Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ten Thousand Reasons and More

Continued from Pink Roses, Beauty for Ashes

You can click on the red type to hear these lovely songs and see the slide show of our beautiful son. 

We needed to make those final arrangements that no parent ever intends to plan. We scheduled Roma's visitation for Sunday, December 13, and his Celebration of Life the next morning, December 14. "Celebration" seemed to fit Roma' life better than the word "funeral."

To select music,  I turned to Roma's Atlanta mother, Nancy. Roma had attended church with Nancy's family during the summer of 2014, after God connected Nancy and me very dramatically, as only He can do!  (See the Hound of Heaven series) I love to remember  that season of miracles, once God had opened my eyes to see, evidence of His activity was everywhere.

Nancy had sent Roma to Passion 2015, a Christian conference for 18-25 year olds in Atlanta in January 2015. She had taken him to a David Crowder concert. She had welcomed him into her family and took seriously her God-given assignment of showing Roma the love of Jesus. Nancy had seen Roma worship as I had never had the privilege to witness. She would know what music moved him. I sent her a message before we left for our appointment at the funeral home.

After our not-so-terrible visit at the funeral home, we stopped by our church to put the date, December 14th, on the church calendar. When we entered the office, the entire staff seemed to be congregated there, and  a new wave of tears came on both sides of the desks. The expressions of sympathy were hard to accept.  

Seeing Carmen, reminded us that we wanted her to sing at the service celebrating Roma's life. She agreed eagerly. I told her we were  waiting for Nancy's suggestions. I knew I wanted Ten Thousand Reasons to be part, but that was a song Roma sang around the house, and if Roma could sing it with his three-note range, it was probably appropriate for the rest of us melodically-challenged folks to sing. Carmen could handle something more challenging with her beautiful and powerful voice. I told her I would send the options Nancy suggested when we got home.  Arriving home, I checked and Nancy had sent me not only several recommendations, but also Roma's reaction she herself witnessed:

"He LOVED The Revelation Song by Kari Jobe—he told me one day it was his favorite of all songs and that it brought him to his knees every time. He also shared that it made him cry and touched his soul-we played it in the car all the time! Oh my now I'm in tears again!!!   
Also Debbie—Come As You Are-by David Crowder-that meant so much to him-He cried when we went to The David Crowder concert and Crowder sang it God's Great Dance Floor by Chris Tomlin—Roma would dance and clap-such joy in him when he heard this song.   Even So Come—Passion CD from last year—oooh how Roma worshiped when they played it"  
I know he's with Jesus and that makes my heart leap for joy but this is so much harder than I expected—I loved him Debbie and will miss him terribly."

Who but God Himself could have sent Roma and me such a friend as Nancy?

I thanked her, and was so grateful she knew and loved Roma so well. 

Surprisingly, I remembered to sit down at the computer before I got distracted away, and sent Carmen an email, copying and pasting Nancy's suggestions, along with her commentary on Roma's reaction she witnessed as he sang each song, as I have shared above.

Then I allowed my distraction away from the computer. Bruce called me two hours later, asking if I had sent the email, because Carmen never received it. 

She shared with Bruce that, while awaiting my email, they practiced Ten Thousand Reasons several times, to be prepared to lead the congregation. Then she checked her emails a few more times with nothing from me. They tried to anticipate other songs that might  be possibilities, choosing The Revelation Song.

When Bruce walked into the church, they were practicing it. He assumed they had gotten my email with the information. He was overcome with tears. Then Carmen told him she had never received my email.

Why hadn't she received it?  From my "sent" folder, I resent it, confirming the original time I sent it the first time, two hours earlier. The curious thing was that as Bruce walked into the church, Carmen, being accompanied by one of Roma's peers, Emily, was singing Revelation Song, not yet knowing it was his favorite and the song we would be asking her to sing.

Nancy's other choices we would use for the DVD created for the visitation. (If you haven't seen this, and especially if you never knew Roma, it is worth watching.)  I wanted to listen to each song to chose only three, as suggested by the funeral director.  I started typing into the search bar. "God's" and suddenly "Great Dance Floor" automatically filled in the line, complete with "Chris Tomlin." How strange. Only one word, a common word, "God's" and the rest filled in.

