‘I awoke with a voicemail from the doctor. ‘How did I miss this?’ I raced to the hospital. I got teary eyed, and said to him, ‘I love you, you are going to be ok.’

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“The night my husband Albert died will replay in my mind like a movie scene. A movie that I wish was not my life. Albert died from complications with pneumonia, an illness most people recover from, but at the young age of 39, my husband was taken from me and our 2- year-old son. Albert was a fighter when it came to sickness. He was born at just around two pounds, and his mother was told he would never leave the hospital, but he did. He had battled a rare cancer called chondrosarcoma that had implanted in his maxillary. He had endured multiple heart attacks, and survived. And he lived with diabetes, chronic pancreatitis, and sleep apnea. There was no way that something so easily curable could take him, but it did.

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I looked at Albert sitting on our couch the morning of Tuesday, January 8, 2019, and was very worried. Sweat was pouring from him and he was shaky. I told him I wanted to take him to the ER, but he said he thought it was just the flu, so he called his doctor. I had to help get him dressed because he was shaking so bad; his whole body was clammy. I got our son and we all loaded into the car. Luckily, our doctor’s office was right up the street. I pulled up in front so he could get out. We exchanged ‘I love yous,’ and I drove off and took our son to Chick-Fil-A to have dinner and play. As much as I was worried about Albert, he was always honest with me and made me feel like I had nothing really to worry about. So I didn’t. When I drove off, I didn’t realize that would be the last time I saw him standing, walking, and breathing on his own.

Courtesy of Brianna Simpson

After an hour or so, he called me and said they were taking him to the hospital via ambulance. That he had been diagnosed with Pneumonia and they wanted to keep him overnight. I was so relieved it was ‘just’ Pneumonia. The doctors were simply using caution because of his medical history, I told myself. Later that night, I had put our son, Theo, to bed but was unable to get over to the hospital that night and had planned on going first thing in the morning. Once Albert was settled in his room, he called me and told me he had been placed in the ICU. That scared me, but he reassured me everything was fine. We told each other ‘I love you’ for the last time.

I awoke the next morning at 6 a.m. with a missed call and voicemail from the doctor. ‘How did I miss this?,’ I thought. I got my son out of bed and dropped him off at a friend’s nearby. I raced to the hospital where his parents were already there. I went in the room and Albert was on a ventilator, unable to talk and very out of it. I was not prepared for that. I truly had no concept of how bad this was. The doctor said that he was septic, and they were going to run a 24-hour dialysis on him. I instantly regretted and felt so much guilt for not coming to the hospital the night before. I sat there and talked to his mom. She told me she had talked to him last night and he had told her he was really scared. I knew in that moment he had hid his true pain from me and had tried to protect me. Albert started making noise and I got up. I stroked his arm and he tried to speak to me and hold my hand. Both of which he couldn’t do. I got teary eyed, and said to him, ‘I love you, you are going to be ok.’

I had to leave to pick up my son from my friend’s house. I took Theo home and got lunch ready. While I was feeding him, Albert’s sister called and told me she had talked to their mom who had spoken to Albert’s doctor and things were not looking good. I started crying, pacing back and forth, and my breathing became very shallow. I called the hospital and demanded to talk to a nurse, while I got Theo ready to drop off at yet another friend’s house. I screamed and sobbed, barely breathing for her to tell me what the hell was going on. Her words were, ‘Nothing has changed since this morning. I don’t know where you got that information.’ I was confused, slightly relieved, but still overwhelmed with emotion. I dropped Theo off and raced for the hospital. I got up to the ICU and his parents, sister, and her partner were there. It was then I realized that the nurse I talked to had not had the most updated information. Albert’s heart had gone into AFib and they were shocking it to bring it back into rhythm. The doctor finally came out, he told me his heart was back in rhythm and he wanted to get a swab into Albert’s lungs to clean out the fluid. The doctor seemed calm and reassuring. But, I also know that is their job. To remain calm under pressure.

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A few minutes later, Albert’s room was called over the loudspeaker, we all looked at each other worried. I went up to the nurses’ station and asked what was going on. She called back and said everything was fine. So, I went back and sat down with our family. About 15 minutes later, his room was called over the loudspeaker, again. My stomach dropped, and I went back up to the nurses’ station. There were other nurses and doctors running towards the ICU entrance. The nurse told me a doctor would come out and talk with me. I paced back and forth. A woman came out and told me to come with her. The halls were completely empty, a blue light was flashing above his door. I got to the entrance of his room and it was chaos. There were 20 people in there, beeps going off, people shouting, people taking turns performing CPR on Albert. The doctor showed me the x-ray of his lungs and the left one was completely full of fluid. I started crying and asked, ‘How could that happen so fast?’ I don’t remember what he said, all I remember is running down the hall shouting and sobbing to his family. I was hysterical. The doctor came out and took us to the ‘special room’ where I was told my worst nightmare. ‘It’s not looking good,’ he said. He told us they tried to get the swab down to clean out his lungs, but there was so much tissue build up at the back of his throat from his sleep apnea it wouldn’t go down. His heart was failing as a result of all this. I sat there so shocked by all these words, by what was happening. I just wanted to see Albert.

