Last year Pop mentioned for his 80th birthday he wanted the family to all come together and stay at his house like we had done 10 years prior when we went on a family cruise. We all piled in the living room with air mattresses from wall to wall and pretty much spent most of the night goofing off and not sleeping. It was one of the best nights we'd had all together. So we all got planning. With everyone's busy schedules we figured out that June would work (even though Pop's birthday was in March). We booked our plane tickets December 31 last year.
Fast forward to Mother's Day weekend. I got a call that took the breath right out of me. It was my dad and he was upset. "Pop's got brain cancer". The information took a minute to sink in. He explained what he knew at that point (not much). After more testing and more conversations with Pop and Grandma we found out that it was lung cancer. Stage 4 that had spread to his brain. The diagnosis came after pain and twitching in his arm. He was literally on the golf course one day and then sitting in a hospital bed with a chest tube the next. As soon as the diagnosis came our family banded together. We started a group facebook message so we could all keep up with the load of information coming from Florida. My Aunt Ree flew down to be with my grandparents. She was our line of communication. Once we knew that there was a treatment plan in place plans came together so Grandma and Pop didn't have to be alone. My sister, Aunt, cousin and dad all went to Florida to help get Pop to and from treatments and doctor appointments. They relayed test results and asked questions that we had from here at home. The party was still planned and Pop said he still wanted it to go ahead, even though he had finished 15 radiation treatments and 1 round of chemo.
I think we were all a little shocked when we got to Florida. Pop would talk a good game on the phone and Skype but to see him in person was another story. The great-grandkids were so excited to play with Pop. My niece and nephew were just at his house last September and he was throwing them around the pool. This time he didn't even come outside. One day he did sit inside and watched through the glass doors. The kids didn't understand why Pop couldn't come play in the pool with them.
Saturday morning we arranged to have a photographer come to the house to take family photos. We had so much fun. We laughed a lot. From funny faces to jokes about being put on the end (easy to cut out, ha!) we all had a great time. For me it was a highlight of the weekend. Later that evening was Pop's birthday dinner. The family as well as some more cousins went to Kally K's. Pop wasn't feeling well and was very hot. The restaurant was nice enough to get a fan for the room to keep Pop more comfortable. We ate and laughed, sang happy birthday and had cake and even sang a fun song composed of "Pop-isms". We all went back to the house to spend some more time with each other. Some of us went swimming, some sat with Pop inside the den. It was a great night.
The next morning I received an email from the photographer. She had worked Saturday to get our pictures edited and send to us so we could all see them together, as a family. After breakfast the kids wanted to go in the pool. Nick took them in. My family was going to leave to head to my in-laws house around 1pm. Once the family was all together I hooked up the computer to the tv so we could all see the pictures together on the big screen. After about a minute of watching pictured Nick had me come get Cameron. He was getting ready for a nap. Nick stayed in the pool with AJ, Cole and Brynn. At some point Elijah joined them. Cameron was sitting wrapped in a towel watching the pictures with some of us when we heard screaming. I didn't recognize the voice. Then we heard my Aunt scream and come running "Elijah is having a seizure". I moved Cameron off of my lap and went running with pretty much everyone in the room. I realized as I was heading towards the living room that it was Nick who was screaming. I've never, ever heard a scream like that from him, not even on the night we lost Ryan.
As I got outside Elijah was being pulled out of the pool. He was at the end of his seizure. My sister was already by his side and rolled him over to get some water out of his mouth. I hadn't realized it at first but he had the seizure while in the pool and was under water. I was comforting Nick for a minute, when I turned back around my sister was doing chest compressions. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I was trying to help however I could.. I got a towel to put under Elijah's head. He was bleeding but we didn't know where it was coming from. Every time Lauren did a compression more fluid came out. My Uncle was at Elijah's head and was giving him breaths. I will never forget that sight. There was something about his actions that will always stick with me. He was trying so hard. He was so focused on saving his son. He didn't think twice that there was vomit or blood or fluid coming from Elijah. He was trying to save his son's life. We continued with cpr and could finally hear sirens outside. There was finally a pulse and Elijah was trying to breathe. We were pounding on him pretty hard between compressions and hitting his back to try to get the water out. When he was breathing again it sounded like he was moaning. You could tell that it was taking a lot of effort for him and you could still hear the fluid in his lungs.
The paramedics came and got him on the stretcher and took him to the ambulance to work on him. They had to intubate him. They left for the hospital with my Aunt and Uncle following behind.
We got the call about an hour later. Elijah coded again in the ambulance on the way to the hospital and they were never able to get him back.
The family all headed to the hospital. I stayed behind with Nick and the kids to be with Grandma and Pop.
Through everything that's happened I cant be more proud of my family. Everyone has come together to help with Pop. Whether it's an idea or suggestion or a question for the doctor. We're many people all working toward a common goal. Many families would fall apart with dealing with the situation but it's been just the opposite for us. We've grown closer. And even on that Sunday as we tried to save Elijah -- everyone did their part, some were outside on the pool deck, some were out front waiting to flag down the ambulance, some were with the little kids trying to shield them from all the confusion and some were with Pop. Everyone did a job and no one had to tell or ask them to be doing something.
We all came together this last weekend at Elijah's wake and burial. We all leaned on each other. It was sad to have to say goodbye to Elijah, especially at such a young age and under the circumstances but I honestly feel that he's at peace. I feel in my heart of hearts that he wanted to be the one waiting for Pop in heaven. Make no mistake, I don't think Elijah got in the pool knowing something was going to happen and none of us know what the future holds for Pop but one thing I do know is that when they meet again that's going to be one hell of a reunion (and hug!)