When someone you love drops dead in front of you, time does a back flip.
It erects itself into a pose, frozen, suspended, in a seemingly endless purgatory. Then just like that, it speeds through space catapulting into the air twisting like a pretzel before it lands…before it takes its next breath…before you take your next breath. It races and slows according to its own rhythm. You don’t get a say; time is in charge, and time is ruthless.
When Shawn’s heart stopped, it took the ambulance four minutes to get here. Four minutes of me screaming at the 911 operator, begging her to help him. It took four minutes of me pounding on his chest, four minutes of me running across the lawn hearing the ambulance but not able to see it. Four minutes of Annie doing CPR. Four minutes of cruelty…time taunting me like a schoolyard bully.
And somewhere in those four minutes, he died.
Those four minutes didn’t feel like four minutes. They didn’t feel like 14 minutes or 40 minutes. Those four minutes were immeasurable. The stiff tick-tock hands on the clock turned to mush. Time devoured itself. It still existed; it was relevant…oh how it mattered. But it didn’t make sense.
As EMS worked on him, I just waited to hear the time of death. I waited for them to say numbers. I waited for them to say something precise; something exact. But they didn’t. Instead they said, “We have a faint rhythm we can work with.”
His heart wasn’t beating like when the nurse presses her fingers on your wrist and stares at her watch all calm and focused. It wasn’t beating like yours or mine. It was fluttering…like it existed in some other universe. His heart was on its own planet deciding if it wanted to stay there or come back here.
Do you know what our last conversation was before Shawn dropped dead? We bickered about a shitty diaper. Who was going to change Kieran’s bum? We didn’t argue; we didn’t fight. We snipped at each other until someone changed the diaper, then we watched Stranger Things while giving each other the cold shoulder.
We bickered for those 15 seconds because we thought we had 15 seconds to waste.
And isn’t that the way it goes…
We go cold and rigid toward the ones we love. We turn stiff like the hands of a clock because we think we’re going to be able to make up that time later. We hold a grudge for three years because we think we have 1000 days left on this planet. We don’t call now because we think we can call later. We don’t visit today because we think we can visit tomorrow.
Somehow, by some explicit miracle of spirit and science, Shawn was brought back to this planet of calculated time. We were given a second chance. Do we still bicker? Sure. Do we still brush cold shoulders? Of course. But we come back to each other a hell of a lot quicker than we ever did before. Because we know now. We know firsthand, you might not have 1000 days left on this planet of measured minutes and hours and days. You might not get to see the next season of your life here.
So don’t call later; call now. Don’t visit tomorrow; visit today.
Because once death is declared, you don’t get to make up for lost time.