If I knew December 6th, 2020 was going to take from me my son. I would have spent so much time with him, told him how much I loved him, hugged him. Took more pictures. I would have made sure I brought him to the Dr’s. Made sure his cholesterol was in check. Specially since I just found out I had familial hypercholesterolemia. I knew I had high cholesterol. My brothers had high cholesterol. But not until I took a DNA test, that it popped up. I was a carrier.
What is familial hypercholesterolemia? It affects the way the body processes cholesterol. As a result, people with familial hypercholesterolemia have a higher risk of heart disease and a greater risk of early heart attack. The gene that causes familial hypercholesterolemia is inherited. The condition is present from birth. Treatments including medications and healthy lifestyle behaviors can help reduce the risks.
He was 19. I thought I had time, to get him checked. To get his diet under management. Turns out I did not. He died of a Cardiac Arrest. He had two blocked arteries, an enlarged heart, and heart disease. He was just 19. Had a good job. Showed no symptoms. He was husky, but he really was not overweight. He did not eat well, I told him “you can’t do that…” and he would just smile at me as he continued to do so. And I would say “Get a Dr. appointment, get your cholesterol checked, I will help you if you need it” and he would say “ok” and I did nothing. He did nothing. I have so much guilt….
I had not heard from him as of yet, on that Dec. 6th, Sunday. Always by four pm though, I would check on him. Before I went up, a sense of peace settled over me. Settled over my heart. I thought “oh, it is going to be a good night…” The feeling was so nice, so peaceful, so good. And my next thought “I need to check on, Caleb” He knew I was coming. And he did his very best to shield me from what I was going to find.
I was always looking for him, checking on him. Worrying. He was an introvert, with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Not that it defined him, the introvert part, yes. The Autism Spectrum…no. He was barely on the spectrum. It affected him socially, it was extremely difficult for him to interact. Make friends. School was so hard. And I worried about him all the time, kids can be cruel.
I knocked on his door. Nothing. I knocked harder. Said his name. Still nothing. I was slightly worried. I opened his door and looked in. I saw him sitting there, on the floor, by his bed. His head tilted back. My first thought, he is sleeping. Then I noticed the strange patterns on his skin. Blotches of red. I walked closer, and I look into his open blue eyes. His mouth, slightly open. I say his name again, timidly. Brush my fingers across his bangs. I was starting to see, very slowly, that he possibly was not alive. But, I would not see it yet, I could not. I then yelled his name, and shook his shoulder. He did not move right. That was when I knew, he was gone. This was just a shell.
I feel like I did not react correctly. But, it is difficult to know how to react in such a situation. I was in shock. Shaking. My daughter started dialing 911 after I started yelling it through the house “he’s dead! He’s dead..” I remember saying over and over. I went back in, and started doing some nonsense cleaning around him, the ambulance was coming….and I needed to tidy up. My husband pulling me back, calling me honey, trying to get me out of the room. I wish I stayed in there, curled up next to him, holding him. After the medics arrived, and then a couple of cops, I was not allowed in there. They had to investigate the scene. They did say afterwards, we could go in, and say our good-byes. But, I could not do it. I did not have the strength to do that over again. And I could not watch as they took him from his room and out the door.
More questions came, statements we had to write. I was numb. I was not crying. I felt the looks from the investigators. Watching me. Wondering what my relationship with my son was like. I felt like a suspect. The Chaplin, a man named, Judy. He put his hand on my shoulder, to comfort me “You are handling this so well…” Too well? I felt broken. Emotionally. I should be crying, wailing, on the floor, hysterical and screaming. Instead, I was in business mode. Trying to be strong. I was not good at being vulnerable. Never had been. I had built so many walls, I was in a fortress. Even during this time.
Christmas is going to be hard. I already bought him stuff, and his stocking is ready to be hung. I WILL hang it. I cannot, not… you know.
Caleb was so sensitive. So caring. Would take the shirt off his back for you. Because once you were in his safe place, you were there for life. And he would protect you like a lion.
And I feel that now. Him hovering near. Protecting me. Protecting everyone he loved. Not wanting us to feel sad. Or angry. I feel his comfort. So strongly. And when we share the memories, the things he did that made us laugh. I feel him most strongly then, laughing with us. I see him, and his fingers are in his hair, and he is laughing.
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