Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Easter Sunday, April 20th, 2003, Turns to Prayer for Life

Jen didn’t speak. Her face was blank.

Something was wrong.

“What?” I said. “What’s the matter?”

“Erik?” Jen called out.

“Erik, you OK?” Troy asked.

I quickly turned around to see what they were looking at.

There was my Erik, his back against the kitchen cabinets, sliding down to the floor. As he fell, his hand gripped the silver medallion he wore to ward off bad energy.

“Erik, this isn’t funny,” I said. “Quit playing.”

Then I noticed the blood. Blood. There was blood. There was blood seeping down the side of his mouth. A line of red that will forever be painted into my memory.

His body lay on the kitchen floor, his head tilted up against the bottom of the oven door. He let out a choking sound. Then a gasp. His eyes rolled inside themselves.

“He’s choking,” my Mom said.

Oh my God.

I don’t know who got up first among the four of us. Was it my mom? Troy? Jen? Was it me? I do know that we all reacted immediately and worked together with as much control as anyone could have.

Jen said, “Somebody call 911.”

I was already on my way to the phone. “I’m calling.”

“There’s blood. What’s the blood?” My mom asked.

Jen rubbed my back. “He just slid down the counter. He just fell.”

I was on hold with 911 for a few seconds, but even that seemed much too long.

Pick up the phone, damn it. Somebody pick up.

“We’re here, man,” Troy said to Erik, as he leaned down to Erik’s mouth and checked for breath.

“He must have bit his tongue when he fell.”

“We’re all here.” My mom knelt on the other side of Erik.

“It’s gonna be OK, honey. It’s gonna be OK.” Did I tell him it was going to be OK because I needed to hear it? Was it for me? For him? For Tatiana, who was still sitting in her green high chair watching her father’s face turn colors on the kitchen floor?

Please be OK, Erik. Please be OK.

We all needed him to be OK.

“He’s not breathing,” Troy said. “Come on, man, breathe!”

“You have got to be kidding me.” I started to cry into the phone.

This can’t be happening.

My Mom tilted Erik’s head back. “Check his throat. Is something in his throat?”

Troy searched Erik’s mouth, down his throat. “Nothing’s in there. I’m starting mouth to mouth.”
“It’s his heart. I know it’s his heart.” I clenched at my stomach, just over my blue maternity shirt.

Please don’t die. Please don’t die.

Erik had been back to the cardiologist only five days before. He had been concerned about the intensity of his heart palpitations, concerned that he would die the same way his father died, so he had returned to the cardiologist, even though the doctor had made him feel like it was all in his head. Erik had promised he would always take care of us and he meant it. He had asked the cardiologist to run more tests, at least a stress test, but the cardiologist had told Erik that he needed to ‘get over’ his heart palpitations, plenty of people had them, that nobody had ever died from what he had.

Tatiana pointed to her Daddy. “Uh, uh, uh.”

“It’s gonna be OK, Tatiana. It’s gonna be OK.”

I could not let her watch any more. Erik would not have wanted that. I called out to Jen, “Take the phone. Talk to them ‘till they get here. They’re on their way. I can’t let Tatiana be in here for this.”

I cannot recall the details of my phone call with 911. I do know that I gave them everything they asked for and that, in between my sobs, and watching my mom and brother work to resuscitate Erik on our kitchen floor, I kept it together the best that I could have.

Tatiana and I stood outside the house so she didn’t have to see any more.

I heard the siren finding its way to us, its way to save my husband from what could not be happening. He couldn’t die. He couldn’t. He had to be OK. I couldn’t do it without him.
I held Tatiana close against me. “Look at the pretty lights, sweetheart.” I felt dizzy. My skin was burning with adrenaline.

“Uh, uh.” Tatiana gripped me tighter, an obvious attempt to make sense out of everything she had just seen. Her Daddy’s sudden fall to the floor. The red liquid coming from the corner of his mouth. His choking. His gasps for air. The tears from Mama. “Bubby” holding Dada’s head. Uncle Troy blowing into Dada’s mouth. The panic in all of our voices, our faces. How could Tatiana, not even one-and-a-half years old at the time, make sense out of something that would never make sense to any of us?

We can’t lose him. We can’t.

“They’re coming here to fix Da-da’s boo-boo,” I told her, as the ambulance and fire engine pulled up in front of our house. “They’re going to make it all better.”


  1. Once again....beautiful writing. You asked for ideas, but clearly you don't need them love. Just keep the pen in your heart and let it keep writing. Passion is priceless, your heart knows the whole story and I am in awe that you are able to let it speak about a fresh tale of a princess who made it out of the dark forest and lives to inspire others to do the same.


  2. Your words are gripping. I am in awe of how well you are able to put all of this into words that practically take my breath away when I read it. You truly are the princess who made it out of the dark forest as Stephanie so eloquently stated... Keep writing. It's theraputic for your soul, and it's inspiration for all of us who can only imagine...


  3. I just wanted to share an interesting moment that I had while driving today. This is going to sound strange, but I cried for you today. Just for a moment, my heart was very heavy and the things I have read about your painful loss were brought vividly to my mind. It is almost like our lives have been inexplicably intertwined, if in just the most minute way. I did not fight this emotion. Instead, I just let myself feel the pain, much like I am right now as I am typing this to you. Blurry keys are something I am growing accustomed to in the recent days. Weird huh?

    It is like I want to snatch the pain away from you and let it filter through me instead. I would take on all the pain of the world if I knew it would make someone feel better; someone feel some relief; even just for a moment. I know that nothing I, or anyone else says or does will patch up the hole that is in your heart, but in whatever way I can, I want to reach out to you and be there.

    I must admit that I did not expect your words to have such an effect on me. I am at a loss for words myself about how those things transpire. It has been almost like magic since I came across your story. My mind is alive again with many of the ideas that I have suppressed for so long. My senses are more keenly aware of who I am and why I am on this earth.

    What's more, I am reminded about just how important our relationships are and that we should treasure each and every moment we are with those that we love, because you never know when your last moment will be.

    Your experience and words have inspired me to be a better husband, father and friend and I am eternally in your debt for your bravery in sharing your pain and subsequent joy with the world. It takes a supreme amount of intestinal fortitude to go through what you have been through and come out better on the other side. You are an inspiration and I thank you from the deepest reaches of my soul!

    Chris Burch


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