I used to be a very spiritual person. I was Faithful in my beliefs. My favorite saying was, “Walk by faith, not by sight”. I have worked in healthcare for almost 20 years and have seen sickness, abuse, witnessed hardships and pain. My faith still did not waiver. I had experienced divorce, watched my children’s pain as they learned to live amongst two separate households instead of WITH their parents. I have survived domestic violence myself. And even the crazy antics that go along with having a husband that has an ex-wife with an untreated mood disorder. She alone has accused me child abuse among other things. Still I was faithful in my beliefs. I have done some soul searching the past few days and tried my best to find the answer to why my beliefs changed less than 10 months ago.October 16, 2014, I walked into my baby brother’s home early in the morning to find that he had passed away in his sleep. He was only 15 months younger than me so until his death I could not remember a time that he was not in my life. He was my first friend, and all my life I considered him my best friend. We did just about everything together. Smoked our first cigarettes together when we were much too young to do it (sorry mom), learned to drive, went 4-wheeling, and snuck a drink of the cooking wine (Yuk! Sorry again mom). You name it; we probably did it, or some version of it. He was who I would call if I was mad, or sad, or happy! Jason was my go to guy.
August 9, 2014 we had a surprise anniversary party for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. The last time we were able to have a family picture, my parents and their three children. I am so thankful for those memories, for that recent picture to hold onto. But with the anniversary of that fast approaching I realize how sad my heart is too. Jason had a seizure at that party. He had to be transported by ambulance to the local hospital where he was transferred to a larger hospital for further testing. Neurology found nothing. He was never really healthy after that, not completely anyway.October 13 was Jason’s 36th birthday. I was working in Urgent Care at that time and doing 12 hours shifts so I didn’t make it over there that Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday I only worked until two o’clock so I took a cake and dinner to my little bro. My parents had wanted to take him to eat Chinese for his birthday but he had a “stomach bug”. When I got there I realized how sick he had been. He had been vomiting blood. You see “old blood” or blood from a “high bleed” looks dark, like coffee grounds. I know that as a medical professional but neither he nor my parents realized. I told him that is what it was but he was stubborn and would not believe me.
I made the wrong choice at that moment, after 7 straight 12 hours shifts plus one half day I was tired and I just wanted to take my five kids home. After I got home I text Jason until around 9:15 and told him to please text me if he changed his mind and I would come and take him to the hospital, he assured me he would. I also told him if he was still sick the next morning I was going to take him to the doctor. He agreed to that as well. Jason did not have a land line at his house and only enough service to text as he lived far out in the country. I decided to go on to bed so I could get up and get to the gym at my regular time; 4:33 A.M. comes early.When my alarm went off I did my usual thing, got dressed, brushed teeth etc. As I was heading out the door to the gym I picked up my cell to realize I had a missed text from the night before.
11:15 pm – “tell them I need them, mom and dad has the key”Oh my God! I had missed a text from my little brother. I immediately called my dad because I didn’t have a key to his house. I was in a panic, waking my husband, throwing on jeans instead of gym clothes. I knew what I was going to find before I got there. I knew in my heart. The person that I could feel with me no matter what, for as long as I could remember was gone. I could not feel him anymore. I waited in the driveway, for my dad. Texting Jason as I waited. Telling him I am coming. Dad knew it too, I could see it in his eyes when he stepped out of his car.
As he opened the door with his key it was like everything around me was in slow motion. The door opened slower than any entranceway I had ever passed through, Brock and Brady his “boys” as he called them, two very large dogs, were walking what seemed like in slow motion as I tried to get past them and make it through the kitchen. As soon as I turned the corner, I could tell. It looked as if he simply went to sleep, sitting in his favorite spot on the couch. He looked more peaceful than I had seen in years. Immediately I could hear my own screams but I could not control them. They were just coming out. All I could do was shake his lifeless body and ask God “why?” My dad, my 70 year old dad had to literally drag me away from my little brother.
