You feel familiar, but I’m not sure I know your name.
I don’t know why I’m telling you this story today. I need to know and maybe you’ll explain.
It starts with a bracing of your body. Much like when walking in a crowded stadium and you see a guy not paying attention and walking towards you, with no time to get out of the way your body braces for the hit.
Your mind is trying to protect you from something that has torn your life apart. The thought that is too terrible to understand, literally unbelievable. This thought is trying to get into your conscious mind from where you have tried to close the door on it and lock it out of your consciousness. The thought is there in your subconscious, all day long, trying the handle on the door, trying to get in to tell you she’s gone. Just as your mind has a need to protect you from this debilitating fact so you can keep denying the truth and make it through the day, the thought has a need to enter your consciousness and demands to be heard.
I used to joke with my daughter and call her my own Bryce Harper. For some of you who read the Las Vegas thread, you may know that when my daughter graduated from college she came to work with me. Our main buying season was at the summer trade show in Vegas where we could meet with the factories from Italy and place our orders. Alanna started working with me when she was 14. She would go into work with me on Saturdays every 2 or 3 weeks. She started out just cleaning up, then as she got older she took on more responsibility. While Alanna was in college she would come home for the summers and work with me part time, but because, as she would jokingly say, “Dad, there’s nothing but old men at your office who talk about sports all day!” she also worked part time at Chammps, then later at Brick’s in Northville, while she was home from school so she could mingle with some people her own age. She did that until she graduated from Central Michigan in December 2015.
A whisper in the breeze, a rustle in the trees, nothing is as it appears.
The sky is blue, the sun rises in the east, the moon rises in the sky, your children will always be there until you die first. Our lives are built on certain foundations, certain pillars that require no thought because they are constants that we have built our world on. Your child dying before you is in defiance of these pillars of certainty. The sun not rising is impossible, your child dying before you is incomprehensible. It shakes your very mental stability. You begin to question what is real. You question your sanity.
Yet, the thought persists in its attempt to enter, it must tell you that you will never see her again, it has a need to be recognized. The door shakes but your mind braces and keeps the door from opening. A few seconds later, with a bigger push the door rattles and cracks open. Your heart stops and you can’t breathe, but your mind pushes back with greater force and is able once again to protect your sanity and push that thought back out.
The grapes were gathered, the wine is pressed. The glasses were filled…..
It wasn’t guaranteed that when she finished Central she would continue working with me, she did have other job offers. I didn’t put pressure on her, of course I was hoping she would come to work with me, who wouldn’t want to spend the day working in the same office with your daughter? But, I wanted her to make up her own mind. She thought about it for a little while and then said she wanted to come work with me full time. I was very, very happy.
In 2014 I had started another facet to my present business that hadn’t really taken off. I told her if she came to work with me, she could take over that part of the business and we would try and salvage it and build it together. At 22 years old Alanna took it and ran with it. I was amazed at how well she was doing, thus drawing my comparisons to Bryce Harper. She took a few months to get her bearings, but within 18 months she tripled sales in that part of the business. It was astonishing to see. Everybody liked her. She made time for everyone and always had a smile. She took a business that just 18 months prior the accountant was telling me to fold it up and forget about it and she turned it into a profit center that spilled over and actually increased our main business. She built a web site, built the business, made a catalog, brought in new customers, took care of the old ones. The factories in Italy didn’t even bother talking to me, they asked for her when they called or emailed her directly. Customers would stop in just to say hello to her and visit with her. I was so proud. Thankfully, I told her often how proud I was of her. She would joke with me that I couldn’t run this place without her. I think she was right. I don’t know if I can.
I never imagined in my worst nightmare my comparison to Bryce Harper would one day change to Jose Fernadez. Alanna was only 23 years old.
The storm, it can’t be stilled.
A few seconds later the thought is getting stronger. It has to tell you that you will never speak with her again, you’ll never hold her hand again, your family will never be complete again. It has to be heard, it’s building force, you know it’s coming. You can’t stop it this time, the thought crashes in, you’re helpless as the thought devastates you and pushes to the front of your conscious mind. Your body goes weak, your head drops and you start to cry at the thought of living without your beautiful daughter. What little strength you still have is used to simply ask, “Why God, why?”
In the hospital as we sat with her, holding her hand for three days I thought nothing could be worse. Nothing could ever exceed the pain we were feeling. The pain of watching your daughter receive Last Rights and hearing her pronounced dead can’t be described. In order to keep your sanity, you keep repeating this can’t be real. This isn’t happening. Then the affront of the people from the Gift of Life coming in and asking to discuss if they could take my daughter because she was young, healthy and strong.
I was aghast that this woman had the nerve to walk in the room minutes after our daughter was pronounced dead and ask the question. I angrily told her to leave the room immediately.
My wife and son, who are both work in the medical field, had a more understanding view. After a few minutes, my wife explained the difficulty in arranging multiple lifesaving surgeries for people who are waiting for a second chance at life and the need to act fast. I selfishly thought, “Where’s Alanna’s second chance? Why doesn’t she get a second chance?” My son, who is now an only child, had the presence of mind to say to me, “Dad, you know how she is such a hopeless romantic. It’s what she would have wanted. She would have wanted to re-unite a family if she could. She would have wanted to give someone a second chance at life to love again.”
I realized my wife and son were right and Alanna saved 4 lives as she lost hers. We will never know who those people are unless they search us out. I wish they could know how wonderful my daughter was.
The pain I felt in the hospital that I thought could never be equaled is felt everyday as we walk through the house and are reminded of her, as we walk past her bedroom which is exactly the way she left it. When I open the door to my office and see her desk, as I explain to customers everyday why Alanna can’t help them, why she can’t come to the phone, where she is. There is no escape from the thought that makes you question reality and your sanity.
I can’t stop crying, crying someone else’s tears.