The next song on Nancy's list was "Come as You Are," by David Crowder." Certainly a word as common as "come" would have lots of hits, surely before a Christian song. But again, the exact thing happened. I typed the first word, "Come,"  and the rest filled in, "As You Are," by David Crowder.

One more. I tried Even So, Come, and after typing "Even," like the other times, the rest of the title filled itself in in the search bar. Complete with "Passion."

I've tried typing in those first words since that day, and it doesn't happen, but that week in December, I had my eyes open for Miracles, and God was showing off. I know Roma was close by, trying to give Him orders suggestions. Roma always likes to be the boss. 

Continue with It is Finished

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Pink Roses, Beauty for Ashes

Continued from More Light Bulbs

By December 10th, almost everyone had learned of our tragedy. Tear-stained faces mirrored my own as I opened the door, welcoming well wishers bearing food, flowers, and open arms for hugs, trying the best they knew how to assist the living in dealing with the dead.

They had the same questions I had. How could Roma be gone? He was Roma! Roma was invincible. Roma  always landed on his feet. God met him around every corner. God was still using Roma. How was it possible that Roma had slipped away from our sight, this time permanently?  None of it made sense. Not without God. And what kind of God allowed this to happen? Did I believe what I had always professed to believe about God? Was He still good? Could He be trusted?

Three days after Roma departed, we suddenly had temperatures reaching 70 degrees. In Maryland. The sunny weather helped my mood. In addition to friends pouring their love out on us,  the sun and warmth were another balm for my broken heart.

See the tiny pink rose?
I was standing out in the yard talking to the flower delivery woman for the second time that day. As I turned to go back inside, something drew my attention to the far side of the yard. I walked over to get a closer look. At first it looked like scrap of pink tissue stuck on a thorn on our knockout rose bushes. A closer look revealed that it was a pink rose. It wasn't a perfect rose. It looked as if it had bloomed quickly a few days earlier, with only a few malformed petals. I cut it and put it in a bud vase on the table where all the other florist flowers were displayed. The next day, I noticed two more pink buds. Throughout the week they kept budding. In December. In Maryland.

A pink rose. I had only recently become aware of my apparent obsession with pink roses, when a first-time house guest remarked, "You really love your pink roses."

Sunroom love seat
My dishes
Hmm. As I started to observe, I was a little self conscious of my decoration choices. As an artist, I like to think I have good taste that often runs toward eclectic. I love what I love. But had I overdone the roses?  They are eye-candy for me.  They had "sprouted" so gradually over the years I hardly notice that they now had overgrown the garden, if such a thing is possible. They were on my dishes. My salt and pepper shaker were pink rose buds. In the sunroom beside the kitchen, pink roses covered the upholstery on the love seat, the hook rug on the floor, plates hanging on the wall. A bench, a chest and even the woven wood roman shades that hung on my windows, I had painted pink roses. And ceramic and dried pink roses were here and there. On the sheets where my friend slept, the towels hanging in her room. 
painted tray

Pin bought in Russia, 2002
 Wow, I had overdone the pink roses. In every direction I turned, I could see a pink rose. They had sprouted in my closet, in my jewelry box, in my cabinets, on the walls, on the furniture. You get the idea. My house had become a virtual pink rose garden.

Trunk top detail, painted in 1984

needlepoint pillow

treasured antique dust-catcher
clock face
Yes, those are salt and pepper shakers.

I could go on for pages, but I won't. 

I couldn't help thinking of Roma's wish to buy me flowers for my birthday, twelve days earlier. Now, I had pink roses blooming in December, in Maryland. For a week, I checked daily, finding new and more perfect pink buds every day.

True, it had suddenly become unseasonably warm, so I guess skeptics could argue that roses blooming in Maryland in December was possible. But skeptics would be hard pressed to explain one thing. My precious little pink roses were blooming on my red rose bush.

It was easy for me to imagine the JOY in Heaven as God, with Roma in close pursuit, gave me gifts of love, beauty for ashes. 

This a rose blooming on the same bush today, May 21, 2016. I would have never planted red rose bushes. The builder did. I would have planted pink ones, of course. But then I would never have been so joyful when pink roses started blooming after Roma made his untimely departure in December. He didn't forget me. I was overwhelmed with extravagant LOVE! 

