearm. When it was all said and done . . . I realized I had must have been bitten pretty bad. Blood was running down my hand and when I took my jacket off I could see two very deep puncture wounds.

My first thought was: shit. Now I have to go to the hospital and I can’t afford it!! The second thought was: shit. Now Cecily is going to have to be put down for being an aggressive dog. I was wrong on both accounts.

Fortunately, Stacey is an RN. She pulled out her emergency kit and went to work. Within a few minutes, the bleeding had stopped and I was feeling less pain. Twice a day she checked the wounds for me and, to her surprise, they began to heal up very quickly. Each time she said she was satisfied with how they were looking. I kept asking her if I should leave them uncovered so they could dry out. Her response: “No, puncture wounds have to heal from the inside out or all of the infection gets trapped inside and festers.”

She continued on to say that I needed to keep the wounds covered and moist so they wouldn’t form a scab and seal themselves off. I was intrigued by this concept. As a kid, I was always told to uncover cuts so they would heal faster. I told my children the same thing. Always checking the outer condition of the wound without thinking of what was happening inside the flesh. I’m very glad my lack of knowledge never cost my children in their healing!!

I kept picturing the bottoms of the wounds on my arm. How they would heal and become less deep with each day. Eventually, working the healing up until there was no longer a hole. Amazing!! Then the itching began. It drove me mad and I wanted to claw at the skin. I mentioned this to someone else and they said: “That’s just your flesh literally knitting itself back together.” Not quite as clinical as Stacey’s explanations but it made sense to me.

As I have explained before, much of what happens to me passes through the spider web of Becca’s loss that stretches around my mind. We process things through our experiences and perceptions.So, as I often do, the facts I had learned about puncture wounds wrapped themselves around the aftermath of my daughter’s death. How could they not?

The two words themselves are so accurate as to what happens to our hearts, aren’t they? Our hearts were punctured in a single moment. So deep that we are sure there can never be healing. Puncture wounds take time to heal. And, time is all that can help us heal the loss of a child. There are many other ways these two things heal that run parallel in my mind.

The wound must be kept moist so it doesn’t dry up, scab over and seal what’s inside. My heart wound was moistened by my tears every day. For hours I would cry until there just weren’t any tears left. I wonder, can you become dehydrated from turning all of the liquid in your body into tears? (I’ll have to ask Stacey tomorrow.) In those first months, I remember sitting still, and having wave after wave of tears falling down my face. I couldn’t stop them. Now, I don’t think we should. They serve a purpose. Our pain is moved up and out and isn’t left to fester inside of us.
If we don’t start to move the anguish around it will quietly grow into something much worse.

Covering the punctures keeps other infectious material from getting into the wound. We are protecting it from further problems. Our damaged hearts need to be protected, too. There is never a time when a person is more vulnerable, I think, than when their heart has been cleaved in two by the death of their child. Cover yourself with your faith. Or your family. Or your beliefs. Or solitude. Or whatever you choose. Just protect the wound.

It’s going to take time. A puncture wound takes much longer to heal than a cut. A cut heals in a linear fashion. Across its length. A puncture, in it’s depth. This takes time. And patience. And the belief that the healing is taking place even though we can’t see it. Even though it’s not evident as quickly. But we can feel it . . . oh we can feel it.

The image of my flesh knitting itself back together immediately made me think of my wounded heart. We heal in the smallest of places every day. Though we don’t often see it we feel it in our spirit. We laugh, genuinely. Or see the beauty in a flower. We walk into the sun and realize it isn’t making us angry that day. The laughter of children is a pleasing sound again. It’s amazing to have a singular experience wherein we can say: “That tiny piece has changed. Has healed.”

A puncture wound that appears to be healed on the surface may be holding back a very dark truth. Just as if we fake being “more healed” in order to make others happy . . . our dark truth is we are carrying the pain in a way that will eventually erupt. For healing to stick it must be true. And for it to be true we have to handle it enough to make it’s edges smooth.

Two days ago I took the bandages off of my puncture wounds. I am going to have a set of nice scars. It looks like a vampire with a crooked smile chomped on my arm. Even without stitches the skin healed together nicely. The edges are raised and red still. There is a hard bump under each. Scar tissue Stacey said. For the most part, though, I think they won’t be very noticeable.

This, too, is common to both. My heart will heal as my arm is. But, I’ll always have a scar. When I run my finger across my arm, there is some pain when I hit the healing wounds, and it’s the same for my damaged heart. I just have to give both injuries time to do so.

At the beginning of this blog I shared my fear that Cecily would have to put down. She doesn’t. I talked to a few people who work with dogs and it was explained to me that the fight wasn’t about aggression. It’s called a “kennel fight” and happens when dogs are stuck together, in small places, and get sick of each other. Like kids. Cecily is an old lady with arthritis and she needs her space. So, I patiently maneuver the animals around so none of them are in tight quarters.

I was also told that this isn’t a situation we can fix. Rather it has to be “managed”. This piece of truth is also applicable to grief and a punctured heart.

