Christmas '95 was going to be very special for us. This year both of our children were in college and we had a bad case of empty nest syndrome. John, 20 and in his third year of college, was driving home after his last final, and Kristine, 19, was flying. Both were due in on Thursday, December 21.
I'll never forget that telephone call on Wednesday, 4:00 p.m. from John's college. My husband was outside snowblowing so that John would have a place to park, and I was inside wrapping last-minute gifts. The caller told me that John had died in his sleep from heart failure. Of course, that didn't register -- I thought it was a bad joke. I called Jim in to talk and from that point on was a nightmare. We drove to John in a snowstorm, still hoping against hope that it wasn't true -- knowing that it was. When we arrived at the hospital and the chaplain greeted us, we knew. I wish I never went into that little room to see John -- it's a picture that sits in my head and won't disappear. My darling son was dead.
I don't know how we got through the new few days, but our friends were wonderful and didn't leave our sides. Not calling Kristine that night was difficult, but we decided to have her travel home first. We were frozen until we could tell her, and breaking her heart was very hard.
What we never expected were the hundreds of people who came to say goodbye. He touched so many people in so many ways, and it made us proud that our son was so loved. The many testaments we received about John gave us an opportunity to know a side of our son we didn't know -- the help he extended to friends, the way his professors respected him, and the way his college chums would miss his ready smile and friendship.
My husband and I have a long road to hoe, and the pain, both physical and mental, will be with us for a long time to come. We were fortunate to have such a wonderful, caring and sensitive son and I bless every day he was in our lives. I look forward to seeing John again some day and perhaps getting the age-old question answered - WHY?
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