Pink in the background are rhododendron.

Friday, May 20, 2016

More light bulbs

Continued from Singing and Dancing in Heaven

The bubble of isolation I inhabited the days following Roma's death created some divine time with God. And maybe even with Roma. I don't know the protocol in Heaven. 

The silence I had initially felt in a world absent Roma was gradually filled with a different awareness of him. It is hard to describe, but I  could almost recognized an enhancement in the spirit of Roma. He was more than he had been before. I wondered if all the friends who visited with their kind compassion thought I was delusional, out of touch with reality, or if I was relieved that Roma, often a challenge, was gone. How could I almost be joyful at such time of excruciating loss? Or does everyone feel this consciousness of their loved one who has passed?

My sister, Weegie (a nickname  given her at birth by our grandmother) must have also been feeling this consciousness of Roma. Weegie and Roma had "clicked" before they spoke the  same verbal language. 

When Kellie graduated from high school in 2002, a month after we brought Roma home, Weegie drove our mother and stepfather from North Carolina to attend her graduation ceremony in Maryland.  The North Carolina relatives were eager to meet their new family member newly imported from Russia. Weegie is a fun aunt and the tease of the family. Once she sized Roma up as tough enough for her playful style of teasing, she showed her new nephew no mercy. She made funny faces at the non-English speaker,  which delighted the witty boy. He "got" Weegie's humor, which was not very different from his own. After some playful banter between them, Roma's face grew "all business." He threw his finger in her direction, pointing at her for a moment, then pivoted his little pointer back toward his temple, and in a dramatic gesture, circled it quickly, round and round. Yes, the universal sign for crazy! Roma understood his new aunt.

We had called Weegie at midnight as we left the hospital Sunday night with bad news. The next morning she was three hundred miles away and couldn't help us during the devastating blow. Our mother had died fourteen months earlier. Weegie had been her main caregiver in her last years. Weegie walked through her house, wringing her hands, asking God why. Why now,  when Roma was doing so well?  Why, after calling us to adopt him, would He take the boy who was so loved by everyone he met. Then Weegie elicited Mother's help in getting answers. 

"Mom, do you have him? Is he okay?" she repeated.  Walking through her rarely used living room, newly decorated for Christmas, she noticed a battery operated candle was lit. The candle was on the shelf above Mother's urn. "Okay, I guess you have him."
She twisted the candle off, and felt comforted. Later, she went back through, and the light was on again.  "Mom, are you trying to tell him he's okay?" Then she heard a noise on the other side of  the room.  An elf had fallen off the shelf. Then she corrected her words as she relayed her story. "No, it didn't fall. It couldn't have fallen."

"Okay Roma, I guess you're alright,'" she picked up the smiley elf, noticing a remembrance to smiley Roma.  Weegie finished her story, "I will never forget that experience."

Her story reminded me of a post from February, 2015, The Applause of HeavenThe "light-bulb" image came from a casual comment made by a friend who said, "that's what you can hang on to, the idea of the light bulb going on." Wise words from a wise and Godly friend. So "Light Bulb" has became a Sacred Echo, one of many. 

I'm hoping Heaven involves getting answers to all the mysteries that have me puzzled by a world and a God too big for me to wrap my little ant-brain around. One day I might have EYES to SEE.

Now, THAT sounds like Heaven to me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Singing and Dancing in Heaven

Continued from Glory Train

I'm going to take a brief detour. But bare with me, there will be a connection. There always is. 

My sister-in law, Holly, died on May 6 after a five week battle with cancer. Her family and friends were breathless wondering how this vibrant and active sixty-five year old could have ever become so sick. She had always made healthy choices and taken care of herself. Good genes were on her side, as her dear grandmother, Gigi, the first, (Holly was Gigi to her grandchildren too) had died only six years earlier at the age of 104.  And Holly ran. Tens of thousands of miles of daily runs, races and marathons. Holly was the picture of health.

When we learned not long after her diagnosis, that she was failing fast, we drove down to Jacksonville Florida. We were painfully aware that it could be our last visit with this fun and funny woman who had been my "sister" since 1978.

