Thursday, January 18, 2007

Letting go

We said goodbye to Jim today. The doctors told us there was very little brain activity left. Even though they couldn't declare him brain dead he was close enough. Ken and I decided we would call everyone and let them come say their goodbyes and then let Jim go.

David went to the hospital with me this morning. We got there early enough for him to talk to the doctors and get a much more detailed explanation of things. The position of the bleed was very deep in the brain so going in to drain off the blood would be risky and probably wouldn't affect the outcome. Jim never really had a chance.

It was a long day of people coming and going. Dave Hockett came by again, Kevin Price, cousin Steve. Jim's dad came but he didn't stay long. He tries not to show it but you know his heart is breaking. I hugged him and thanked him for giving me such a wonderful man to spend my life with.

I called home but the girls and Kyle and Rory were already on their way. Jim's cheery Hello! came on the answering machine. That was a bit of a shock. I had to hang up. Couldn't deal with that right now.

Earlier Ken, David and I went to the (yuck) cafeteria for some breakfast. Afterward David and I stopped by the financial office to talk to Maria about the insurance situation. David deals with this stuff all the time so he knows how it all works and what can be done to get the costs down. After a bit of circular conversation and computer flailing he finally got them to try to take things in a different direction. I didn't get the feeling that they could help that much but we can probably do better than the 50% discount.

Back upstairs more and more family started to show up. Ken and I deceded that we'd see who could get there by early afternoon and then probably have them take Jim off the respirator at around 2:00, maybe 3. Sherri and her girls came, Jan, (again, if I leave someone out, forgive me.) Drew, Dede, Dad, Sherri's parents. Stacey and Scotty showed up with Audra and Brendan. They have a rule in the ICU that no children under 13 are allowed in. I asked Christine if they could come in and say goodbye to their Uncle Jim. She said ok. Audra was very quiet but I could see she was very sad and a little bit in shock. Brendan handled it very well, very grown up. I'm very glad they came.

After everyone said goodbye we told the nurse we were ready. I thought it was best that Ken, Lindsay and Paige, Kyle and Rory and I be the only ones in the room when Jim died. Ken agreed. A respiratory therapist and an assistant came in and started the procedure. Two nurses also came in and started shutting off the machines. They kept him hooked up to the heart monitor so they could determine the time of death. Once Jim was off the respirator he breathed on his own, but it wa shallow and labored. Little by little his breathing slowed down and he began to change color. Then it stopped. It took less than ten minutes for him to go.

When they first started working on unhooking Jim I got a fist-sized, burning feeling in my chest. I was thinking wow, this is it. This is really it. Jim is going to die. After they were done and we were able to surround his bed I watched him and talked to him, stroked his arm and his chest. I could hear Ken crying next to me. I had to keep looking at Jim. The tight, burning feeling began to dissipate and I suddenly felt so peaceful. I felt empty but it was a good empty, just pure being. I knew I'd be ok. Thank you, Jim.

When he was finally gone we stood silent and just looked at him. I looked at the heart monitor and there was just a little blip on the line. The nurse said that was just a little electrical activity, that his heart had stopped. Everyone filed out but I stayed a few seconds longer. I knew that once I left that room I'd never see my husband again.

I left and we all walked together down the hall to where the rest of the family was waiting. Lots of hugging and tears but also some laughter and lightness. Brendan became a huggy boy and let his Aunt Donita smooch him good and hard. We decided to all go to Ken's and just be together for a while. Just as we were leaving Lindsay noticed the label on a fire extinguisher on the wall. She said, "Is that a cowboy beating a fire with a whip?" Yep, it sure was. Another funny moment.

We went to Ken's and had pizza and salad. I think we stayed for about 3 hours. Ken ran a slide show on his computer. There were some hilarious pictures of Ken and Sherri and us goofing around in Mexico. The pictures of Jim were the best. Damn, he could be funny. It was good to talk and laugh with the family. Crying, too. Lots of that.

Jeff called and said he wanted to come over but it got too late for him to come to Ken's. I called him and told him to meet me at home. He and I came into the studio and had a nice talk. It was so good to see him. It's been a long time since we last walked the Rube together.

After he left I made phone calls to Northern California and Washington. One by one I heard the voices of mine and Jim's dearest friends. I gave them the heartbreaking news. They pretty much knew it was coming but it still was a shock to hear. So many of them had stories of how Jim has made a difference in their lives. I told them we're planning to have a celebration of life party next weekend and it sounds like most of them are coming down for it.

Dean will be here on Saturday. I might just latch on to her and never let go.

What a day. Jim and I were together for 34 years. I don't even know how to be me without him. I don't have to worry about that too much because he'll always be with me. I've got his girls. And now our new life begins.

