Fight, Pray, Love, Laugh, and Cry (Not Always In That Order!
My second husband passed away when I was 38. My two youngest boys aged 4 and 6 were the only ones with him the night he died in his sleep of cardiac arrest. I wanted to die then, but my 5 children were my strength and I resolved to make sure I would be there for them in their time of grief. I put my mourning on the back burner and made it my quest for them to mature into strong, capable young adults.
Four years later we suffered another tragedy when my precious stepdaughter Rene (who was 18 and lived with us), was taken from us in a vehicular accident along with the driver, a close friend, just 9 days after we buried my father. I prayed for guidance to continue on with my four remaining children, especially my 19 year old daughter Josette, whom was very close to her sister.
Not long after, Josette came to me and told me Rene came to her in a dream with her long shiny dark hair pulled back in a ponytail wearing a glistening long, white dress. Renee told her it was beautiful where she was and she was very happy!
Josette missed her sister so much! I tried everything including doctors, antidepressants, and therapy but she was inconsolable. I travelled to Chicago three months later to help my mother bury my Nona (who died on November 17th) and soon after coming home, just before Christmas we lost our beloved Josette. She put a pistol to her head in our back yard and again my two youngest boys, George and Geno found her body and called me at work wailing uncontrollably!
It was all I could do to cross over the yellow tape surrounding my house with the help of my loved ones, and walk through my front door that felt like the door to hell! I held out my arms to my boys and we cried in a big heap standing in front of a Christmas tree yet to be decorated. Josette’s note begged forgiveness and asked us to pray that she find Rene!
Within days of her death I dreamed I was in a large crowded room and Josette told me she could not find Rene. I saw Rene in the crowd behind her and told Josette to turn around and look. When she saw Rene she smiled and hugged me telling me “Thanks Mom” and ran to her sister as I woke up. I knew then that they were together as they had always been!
After burying our beloved Josette we reluctantly decorated the tree. In past years I would buy the most special ornament for my husband and wrap it for the children to open on Christmas Eve to hang on the tree. It was a very special time for us! This year, sadly we had two more ornaments to add to the collection. Christmas that year was somber as Josette had already bought us gifts. We hung their ornaments tearfully as we prayed for strength.
Four years passed and by the hardest we adjusted to our involuntary fate and learned to laugh again. Then I had a dream in which Josette told me we would all be together again for November 17th which was my oldest son Christopher’s birthday. I interpreted it that they would be there in spirit and looked forward to his birthday with jubilee! I shared my dream with my closest friends for their interpretations and they agreed with me. My dream was March 19th 2005 and on April 19th 2005 my Christopher was diagnosed with Stage 4 Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We were devastated!
Josette always told me she wanted to be my angel and she was now forewarning me of more trials and tribulations to come but also instilling in my faith that there truly was a hereafter despite my silent and sometimes angry objections.
Christopher was tended to by a highly respected oncologist and I took to the health food stores for alternative aid in keeping my son alive. By August of 2005 after intense treatments of chemotherapy and vitamin regimen, the Dr. was amazed at Christopher’s progress and felt he would go into remission. We were elated!
Then, August 29th Hurricane Katrina wielded her evil intent upon New Orleans and all our dreams were dashed. Christopher was in the hospital to receive possibly his last chemotherapy but Katrina had other intentions as she swept across our city and surrounding suburbs bringing normal life as we knew it to a swift halt! There was but a skeleton crew of nurses and Dr.’s and an influx of patients from surrounding hospitals that were rendered uninhabitable. There were no sterile fields for Christopher’s infected portable catheter to be replaced and he succumbed after the cancer had time to become immune to the treatments.
I wrestled with the agonizing decision to remove him from the ventilator as advised by the doctors. Watching him suffer ripped my heart apart. My mother was angry with me and in denial when his organs began to shut down and there was nothing else I could do but relieve him of his inevitable pain. He could not talk but I had to ask him one important question and that was had he seen his sisters and Daddy. Although in a coma he nodded his head vehemently and I believed his every last ounce of strength that it took him to reassure me!
My November 17th passed away quietly with his loved ones surrounding him on October 17th, 2005 at the tender young age of 24 as the room grew brighter than normal for a brief moment. I knew then that angels surrounded us in a love that was and is INDESCRIBABLE!
My two remaining sons have grown up wise beyond their age and our Christmas tree is now the TRUE meaning of Christmas!
There is so much more to tell but is difficult to explain in compact form.
How the events changed my life: My children, both alive and deceased have given me strength in more ways than one and the courage to look at life with the wine glass half full! I hope to inspire those who are dealing with tragedies in a positive light so they know that our loved ones are never far away from us…Love is what it’s all about!
Marla Cerise Bio: I was born in Rockford, Illinois and my family moved to New Orleans when I was five. My mother is from Sicily and my father’s parents are from Stockholm. I was a medical office manager for 22 years for an ambulatory surgical unit until Hurricane Katrina forced me into retirement. I sometimes work on our shrimp boat with my (Knight in Shining Armor) husband Will, who has been my rock of Gibraltar throughout the years!
I am in the process of writing a book about my family which includes “Our memories of a Haunting.” I just finished my first novel The Dark Side of New Orleans and hope it will soon be published! I am very blessed to have a loving and supporting family and hope to live happily ever after in our 107 year old house in Kentwood, Louisiana!
Marla can be reached via e-mail:
Sonia Says: I cannot even put myself in your place with all the tragedies you’ve been through during your lifetime. I am also thinking of your sons, George and Geno, what they went through and saw during their childhood. You amaze me with your strength to continue and I am grateful that you found a wonderful man, Will, to take care of you and your sons. I wish you all the best, and thank you for being so open to share your life.
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