As we prepared to make the trip, I had Roma on my mind. How could we lose two loved ones in five short months? I was remembering when Holly was here visiting about ten years ago, and she rode with me as I picked up Roma and his buddy Lee at football camp.  The cocky confident preteens got in the back seat and immediately begin telling us how great they were, the best players in their groups.  Holly and I exchanged glances and even comments as the two stars in the backseat went on and on, and on, about their amazing passes and catches and tackles.  They were one-upping each other as Holly and I chuckled about those sweet boys in the back that didn't have a humble bone in their bodies. 

Remembering that frozen moment in time, I started thinking about those fun days of Roma's youth and taking him to football practice on those crisp autumn evenings.  He would toss his equipment in the back seat, slam the door, turn the radio to his station, and turn up the volume. I remembered a song that I hadn't heard in years. I suddenly wanted to hear the awful song, because it would remind me of my dear boy. The tune of Ridin' (I had to look up the title) was on my mind, unfortunately, for a few hours as we prepared to leave for Jacksonville.

After an eleven hour drive (thank God cars run out of gas, or my eager-to-get-to-his-destination husband would have never stopped) we parked and tried to find our way into the wing where Holly was a patient. Being in a hospital for the first time since Roma's accident hurt my heart. I couldn't help but think back to the last time we ran into a hospital with heads spinning, asking for directions. It surprised me how hard it was to see Holly laying in the hospital bed, so weak and sick.  Did I imagine I could feel Roma with us in Holly's room? By then we knew, unless God provided a miracle, Holly would be joining Roma soon. I couldn't help but sense he was close. We visited for three hours, then made our way back to the parking deck, wondering if Holly would be alive for our visit the next day.

As Bruce was weaving through the parking deck to find the exit, what song should come on the radio? If you didn't guess Ridin' you haven't been paying attention!

"OH MY GOSH," I said, a little too loud to my shocked husband. "I was JUST thinking of that song!" 

"You know that's not the radio?" questioned Bruce, looking at me curiously.

"What?" I leaned forward to hear an answer that wasn't making any sense. Of course it was the radio.

"It's my Pandora station."

I gasped! Bruce's Pandora stations feature songs by R.E.M., Simon and Garfunkel, Mumford and Son, the Lumineers, Neil Yong. Old people music. Never in a million years would "Ridin' " appear on ANY playlist Bruce would create. 

And yet, here we were listening to a song that gave me a strange JOY. Enjoy Ridin', if you can. Bruce and I laughed as we listened to the whole song. 

In the days after we knew Holly's joining Roma was eminent, I was thinking of that song. Which song would remind me of Holly?  I thought back to twenty years earlier when our families were on a cruise together. I had a picture memory of Holly singing Love Shack and dancing with reckless abandon. 

Saturday night, a day after Holly passed, Bruce and I went to a wedding. While at the reception we left the venue for a brief time after dinner, and strolled around the Carroll Creek area in downtown Frederick Maryland. When we returned, we were in the lobby, avoiding the loud music so we could talk to a cousin who we don't see often enough. She said she had gone back in to dance  to Love Shack," because it was her sister-in-law's favorite.

I thought her comment random and odd, considering she had no knowledge of my thought of Holly linked to that song and she mentioned no other song. But I'm glad she told me they had played Love Shack, otherwise we would have never known it played while party-goers danced, one day, almost to the hour of Holly's and Roma's re-connection. 
(Aside--Is anyone else wondering why Ridin' has over 100 million views, and Love Shack only 7.5 million?)I pray that Holly's grieving family will experience miracles that have given us comfort and assurance for the past five months since Roma died,  that those we've loved and lost are not far.  But really, we have not lost Roma or Holly. We know exactly where they are! They are singing and dancing in HEAVEN! And if we have EYES to SEE, sometimes we get a glimpse beyond the thin veil.I thank God,  for His mercies are brand new every day! 

Continue with More Light Bulbs

Monday, May 9, 2016

Glory Train

Continued from The Sorrow

Before we left the hospital Sunday day, the nurse gave us a number to call. It was an unfamiliar name, but she told me it was Roma's boss. He had called the hospital so many times to ask about Roma's condition, which they were not permitted to share, they had to ask him to quit calling. They promised they would give us his information and we would call him, if we wished. They had given us Bobby's number too late to call him back, almost midnight, but I suspect Bobby was sleepless and  would have welcomed a call at any hour.

