Sunday, September 18, 2011

Unfathomable Loss

More than once, my sister and I told the woman who married our brother that we got the best end of the deal. And for 33 years, we were reminded how fortunate we all were that she chose him and became part of our lives, too.

We spent nearly every Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving together. We celebrated births and birthdays, First Communions and Confirmations, graduations and anniversaries, and showers and weddings (including my niece Kate's a year ago Saturday). And while there also were sad times shared over those three decades, we are blessed that so many of our interactions involved joyful occasions.

Neither my sister Judy nor I can recall even a single instance when our beloved sister-in-law said anything negative about another person. Jennifer Remick was a woman who personified grace and compassion in everything she did. Tall and thin, she was almost regal as she moved through life with a dignity I admired. Kind and thoughtful, she also was a woman of strong convictions that did not waver.

Jennifer possessed a delightful sense of humor and when I recall the occasions when she giggled so much that she could barely speak, I cannot help but smile. I also will never forget the Thanksgiving we played a truth vs. lies game and were all shocked to learn that the movie character she most would like to be was “Lara Craft, Tomb Raider,” partially because of the great outfits but mostly because of her adventures.
Jessica, Jen, Kate and Amy
Known alternately as Jennifer, Jen and sometimes Jenny, she loved flowers and her gardening skills were almost intimidating. She enjoyed long walks, and admired good books, music, movies, theater and art. And she adored her four children -- Jessica, Ben, Kate and Amy; the people they loved; her two beautiful grandchildren; and her large extended family. She had many close friends and was a woman of great faith. And she and Mike were truly partners in business and in life.

It still seems inconceivable that such a life could end at the age of 55 as a result of a bicycle ride on a paved path in a beautiful setting on a gorgeous September day just a week ago today.

Riding down a steep hill, she braked for an unknown reason and flew over the handlebars, suffering a traumatic brain injury and then a stroke. My brother swerved to avoid her and also went over the handlebars, resulting in a central chord syndrome injury that initially left him paralyzed at her feet. We don’t know how long they lay on that path, Jen unconscious and Mike crying out to her and unable to reach her, before they were found.

As he drifted in and out of consciousness, he was able to tell the stranger who found them where to find his cell phone and wallet. He stayed with them until she was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Mike was transported to a local hospital before also being airlifted there.

We joined other family members in rushing the two hours north but it was too late for Jen. The next day she was declared brain-dead and because she was an organ donor, her final gift will help many others.

I was privileged to be present when three members of the organ removal team visited my brother's hospital room afterward to thank him and the family for her lungs, kidneys, liver and skin tissue. They were so sensitive and compassionate, and wanted to see her photo to know more about Jen. They told us how they have a moment of silence in the operating room before surgery begins, how she was treated with love and respect, and how much of a contribution she and the family had made to others. In a few weeks, we will be advised where the organs went and if the transplants were successful.

So if you have not made the decision on whether to be an organ donor, please, please consider this. Although my brother faces an extremely long road ahead in recovering the use of his limbs, and he and his children continue to struggle to mend their hearts, knowing how much Jennifer’s life will continue to help others offers a bit of hope and much solace even in our great grief.

To learn more about becoming an organ donor, visit www.organdonor.gov

9 comments:

Chris said...

AMEN.

Lorraine_Bartlett said...

Pat, I'm so sorry for you loss. It sounds like she was a wonderful person and your family was enriched by her presence. You will be in my thoughts a lot during these next days and weeks.

Ramona said...

Pat, this was a lovely tribute to a lovely person. Jennifer-Jenny-Jen was a gift to your family.

I will keep you, your brother and family in my thoughts. My sincere sympathy goes out to all of you.

Diane said...

What a wonderful tribute to Jen in your blogpost. My heart goes out to you and your family at this time.

Robin Hagey said...

What a heartbreaking story, Pat. My thoughts are with you all.

Julie said...

Pat, what a wonderful tribute. I am so sorry for your loss, and am thinking good thoughts for your brother.

Kate Flora said...

Pat...I, too, have wonderful sisters-in-law, both of whom I consider precious gifts. And I am so sorry for your loss and for your brother's.

And you can be sure that I carry my organ donor card in my wallet at all times. It seems like such a small thing that can make such a huge difference.

Thanks for writing and sharing this. I believe we honor those we've lost by creating such positive memories of them, and by sharing those memories so others can appreciate the special people they were.

And I have lost a sister, too, and I still feel that hole in the world, even though it has been many years. I stay in touch through her children, trying to remind them of what a wonderful mother she was, and by taking pride in the great young adults they've become.

Pat Remick said...

Thank you everyone for your kind thoughts and words. Although my brother is slowly making progress toward recovery, it will be a long road and of course, a very long time before all of our hearts begin to heal. It helps to be able to share memories of someone special like Jen, and to receive such heartfelt comments from all of you. Thank you.

Sheila P said...

Thank you for sharing Jen's story, your devotion to her is clear and heartfelt. Please share our profound sympathy with Mike and the rest of your family. The randomness of sudden tragedy is the hardest to explain. Please be kind to yourself as well. xo