Thank you all for reading this blog. I feel you are all with me. I know you all loved Jim and were touched by him. I love hearing your stories about him. It keeps him here with me.



Mommala said...

Donita- We can't even imagine how hard this all must be for you and the girls, and Kyle feels like such a part of your family now too. I don't know how you have the strength to be posting, but we appreciate it- it helps us feel close even though we're so far away. We are so grateful that we got to meet Jim and spend some time together when we were out there. He was a good man! Find the strength to carry on- let others help you-make Jim proud! Let us know if we can do anything at all.
Carl & Anne

vivage said...


Jeanne said...

Donita, Thank you for keeping us updated this week. You are amazingly strong. I hope you know our thoughts and love have been with you. It's good you have had so many wonderful people to be with you. Jim was one of a kind! One of the good guys in this world. We loved Jim and we love you.

Sara said...

Dear Lindsay's Mom,
Just kidding Donita, I read linds' blog and I was absolutely shocked first that jim had had a stroke and then we had lost him. I know I probably tried to say thank you every time you guys threw those crazy parties for us, but I don't think I ever said thank you to you and Jim for being such great people. I know I can't really say it to Jim, but I know in some small way he's hearing it. I know the distance has kind of worn on the ties, but you always will be considered family to me. All of you. You're all in my prayers.
~Sara, that girl that went to france with your adorable daughter that one time...

Zoƫ Moss said...

Donita, I'm so sorry. I really am. I can't believe this has happened, and like the others who have commented am amazed at your strength to go ahead and tell what happened. Both you and Lindsay. Jim was such a fantastic and vibrant man, and he had a great feeling to him - I felt like he was a really cool person. My only regret is not getting to see your family enough.

From what Lindsay says, there's going to be a memorial for him at your house? You know I'd do anything to be there, so I will look into my options. I want to help support you guys in any way that I can.

I called Kyle to get Lindsay's number because I'd like to vocally offer my condolences. I didn't mean to, but I ended up crying on the message.

There's a lot of love for you guys coming this little girl. There's a lot. The best of wishes for everyone, and it's good to know that even if he is not with us physically anymore, he can still watch over his loved ones.

Donita said...

uxjoAnne- I think posting on this blog is good for me. So much of what has happened is quickly becoming a blur in my memory. Even though this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me I want to remember every moment. Even though it is painful it is also exquisite and beautiful in its own weird way. I'm looking forward to the day when I can see you and Carl and Laura again. Kyle is a part of our family now but so also are you.

Virginia- (smiling here) Thank you!

Jeanne- Yes, one of the good guys. One of the best guys. I know how much you all loved him. I'm looking forward to the time when I can be with my NorCal friends and feel your arms around me (and Jim).

Ray Botelho said...

Dear Donita, Lindsay, Paige and family,

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss.

I knew Jim for over two decades, and we worked together for about ten years. I recall how excited I was upon hearing he was coming to work in our group, because I knew how much fun he was to be around. We had many interesting conversations; some were just plain fun, but many were deeply philosophical - Jim was an extraordinarily intelligent man -- he really "got" it -- I always respected his opinion, and indeed, I often sought it from him. We both became fathers within a couple years time (he first, then me), and he mentored me during those early years.

Even though we didn't have frequent contacts in recent years, I still feel very sad knowing that he's gone.

My deepest condolences.

- Ray -

Donita said...

Sara- Thanks, sweetie! I can see your smiling face before me right now. I'm glad you Santa Rosa kids got to know Jim. He sure enjoyed all of you. I read your Live Journal entry about him. Thank you. That was really nice. Please say hi to your mom for me.

Zoe- You might not know it but Jim thought you were way cool. No foolin'. When we'd talk about Lindsay's and Kyle's friends he always had nice things to say about you. You made big impression. Yes, please come to his party if you can make it.

Donita said...

Ray- Hey, there! Yes, you were special to Jim. He always enjoyed your unique point of view and yes, he "got it". And even though you didn't talk much since we left SR he thought about you a lot. Your name came up often in our conversations. I know he valued his friendship with you. Thank you, Ray.

Casey Smith said...

I know I haven't seen any of you guys for a while but I tracked down this blog when I heard Jim was in trouble. My condolences go out to you and your family for your loss. As for a story: Just a week or so ago I was telling some people about the camping trip Jim brought his keyboard, took requests, and played his originals "What did you do with the water pressure?" and "All I say is F***". Surely he will live on in the memory of others.

Miss Critter said...


I can't even begin to tell you how awful I feel about all of this. I don't know what to say. I'm not very good at words but I want you to know that inspite of everything I've always thought you guys were some of the nicest people I've ever met. I guess I am just nervous and don't know how to deal with certain situations. I'm just so sad that I'll never really get to know Jim like I planned on. I'm so glad that you have a big network of friends and family that love and support each other, especially at a time like this.