We can never fix the death of our child . . . we have to manage it.

Heal yourself, slowly. You deserve it.

 

Becca, Always

What would you do if it was your last day on earth? If you knew it was your last . . . would it change how you spend it? Does it make you stop, and think, when you realize one small change in your plans could set you on a path from which there was no return? Do the events of the future, lock into place, seconds before they happen? My mind is a jumble of unanswerable questions, tonight. A tight knot of facts and wishes and questions.

What was Becca doing, eleven years ago, at this time? This year, the date matches up with the actual day. This, somehow, makes the living her, feel closer. Achingly within my reach. Like time has folded, and she’s closer than ever. There is a tightness in my chest as the clock creeps closer to “the minute” and I know I have no way of reaching through and saving her.

Eleven years ago, I was working at a restaurant, waiting tables. I am unsure what time I started to feel the heaviness, that told me, life was going to change forever. I don’t know, at what point, Becca’s life turned toward her death. What was the hour that the drunk driver’s decisions turned him into my daughter’s path? Were they entwined from the very beginning? He, born in another country, became the deliverer of her death when he immigrated here? Did I put her, squarely in his path, when I decided not to release her to adoption? Why do I need to know??

The weekend, Becca was killed, she was supposed to go to my parents’ house in Cadillac. Her nana was going to help her set up her new laptop. Early in the day, that long ago Saturday, a Best Buy employee called my daughter to tell her the laptop wasn’t ready. Becca cancelled the plans to drive up north and decided to go out with her friends, instead. Was this the fateful turn?

My lovely, vibrant, beautiful daughter, stood in front of her bathroom mirror, and got herself ready for a night out. Knowing her, she probably blew a kiss or winked at her reflection, before flipping the light off. Did she stoop down and kiss her cat, Sarah, goodbye? Or, run her hand along her other cat, Blue’s, back? Did she shut the door with a, “I’ll see you when I get home!”
How can so many “lasts” happen, one after the other, and we not know what they are??

Ten o’clock, eleven years ago, is about the time the heaviness I was feeling, bloomed. I knew that whatever was going to happen, was going to be big, bigger than me. Was that the time the drunk driver, Joseph, decided to climb behind the wheel? Behind the wheel of a car, he wasn’t supposed to be driving, because he lost his license six weeks earlier from a second drunk driving arrest? Was this the moment my child’s life was slated to end? Is that why I felt what I did? Did my soul know I was going to lose her?

I spent the rest of my shift, restless. The drive home took too long. I remember kissing the boys good night, then going up to bed. Again, restless. Waiting for “it”? An hour, or so, later, my waiting ended.

The room was completely dark and my door was closed. I had fallen asleep, laying on my right side, facing away from the phone. Behind me, near the bottom of my bed, I felt someone sit down. A hand reached out and rubbed my leg. I felt it’s solidness and familiar touch. I lifted my head, looking for my daughter, but couldn’t see her. That was the moment, I knew with certainty, my Becca was dead. I knew, that when I rolled over, the light would be flashing on the base of the phone, signalling a message. The message would be that she was gone. My brain screamed at me to ignore the little red light. It couldn’t be real if I didn’t hear it. But, I had to know.

The words I heard were in my mother’s voice. Chosen words, to convey the gravity, but not the complete truth. “There’s been an accident . . . and it doesn’t look good.” Even now, I wonder about those words. Doesn’t look good? Violent death never “looks good”, does it? Did my mother already know that her granddaughter had been killed?

I called the police department to find out where a crash had occurred. When I had that information, I started to call Becca’s phone. Deep inside I knew she was gone . . . but I still tried to reach her. On the way to the crash site, I kept calling her . . . six, seven, eight . . .times. I am not sure how many times I waited for her to pick up before the line started to go directly to voicemail. I think that is when I started to cry. I often wonder, who was the person who had shut my daughter’s phone off, that night? Was it too hard for them to see “Momma” on the screen when they were investigating the crime scene? Or, did I just call her so much that I drained her battery in such a short time?

I’ve been talking to Becca all day, today. Laughing at some memories. Crying at most. Where she is, does she mark this date, too? Is she restless, knowing what I am going through, worried about me? Somewhere, in the same city I am in, is Joseph anxious, too? Or, does today pass over him with no more meaning than any other? Will he remember my beautiful daughter tomorrow? Does he wonder if I am ok, if her brothers are ok? Does he remember?

I’m exhausted. The grief is heavier than it’s been in a very long time. It’s pressing on my chest and making each breath painful. My eyes are swollen and my face is red. I feel a hundred years old. I’m glad it’s dark out . . . the sun was too bright. I’m envious of every mother who has her daughter next to her. I’m not strong today. I’m frail and aged and weak. My journey has stalled as I sit to mourn my daughter, tonight. I am allowed this time, this sacred space, to mark her passing.

Even though she is no longer here . . . it’s my duty, my honor, to be by her side, tonight. So, I will sit in the candle light and tell my baby girl that she’s not alone, this time. I will wail and I will scream.

Tomorrow, I’ll get up and start walking again.