When I first found out about 9/11 I was on an elevator at the Hilton Towers on Michigan Avenue, heading up to their indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool in my bathing suit.
There was a TV monitor inside the elevator and a man who got on just as I was about to get off pointed to the screen and asked, “Have you seen this?” I responded, “It looks familiar—it’s Manhattan, right?”
The sweat-filled man had just come from the hotel gym and said he had witnessed the beginning coverage of a plane attack on the World Trade Center from a monitor over his treadmill.
My first reaction was, “I got to go call my friends back in Manhattan!” Of course, it wasn’t long before the phone lines were all tied and everybody around the world knew what was transpiring.
I remember I prayed after watching the two towers implode before me as I sat by myself on the edge of my hotel room bed, “Dear Jesus, I get it now. I’m going to get serious with my life. There’s no time to waste. The evil out there is HUGE and tons and tons of people are dying and going to hell.”
The very next month, just after I’d had a light-hearted phone conversation with my dad (who lived by himself in Ohio) from my home in Manhattan, including our sharing of tidbits about the Anthrax Scare, my dad, who told me he’d been on a four-day fast (something he regularly did for many years), fell down in his living room, broke his hip and died a few days later of an undetected stomach aneurism.
Of course, my world was rocked BIG TIME! It was like I had my own 9/11! I had never before felt sudden death and this was the person I loved most along with my mother!
The last big death for me had been my grandmother’s in 1995 but she was 86 and had been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, spending six-plus months in the care of her daughter and my sister at her home.
Last spring, one of my closest friends from my whole life died suddenly after falling down backward on a long marble staircase and fracturing his skull. He had been in perfect health.
A week ago now, my mom called and told me her husband, my step-father since 2003 and her boyfriend since 1995, had suddenly gotten pneumonia, leading to congestive heart failure, and that he was being moved to a hospice and could die any day.
Only this past month I went home for my mom’s birthday (June 19) and saw my step-father at home recovering well after he’d been released from a rehab center for Sciatica trouble. He was getting better until a new physical therapist came to the house and gave him some exercise with rubber bands around his kneecaps that caused him to throw his hip out.
Oddly enough, it was during this same visit to my mom’s in Ohio that my brother called with the news that my 99-year-old great aunt (the only one left from my grandmother’s family) finally died after a year struggling valiantly in a nursing home.
She had been living independently for years and it was only after she slipped on the ice driving down a mountainous country road coming home from an early Sunday morning church service and veering off the road that she had to be institutionalized with multiple bone breaks, etc..
Also last month, I got the horrible news that a very dear friend of mine in Chicago, who suffers from a brain injury resulting from a mugging 10 years ago inside the Sears Tower parking lot, was reported missing by his wife. He was later submitted to a psychiatric ward for two weeks and is still facing much emotional/physical turmoil.
Now, just the day before yesterday, my mom called me late in the evening to tell me my sister, who has been dealing with very disturbing short-term memory loss, had been hospitalized and placed in the psychiatric ward for her own problems relating from a brain injury she suffered two years ago after leaving her job as a Greeter at Wal-Mart and falling and hitting her head on the parking lot curb. She is now being tested for Alzheimer’s-related symptoms.
Today, in my tears, I opened an old hymnal of mine and flipped the pages, finding the song, “Tell It to Jesus.”
The first verse goes, “Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted? Tell it to Jesus, Tell it to Jesus; Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus alone. Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus, He is a friend that’s well-known; You’ve no other such a friend or brother, Tell it to Jesus alone.”
Last winter, when I thought I was going to die of other heartbreak, I had a conversation with my preacher (Richard Jordan) in which he told me, “Depression results from two things: Unrealistic expectations and misplaced dependencies.”
I remember I responded by telling him I thought my problem was loneliness. He said, “Well, that’s a separate issue.” I guess it is.
(Editor’s Note: Just getting back to my writing and thank you for hanging in there with me given the big lapse since my last posting. I am now ready to get cranking again so please come back tomorrow)