The hospital called early to say Roma's brain scan was complete and he was pronounced dead on December 7, at 7:16 am.  Bruce called Bobby, and as soon as Bruce introduced himself,  I could hear Bobby's eager voice asking, "How's Roma?" When Bruce told this stranger that Roma didn't make it, Bobby started crying on his end, as his grief brought a new wave of my own.

Before we left to return to the hospital, I listened to a voice mail from another unknown number. Our new financial advisor who I had yet to meet in person called with a urgent message. She was a friend of my sister.  She sounded desperate, urging us not to give up. Her own son had been declared "brain dead" in 1994. Doctors discussed organ donation with her. But her son survived! He was doing okay, although he did suffer a traumatic brain injury which had lasting consequences.  She said everyone in her office had stopped work to pray together for Roma, a boy they had never met. She gave me this verse to hang onto.  "God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control." 2 Timothy 1:7

Then Kellie called. She hadn't checked her phone until hours after I sent the first hysterical text, and even then didn't accept the diagnosis that the injury "wasn't compatible with life." Not until she got my message asking her to ask her Russian-speaking friend to translate a message for Liana and Lia did she know that it appeared that Roma wasn't going to live. Even then she couldn't grasp it. "Mom, Roma can't be dead. God isn't done using him."

So, with a stranger and Kellie encouraging me not to lose hope, we headed to the hospital, praying for a miracle, half expecting Roma to be sitting up in bed, laughing when we entered his room, telling me I worry too much.

Bruce and I prayed for a miracle all the way to the hospital, an hour away, but when we were directed to his new room on a different floor, again in room number seven, Roma didn't appear to be rallying.  

A friend who is a nurse, Teri, met us at the hospital just hours after Roma had been declared dead. She stayed with us all afternoon. They had cleaned him up. He looked better, like he was resting. How could he be "dead." I leaned over his warm chest, rising and falling with even breaths, and spoke love into his ear. When the nurses mentioned organ donation, I told them I wasn't ready to talk about that yet. Maybe God was still going to give us a dramatic miracle.

Teri, so kind and gentle, told me I didn't have to hurry, that we should let everyone know I wanted more time.  "Maybe it would help if you saw the brain scans." We agreed that that might help.  

A compassionate doctor met with us in a private room and went slowly, image by image of Roma's brain scan. Even though I don't know much about brains, even I could tell Roma's scan wasn't normal.  Although this seemed hopeless, I knew it wasn't too big for God! I asked how long before they harvested his organs, and when they said they would keep him alive for another 24-48 hours before that happened. If we waited longer, his organs might deteriorate. We reasoned that if God were going to deliver a miracle, surely that would be enough time. 

As we prepared to go home, I asked Bruce if we could come back the next day. My dear husband broke down. I realized the depth of his pain. "I can't do this another day," he said. "To sit here all day. . ." Tears ran down both cheeks.

Poor Bruce. He had driven four hours the night before, in silence, having to be mindful of us arriving safely, as I cried, railed, texted friends, made some phone calls. I can only write about my emotions. I'm sure his story is equally poignant. We haven't talked much about that night yet. I know how I felt. I do not know all that went on in my husband's head and heart. I know it was every bit as excruciating for him. He had to be strong for the rest of us. And Bruce is the strongest man I know.

As if our driveway was being observed, when we got home that Monday night, the door bell started ringing. Friends and neighbors began arriving with food in hand and sharing our tears. The next morning, the steady stream of visitors  came all day. And the flower deliveries. 

There is as bubble that encircles people during grief. At least that was the case with Bruce and me. It was nice to have all the people there, talking to each other, as I felt out-of-body, witnessing and not having to participant in all the conversations. I'm sure I did take part, but the "bubble" experience prevented it all from being too real.  

I remember at one point in the dream of that Tuesday, December 8, I was thinking that Roma got on that train that we all will get on one day. How like impulsive Roma to rush to the front of the line. But somehow thinking of Roma on that train, bound for Glory, gave me some comfort. It was a visual for me to hold on too.
One of the talking friends who directed conversation in my direction as I zoned out, said, "Roma just got on an earlier train they we did."
I turned and looked at her. Was she here earlier when I had that exact same thought? No, that was in the wee hours. I think. Did I say it aloud and she heard me?  I wish I could think clearly.  "I have had that same thought. About the train. Interesting."

