Thursday, September 8, 2011

Angel Band

It has been a week since my daughter, Natasha, died.  Adrienne, Alex and I arrived home in Georgia on Wednesday afternoon.  After only a few weeks, this is our home now and Vermont is the alien country.  I tremulously wandered around our condo, reacquainting myself to the familiar territory; I was the changed one.

When I read my notes from before the funeral, there is plenty of anger in them.  I went to her funeral wanting to explode.  I was seeking consolation by combustion.

Speaking for the family, her brother, Alex, eloquently eulogized her.  Heather, Emily, Chelsea and Aleks, friends of Natasha,  read short eulogies, each one a beautiful expression of the greatest emotion two people can share, love.  In an attempt to make us feel the love she felt for Natasha, Aleks asked us to grab the hand of the person next to us, or hug them if we wanted.  Suddenly, the air in the church went from stale and oppressive to cleaner, fresher, and even sweeter.

The anger is still there, but there is something new growing there.  After the grave-side service, I looked at all the people that had come to say good-bye to her body and again felt that refreshing wind of love for Natasha.  These men and women loved her dearly they came to this dismal, wet cemetery to say good-bye to her body, to tell her one last time that they still loved her.

That new feeling was peace, is blossoming and growing in my broken heart.  In Natasha's short life, she had surrounded herself with a cadre of true friends to help her through her too short, tumultuous life.  They were a living memorial to her, one of her greatest achievements.

Natasha's death was an obscenity.  At the time in her life when she appeared to be turning herself around and starting to utilize that great potential she possessed to help herself and her daughter, Mercedes, she died a horrible death.  It was hard  to see, among the people coming to honor her life, some who had a part, however distant, in my daughter's death.  I felt a very un-Christian like pleasure in the thought that if they didn't change their ways, the weeping would be for them next time.  That thought quickly turned to  compassion for their parents; they would be the ones tasked with surviving beyond their children.

The timeline of her death began as Vermont was buffeted by Irene.  The intense neck and shoulder pain she was experiencing had been treated as muscle related by the local hospital-twice.  On Wednesday, she posted on  facebook  that she called 911 and had the ambulance drive her to Fletcher-Allen Hospital, in Burlington.  Shortly after being admitted, she was sent to the medical intensive care unit and placed on a respirator.  In e-rays, her lungs so filled with fluid that they appeared totally white.When we spoke, long distance, to her nurse, she urged us to come to Vermont quickly.

A we struggled to get from Georgia to Vermont,  Natasha's health declined; an abcess was found in her spine, causing a massive, systemic infection and caused of her acute respiratory distress.

By the time we arrived,early Thursday evening,  she was in a medically induced coma and receiving IV antibiotics and medicine to keep her blood pressure up.  She was 100% dependent on the respirator to breather.  Adrienne and I struggled to get close to her around the monitors, machines and countess wires and tubes, the apparatuses that were helping her struggle to stay alive.  She was in the bed, unconscious but panting, foam blocks elevating her feet.  Her face and arms were hard, swollen and cold from the fluids they had been putting into her.  She had the respirator's tubes in her mouth, held in place with tape. I wanted to touch her cheek and feel its smoothness under my palm.

The ICU doctor told us that they had finally stabilized her oxygen level and blood pressure, but that she was in too delicate a condition for do much else. Even though she had the advantage of being young and strong, he was obviously trying hard not to give us much encouragement.  "She is very sick," he kept repeating.

During the night, as Adrienne stayed by her side, she developed a fever.  In the morning, it was decided to take steps to close the absess, but she was too weak tolerate being moved to the lab for a MRI.  The MICU staff struggled for over ninety minutes to resuscitate her, but the damage to her system from the infection was too great.  She was dead by three.

It has been a week of anguish for me, trying to imagine my life without her.  And I wondeer, did I cause her death?  Was I a poor father to her?  If I had been different, she might have been different, and perhaps lived to achieve the things she really wanted.

Tonight, at an Alanon meeting, I shared that I don't have to worry about her anymore, or thing aboutthe bad things; I can choose to hold onto the great things, because they remind me of her, my daughter, the greatest love of my life.

I believe in God.  The God I worship is good; He does not do evil things.  He was not responsible for Natasha's death; and I believe that there will be good to come from it, somehow.  God did not "take" her from us, the events and circumstances of her life did.

Earlier this year, I visited Dad's grave for the first time since his death in 2007.  I was ho;pi9ng to find something of him there, to tell him of my life and my recovery.  I realized I felt awkward and stopped, he wasn't there, he had gone on to his eternal home.  I want to believe that when  Natasha woke in heaven, he was there to welcome her to her eternal home.

My latest sun is sinking fast, my race is nearly run
My strongest trials now are past, my triumph has begun
Oh, come Angel Band come and around me stand
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home

Oh bear my longing heart to him who bled and died for me
Whose blood now cleanses from all sin and gives me victory
Oh, come Angel Band come and around me stand
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home
Oh bear me away on your snow white wings to my immortal home

More lyrics:


  1. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for sharing this. You don't have to worry about her anymore. And coming to terms with this is incredibly hard. Children should not die before their parents, but it happens, and it is hard. Love to you,


  2. Hey, Michael---it's me, your friend in VA. Still thinking of you here, and trying to process your loss. Someone said the only way to fully grieve a loss is to experience it fully. I'm afraid this might be true. You're headed to uncharted waters with this one, but your friends are there on shore, beacons of light in the night. We all love you!

  3. much love from the Nagle/Keck/Terilli fam

    we love you mike call us if you want to talk