An Exercise in Loss – Part 1: The Move

My Day 4 Writing 101 Assignment (We are asked to write about loss. It could be anything from small to great. Only, we need to do it in 3 parts. Each part will not be posted consecutively, but the story will continue.):

It was the tail end of summer in 2007. Fall was a mere week or so away, but the air was still oppressive and thick with its heat and humidity. I was used to it after many years, but every now-and-then it would get to me. Of course, the atmosphere at work might have had something to do with it. It was oppressive and thick with stress and worry. Contracts were drying up and the one we were working at the moment would be complete by the end of the month.

My daughter’s second birthday would be next week. The in-laws would fly in just a couple of days before that. Needless to say, our house buzzed with activity. Preparations were made, clutter was vanquished, and my mind was successfully removed from my work situation.

The next day changed all of that.

I went to work and put myself to the task immediately. My entire department was relatively quiet. The clatter of keys on keyboards mixed with softened murmurs of questions asked and answers given were the only sounds heard. Within the second hour of the day, all of that stopped. Everyone was called into the conference room. Everyone, except for me.

Half an hour passed and somber faces emerged. The entire department had just been laid off. Everyone had to pack their things and leave before the end of the day. Everyone, except for me.

And my boss called me into his office. He wasn’t a young man, but today he looked like he had aged twenty years. He sat behind his desk and leaned back in his black vinyl office chair.

“Russ. I had to let everyone go. Corporate…” He stopped himself. I know there were some things he wanted to say, but he reserved himself. “I was able to keep you, because you’re the only one who can really finish this contract. After that, though…” Another pause and he let out a deep sigh that must have been welled up inside him a long time. He wiped both hands over his face. “I have nothing for you here, after that. It gives you a month.”

There were more things said, but I don’t remember them. My mind left his office long before my body decided to join it. I was grateful that I had the month. My coworkers never had that chance. But, I was also scared. I was scared, because I knew that no one in town was hiring.

No one.

I started my search aggressively. Every reference I had, every contact ever made was used. Calls were made to cities far away, and I had some potential opportunities. My daughter was getting sick, though. Really sick. Scary sick.

My daughter was born ten weeks early and, somewhere between the last ultrasound at 28 weeks and her birth at 30 weeks, she developed a brain bleed. This led her to have a condition known as hydrocephalus. By the time she was seven weeks old, she had had two brain surgeries. The last one placed a shunt in her brain to help drain the build-up of spinal fluid from her brain into her abdomen cavity. You would never know to look at her.

Now as we approached her second birthday, the symptoms were starting to rear their ugly head. She was lethargic, and she would vomit. It was like clockwork. She would vomit and be miserable, and then days would pass where she was fine. And then the cycle would repeat itself. Her pediatrician was worried her shunt was malfunctioning. Her neurosurgeon said it was constipation. We had to wait and watch.

My wife’s parents arrived, and it was a welcome relief. The stress of my daughter’s health and the stress of my job were taking their toll on us and my in-laws were a calming and comforting effect.

A couple of days later, my daughter’s birthday arrived with as much pomp and praise as we could lavish on our little princess. We had booked her party at the mall where there was an indoor carousel. There was a particular white horse with pink mane that she was fond of and everyone loved the giant cookie cakes from the cookie baker in the food court. All our friends came with their littles and we had a time of pure joy and laughter. Everyone, except my daughter.

She sat in her stroller, slumped to the side. Miserable. She watched everyone make a fuss over her, and she clung to a blue Carebear that someone gave her, but she was not at the mall. She was far away. My wife’s parents decided to take her for a stroll around the mall so she could look around. She vomited.

I had had enough. My wife had had enough. We called her neurosurgeon and we demanded that she see our daughter. We went in, and the celebrated doctor insisted it was not her shunt. We were left with no answers, again.

Unfortunately, my in-laws’ time with us had to come to an end. They didn’t want to leave, we didn’t want them to leave, but there wasn’t anything any of us could do. The stress was mounting again. My wife and I were being crushed under its weight.

My boss called me into his office the next day. A job with the company opened up and they wanted me for it. The only problem was, it was over 900 miles away. 900 miles in a place I had never thought about living. It wasn’t that I was against it, but it was never on my radar. Another company was courting me also. It would need me to move, too, but not as far and not as alien. I thanked him and told him I would think it over. He understood.

I got home that night and found out the neurosurgeon had called just minutes before I walked through the door. The particular shunt in my daughter’s head was having problems. She had performed five surgeries on kids with the same shunt that week. My daughter needed to come in and get her shunt replaced, and she needed to get it done quickly.

The time blurred for me. I can’t remember specifics any more. Another surgery. Two years old and my daughter was having her third brain surgery. My job was leaving me and all the options I had took us away from this home we knew. We had just bought our house a few months before our daughter surprised us with her early appearance. The housing market was crashing. It would not be easy to sell.

I found myself in the middle of the hospital hallway, just down from where my daughter slept prior to her surgery. My wife was in there with her. One of the jobs I was considering decided to call me right then. They wanted me to fly up to their offices that weekend. I don’t remember what I told them. I hung up my cell phone and I looked toward where my daughter lay. I could see my wife standing near her bed. No one else was around. Strange, but it was quiet for the moment.

I fell to my knees and I cried out with all the anguish and frustration that had clung to me like a boa constrictor that just waited for my bones to crack and my soul to leave this shell. I don’t know if I did it audibly. No one came to me. No one took notice of me. No one, except the one I cried out to.

God heard me. He heard my cries, and he told me that everything would be all right. He showed me all the things I couldn’t see while I was blinded by stress and anxiety. My daughter had the best neurosurgeon possible. A woman celebrated as a pioneer who happened to come out of retirement to work at the hospital where my daughter would eventually be born. A job waited for me, 900 miles away, but one that would provide me with security and stability in ways I didn’t know yet.

Time passed quickly after that night. My daughter bounced back after her surgery and was the ball of energy she used to be. I took the job that took me so far away, but it had more to offer.

It was insane. We left just weeks after my daughter’s surgery. We drove the 900 plus miles to our new home. Our new life. We saw how God had provided every step of the way, and we leaned in a little more toward him.

It was a stressful move, but we were glad for it. We didn’t see, then, that this was just the beginning. There would be more times ahead of us where we would need to lean into God. And he proved himself faithful with each one.

14 thoughts on “An Exercise in Loss – Part 1: The Move”

  1. Geez…I cried when I read your story. I don’t know what to say. I haven’t been able to make myself start writing on this subject yet, because it would easily get so personal. I guess I’m a little scared of the vulnerability that comes with writing from the heart. Thank you for sharing this. It’s amazing how things works out in ways we can’t see in our wildest imagination.


  2. For all the stress and sense of loss you were experiencing through this time in your life, I love how the end result was loss of ‘yourself’…being able to give it all to God. I appreciate this post so much, though I’ve never experienced anything like it.


  3. I am so glad they were able to help your daughter by changing out that shunt. This is a very powerful testimonial. I’m hoping your future is bright and filled with good health and happinessfor all!


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