All these people. I had gotten a notebook out to record the food coming in. All these neighbors who knew Roma better than they knew me. Roma, who never met a stranger, loved people. He always had a kind word and always made people feel important, like he really cared about them, because  he did.

At two we had an appointment with the funeral home. They left us with assignments: to send 75 photos for Roma's slide show, and select music to accompany it. I hardly had time to be alone to go through photos. Everyone shared photos of Roma I had never seen, so many of our choices came from what his friends shared. The woman at the funeral home talked to us at length about Roma. When we saw the completed video days later, I knew Roma would be pleased. It opened with a football theme, and the long pass, just the kind he loved to catch.

In the late afternoon when the house was empty and quiet, sat in my sunroom, where I like to read, and picked up a book by my chair. It was a devotional, by  Louie Giglio. Roma had brought it home a year earlier when he returned from Atlanta. He was proud of his gift to me, which as probably a gift from Nancy in Atlanta. I hadn't read much of it over the past year, as I had my favorites already. But, for some reason, I decided to go to the back, wondering what was written on the day Roma died. "

December 7 began "Be still and know that I am God." it began. That verse had become a Sacred Echo for me in the past two years. When I would go to my War Room, my goal was to get to that place where I could let the world fall away, be still, and listen to God. I suffer from distraction and maybe a little, or more than a little, Attention Deficit Disorder. 

So that Psalm awoke me, and I read with anticipation of something Divine. 

Well, it wasn't bad, it did speak of Jesus' power over darkness and the grave. And seeing him face to face.  I would hang onto that. 

Then I turned the page. That's when I saw it. Photos didn't illustrate every day's devotion, but on December 7, a very encouraging photo accompanied that day's devotion. It was a photo of an empty train track  with a cross in the back ground.

Roma's train had left the station. He was was Bound for Glory. And, in a day of many tears, that image made me smile. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Sorrow

Continued from Ladders and Doors.

The next day, Sunday, December 6, was a laid back day. We were staying at the lake until Monday, but hadn't told Roma. I always wanted him to think we could be home any minute. Bruce texted him to see if he was still working. When he said he was, Bruce told him to be very careful because he had fallen off a ladder the day before. Bruce was not sore the day after his fall.

At 5:10 pm, my phone rang. I saw it was from a neighbor back home. For some reason, her call scared me. In the instant I was answering, I was hoping the call was about wall paint colors. I had helped Robin chose a color a few weeks earlier, and she said she would invite me down to see the room when she was done painting.

"Hey Debbie, are you at home?" Okay, this sounded exactly how our last conversation had started before she invited me over to tell her what was wrong with her paint color choice, and chose a better one. I was hoping she was inviting me to see the finished project.

"No, we're at the lake," I said with my heart pounding, hoping against hope she had paint on her mind. But her voice sounded strained.

"There is a police car in your driveway. He's been standing on your porch for a while, and looking in your windows. "

"I'm afraid something has happened to Roma," I blurted out. "I'll call you right back"

I texted Roma, "Call me!" and a split second later, "Now!"

Nothing. As I listened desperately to the cosmos in which we had experienced profound connectedness, there was a terrifying silence in a universe minus Roma. I could no longer hear his spirit, no longer feel his energy. The frequency that ignited the invisible wires connecting Roma and me was severed. I knew he was gone.  

I called Taylor who was at work, explaining the police in the driveway. I didn't share my sure knowledge of his brother.  He was going to head home to address the police officer.

I called Robin back, asking is she could go to my house and give the policeman my cell number.

A few minutes later, my phone rang. I handed it to Bruce because I could not talk. He put it on speaker as the officer introduced himself and confirmed my fear. "Are you the father of Roma Michael"

"Yes." Bruce said breathlessly.

"There's been an accident. Your son fell from a ladder and sustained a head injury. He is on route to shock trauma in Baltimore. All I can say is he was breathing when they left. You can reach the hospital at this number."

I was already face down in a chair, on my knees, sobbing, pleading with God to rewind the afternoon. Please God, no, please, no, please no."  