I'll be at the party, if it's okay,
and I'll be sure to bring Zoe. Lots of love to you.


Donita said...

Casey- How sweet of you to write! Heh, heh! Yeah, the Water Pressure song. He did have a great sense of humor. I hope we'll get to see you when we get up to Sonoma County.

Arica- Yes, it's absolutely ok if you come to the party! You'll always be welcome here. I do include you in that network of friends. We've got some creating to do together. Come spend the day sometime.

Hey, we were watching one of the Trucker videos. We could see you rockin' out in the front row. Jim said, "Wow, look at Arica! She gettin' into it!"

Anonymous said...

Oh, Doni.

Yesterday when I called your message machine I got Jim's voice, too. I kinda lost it at work. Having lost so many close to me recently, I so understand the love and sweetness that comes with someone you're very close to passing. It's hard to explain, but it's real.

Jon and I are planning to take next Friday off and come down. Can we bring a tent and camp on your property? We want to be low impact, and we have a great tent! Please post more details as they become available, and the northern contingent will get their pieces together.

Love to you, Lindsay, and Paige, Gracey, and Boz, and all of Jim's loyal family and friends.

Mary & Jon

Donita said...

Whaddaya crazy? You'll freeze! We can accommodate you, no problem. I have a double sized air mattress. We'll put you in the living room.

Come on down! It'll be great seeing you.

BluePlastic said...

Mrs. Smith,

I know you don't really know me, but I wanted to tell you I am so sorry to hear about this. It's just a terrible tragedy, and I am full of regret that I'll never get to meet the man who helped you give us such a wonderful Lindsay.

My condolences, poor as they are, are all I have to give. May the love that so many people feel for all of you walk beside you and prop you up when you feel weak.

--Sarah, Kyle's friend and Lindsay's SarahBee

X__xCadaverous.Credit.Completionx__X said...

Dear Mrs. Smith,

While I know we've never had the chance to meet in person, I've met your daughter Lindsay and also Kyle through their artwork on Deviant Art and also in person on two wonderful occassions. My name is Kaitlyn, I live in New Jersey and Kyle and Lindsay came down to visit me while the two of them were staying with Kyle's family up this way. I adore Lindsay. It really was an amazing opertunity to come across such a wonderful girl and make such a great new friend, so hearing any kind of grim news coming from the direction of someone who has been so sweet and cheery is truly something to stomach. I'm very, very sorry for your loss. Your husband seems like a wonderful person, I wish I could have at least had the opertunity to have been introduced to he and yourself when I visited last summer. He sounds like an amazing man, someone who made a lot of people happy. And it makes complete sense, looking at the wonderful person that Lindsay is.
I admire your courage and strength through this. The essence of peace that you have described through this hard time in your life, I find to be truly uplifting. You and your family are a very loving and great inspiration. My family wishes you, Lindsay, Kyle, and the rest of your family and friends the very best.

All our love,
Kaitlyn Ritter and family <3

Donita said...

Sarah & Kaitlyn- Thank you very much. LIndsay and Kyle always talk about you guys. Kaitlyn, I remember when you visited last summer. They talked about that a lot. Sarah, you're one of Kyle's dearest friends. I think it's awesome they got to visit with you two over Christmas. I have followed your conversations on DA. Thank you for your kind words here. I know one day we'll meet in person. I'm gonna make it back there one of these days. It would have been nice for you to meet Jim.

Thank you both for the comfort you have given Lindsay and Kyle. Kyle only really knew Jim for about a year but in that time they had grown very close and they had such fun together. Lindsay will miss her dad, Kyle will miss his very good friend.

Ben said...

As I read through this I began to cry knowing that one of my favorite (adult) friend is gone. I admire how you stay strong through this, I admire even more that you can still find the humor in life.

Love you Donita

and I miss you Jim


Donita said...

Ben- Thanks for writing, sweetie. I know Jim enjoyed being around you, too. You have a certain lightness and energy that's fun to be with. Yes, finding humor is essential to the healing process. But you know the crowd I hang out with. You know our nature. Finding funny in all this pain makes it all more bearable and helps us look forward to the future.

Anonymous said...

Dear Donita,
I'll always remember Jim as a fun, smart, talented guy. I remember when he showed me how to design a digital synthesizer. I remember when he bought a little Casio mini keyboard and made it do crazy things. I remember jamming with him and the guys.
Thank you for sharing so much of your experience here. It's so hard to believe that it's been 34 years, and that now Jim has moved on. I just wanted to tell you that he is vividly in my thoughts, and that my heart is with you and your family.
With love,
Dave Bringhurst