We went back to Albert’s room where I watched as they continued CPR. I looked at his vitals, willing them to change, seeing them jump a little, giving me a glimmer of hope. I screamed, ‘You can do this. Fight. I need you. Theo needs you. We can’t do this without you.’ I went up to Albert and held his hand but, I knew in my heart he was gone. They had been performing CPR for an hour, but to me it felt like everything was in slow motion. I made eye contact with the doctor, tears streaming down my face, and said, ‘It’s ok. I know.’ He was holding Albert’s head, and simply said, ‘I am so sorry.’ They finished the last round of CPR and called time of death. 4:56 p.m. January 9th, 2019. I screamed, sobbing over Albert’s body. Making sounds that can only come from the deepest loss, the part of yourself you don’t discover until you experience something so soul crushing, you can’t possibly come back from it. All the dreams we had were gone in seconds. And my sweet Theo would have to grow up without his wonderful dad. It just breaks every part of me. I looked up and saw that I and Albert’s family were not the only ones with tears in their eyes. The nurses and doctors never gave up, and I knew they did everything they could. But Albert’s body was tired. Tired of fighting. He lived in pain every day of his life. He worked so hard to better himself and his health. He loved us with every fiber of his being, and for that I will always be grateful.

Courtesy of Brianna Simpson

As I left the hospital, all I could think about was how am I going to tell my 2-year-old son that his daddy died? This is not something someone so little should have to experience. I admittedly kept Theo sheltered by trying to stay positive, and not saying the word ‘Daddy,’ that first week after Albert’s death. I think I was so afraid, that keeping Theo in a bubble was, in a sense, my own coping mechanism. We packed up everything and moved halfway across the country to live with my parents. We put most things in storage, but 8 suitcases, 4 carry ons, a dog, and a toddler later, we were on the plane to our ‘new life.’ Once settled, I brought Theo into my room and showed him a picture of his dada. He smiled and said, ‘Dada.’ I said to him, ‘Mommy and Daddy love you very much, but Daddy got very sick, and his body stopped working. We won’t be able to see him anymore. We can always look at pictures and talk about him, anytime. It is ok to cry, Mommy is so sad, and I know you are too.’ I then sobbed in front of my son who looked at me with an inquisitive face and continued playing.

Courtesy of Brianna Simpson
Courtesy of Brianna Simpson

A few days later, we were looking at pictures of Albert together, and he pointed and said, ‘Dada gone.’ It was like a punch to my stomach. I looked at him and said, ‘Yes, honey. Dada gone.’ Children are wise, and understand so much more than we give them credit for. I came across a quote, ‘If you are old enough to love, you are old enough to grieve.’ Nothing rings more true, as I look at my beautiful son, who has endured so much. He is what keeps me grounded.

Courtesy of Brianna Simpson

As I wade through the waters of this unrelenting storm, I have so much gratitude. Gratitude for all the people in my life who brought meals, called, messaged, packed up our life, cleaned our house, walked our dog, showed up and helped put together Albert’s Celebration of Life. To the people who continually support me. The ones who check in, who answer my texts, and who listen, even when your own life is overwhelming. I see you. I will always remember your kindness. And to my parents who have provided a soft, safe, place to land while I figure out these next steps of my life. Of Theo’s life. To simply put it, I don’t know what I would do without you. The love Theo and I have been shown is so beautiful. Thank you.

Courtesy of Brianna Simpson

Albert. My sweet Albert. I miss you every day. You once told me that seeing Theo being born would be a death bed moment for you. I will always wonder if that is what you saw, I hope so. I can honestly say, that watching you die will be one of my death bed moments. It is the most devastatingly, beautiful thing I have ever witnessed. Time stopped for that moment. I hope you know you were surrounded by love when you went. I have read that hearing is usually the last thing to go when someone dies. So, if you heard us pleading for you, know that while I am heartbroken, I understand. I see you in our amazing son. His eyes are your eyes.

Courtesy of Brianna Simpson

This path I am walking is not one I imagined I would have to walk so soon. You were 39, I am 32. I am here, being present for myself, and our son, even on the really hard days. I took Theo out for pizza on Valentine’s Day, because that was always our tradition. We celebrated your 40th Birthday with a balloon release and Theo had an amazing Easter. He hunted those eggs like a champ, but I am sure you saw that. You see everything, because no matter what, you are with us. Showing up in the most unexpected places and bringing smiles to our faces when we need it most. I never thought I could be this strong and vulnerable at the same time. I promise to be the rock you always told me I was. I am working on myself, in every sense of the word. I am going forward with my dreams of becoming a Doula, I have been singing a lot more and using music as my healer, and eating lots of ice cream. I reconnected with old friends who take me as I am, and it’s like no time has passed. I even started working part time and taking Theo to swim class. In everything I do, I will honor your life, by living mine, and helping Theo to live his. Theo and I will live out this beautiful, wild, and brave life together, side by side, with you in our hearts. Always.”

Courtesy of Brianna Simpson
Courtesy of Brianna Simpson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brianna Simpson of Fredericksburg, Virginia. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more stories from those experiencing grief and loss:

‘Mommy, what’s wrong?’ I held her face in my hands and brought her eyes to mine. ‘Baby, there was an accident. Daddy died this morning,’ I whispered to my 12-year-old daughter.’

‘Is he gone?!,’ I yelled. It wasn’t my husband. He was so excited to be a dad. He was born to be one. I held his hand, telling him how much his unborn son and I loved him.’

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