Like a caged animal, I paced as Bruce dialed the hospital. I tried to listened to the doctor over the beating of my heart. "Your son has sustained a devastating head wound. This injury is not compatible with life."

This injury is not compatible with life.

Somehow, I already knew that.

In total numbness, I went upstairs and packed our stuff to go home. Bruce called the couple who had invited us to dinner to tell them why we would not be there in an hour, as they were expecting. We walked around the house, and at 6:00, we both managed to find our way to the car. Shock Trauma and the University of Maryland was four hours away.

While poor Bruce drove in silence, I texted away, spraying prayer requests in all directions.  I hated to send text messages to my children, imagining their reaction as they read the grim details. But I didn't trust myself to speak. Bruce called a few people, a friend from church, Lucinda, who would get the word out, and his sister, Holly.  When I trusted myself to speak, I called my sister, Weegie.

It was not like the movies. We didn't cry in long jags. Only in short hysterical spurts. The four-hour ride was surreal, and much faster than I would have anticipated. Our friend Dawn had ask me to text her when we passed our home exit on the highway, because she was  going to meet us at shock trauma with another friend, Debbie.  Someone called to say our pastor Steve and another friend, Kathy were already at Shock Trauma waiting for our arrival.

When we parked and went to the family waiting area, I was in the fog that God must have devised for our protection. I remember talking to a kind and sympathetic nurse, telling her what an honor it had been to be Roma's mom.  I told Bruce that we were not going to have any guilt because we had loved Roma well. I was satisfied that he always knew he was dearly loved.

 When our friend Kathy approached with a teary hug, she was wearing a bright green sweatshirt.  All I could think of was that morning, which seemed like years ago now, as the sun was breaking, and the color I had seen in the sunlight and on a door. Was there a connection? I told Kathy to remind me to tell her about that color sometime.

We were guided back to room number 7, where Roma lay. Bruce thought I might not like to go in and see him like that. But I had to see him. 

He was so warm as I leaned over him, my arm across his chest, to talk in his ear.
Some of his friends called me, having heard the news or having called his phone that the police officer had left with Taylor. Taylor answered the constantly ringing phone and broke the devastating news to incredulous friends. His Fork Union friend, Ben, called, sobbing. I held the phone to Roma's ear so Ben could tell him what he wanted Roma to hear. Then a former girlfriend, Amanda called, having just heard. Then other friends called. How did news travel so fast?

We met with the doctors who confirmed Roma would not survive. They asked about organ donation.  He said that after a brain scan in the morning, they were determine a time of death. 

How could we be calmly sitting around a table with strangers talking about such grim topics as brain death and organ harvesting in the same sentence with vibrant and beautiful Roma?  We headed home just after midnight, with plans to return in the morning.  Hopefully by then we could say this day had only been dream, a terrible nightmare.  But I knew there would be no such awakening. 

"Okay, Bruce," I offered our battle plan, "the next couple of days will be the worst of our lives. But we can make it. Together. God is still good."

My Sunday school memorization came back to me.  The twenty-third Psalm. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and they staff they comfort me." 

We slept fitfully. I was up often checking messages. Sending emails, answering texts.  On Facebook, hundreds of posts about Roma exploded on my news-feed. At first they were vague and cryptic, "praying for your family," messages. Private messages frantically asked what in the world was going on.

I suddenly remembered with a fresh wave of anguish,  Liana and Lia, Roma's first sister and aunt, who we had found less than a year earlier in Russia and the Republic of Georgia. We were now Facebook friends.  I didn't want them to learn on Facebook that we lost Roma, so soon after they found him.  One private message from one of Roma's other local mothers, Lynn, asked how she might help. I wrote back about my  concern about Roma's bio family learning on Facebook, without an explanation. She set to work asking Roma's friends to refrain from posting and/or remove their posts about Roma until I could get a carefully constructed message to Liana and Lia. 

I didn't trust the online translator I used, for it often had odd translations. I composed a message as unambiguous and sensitive as I could and emailed it to Kellie to have a Russian-speaking friend translate it. As soon as I got that back, I sent Liana and Lia messages with the news I knew would break their hearts too. 

Then I posted the news on Facebook to answer the growing concern and questions, and to ask for prayers. 

Continue with Glory Train