My dad and I had to drive out a bit to get service enough to call 911. I called my husband so he would know that I would not be there to get the kids to school. We went back to the house and we waited. Waited on the ambulance. Living in a small town everyone knows everybody. There was something very calming about it as one of the people on the ambulance stood and shared good memories with me. The police officer that came also knew Jason and me in our younger, more “wild” years. He kept saying, “You two were always such good kids”. I saw that Ford Focus driving up the street. It was my mom. Oh God, how do we tell my mom that her son is gone?
My dad and I had to tell her. She screamed and cried the way I had. My dad hugged her and all I could do was wrap my arms around myself and try to stay warm. The next few hours are a bit of a blur. They entailed the ambulance taking Jason to the hospital, me going to the hospital to “identify the body”, calling my sister and our longtime family friend. The phone call to my sister was one of the worst things ever. Breaking that sort of news over the phone and she was 3 hours away. I called; when she answered I could not say a thing at first. I just sat there. She said, “Karen?” and all I could do was sigh. It sounded like someone else’s voice as I whispered, “Jason is gone”. It was the same response as mine and our mom’s, she cried, she screamed. But it was torcher, I could not hug her, she was too far away.
Once we were back to town I had to start making phone calls. I was afraid that social media would somehow tell people before I could. I called my Uncle Leon, my dad’s youngest brother who agreed to call my dad’s side of the family for me and my cousin Shannon who took care of my mom’s side. I had to call Bill, I couldn’t. So I messaged his wife Theresa and asked her to call me. By the time she did I think it was setting in and I was going into shock. She said, “Hey it’s Theresa, you wanted me to call” and I just sat there in a stupor. I could not even think. She agreed to go get Bill at work and tell him in person. I had to let Heather know. She was Jason’s high school sweetie and should have been my sister in law but they were young and never made it that far. I consider her family still and she was a rock through all of this. She would check on me, chat with me, listen to me rant, and let me cry, whatever I needed.
Jason had a simple life. He liked it that way. He was happy enough I suppose. At that point he was not hurting anymore. But I was mad. I am still mad. I hurt all the time, missing him. Life had to go on; I have five children for goodness sake. That was a Thursday morning that we found him. Two days later we went to a soccer game. I sighed with dread as I walked across that field knowing there would be people, People to offer condolences, hugs, with questions. I knew it had to be done. I took a deep breath and walked forward. Immediately one of my friends was standing in front of me, coming up to my left was his ex-wife (they were no longer with one another but both friends of mine), people were giving me looks, smiles. I just wanted to run away, far away. The very first love of my life was coming across the field towards me along with his wife to offer kind words, some tried to catch my eye, and others looked away because they did not know what to say. “Just let me get through this” is all I could think.
The next day was the funeral. We went through the ordering of the casket once Terri got to town. I was adamant about his headstone. It had to be simple and perfect like he was. He would not want the old, “In loving memory” so I asked my sister and my parents and they agreed that the perfect headstone for him, and it describes him to a tee would simply say
Son, Brother, Uncle, Friend
Paul Jason O’Quin
Oct 13, 1978- Oct 16, 2014
We made it through the funeral, most of that I honestly do not remember. I remember that my heart ached for days and it felt like a physical pain that I cannot describe. I remember that food tasted terrible. I remember days of sobbing quietly in the shower so that my children and my husband did not have to hear. It felt unreal, unfair, and indescribable. It still does many days, most days. So now it is this thing, which has changed me. It has made me cold towards some things, more passionate about others. I anger easily at the words, “you do not understand” because I do understand. I now know what it is like to lose a sibling, a best friend.
I have not been to church since. Maybe one or two times I went, but not regularly. My faith is faltered; my beliefs have waivered even though I never thought they would. The anger has not begun to fade. If anything it rises up within me in those times that I KNOW I would have talked to my brother about a problem, sent him a silly joke, or just text to ask how he was doing. I hope he really is in a better place. If you are the praying type, please pray for peace and comfort for me. If not, send good vibes my direction. I could really use them.