I don’t know if you all know this, but today marks the 3-year anniversary of my dad’s stroke. It was a Sunday. I had planned on doing homework and studying all day. My mom took Aria to LA for 10 days for Ashlee’s birthday on July 2nd. Also, to help me out during my new, crazy, accelerated 1-year grad school schedule.
As I was studying, my phone rang and it was my youngest sister, Hannah. I was immediately put on guard. A call from Hannah was not a common occurrence. Immediately my heart started to race. In my heart, I knew something was wrong. However, I chose not to answer. I thought, “let’s wait to see if she leaves a message.” Maybe it was an accidental butt dial? Let’s just wait..………….
My phone was in my hand when it pinged to notify me that I had a voicemail. My stomach dropped. I sat on the floor in front of my fan. It took me 5 minutes to muster up the courage to listen to the voicemail. The message began with Hannah stating “Britt’s don’t freak out, but we think Dad suffered a stroke. I need you to get to HCMC as soon as possible.” My mom was in LA. I called Gary, he was on the golf course, his phone was off. I could not drive; I was shaking too hard. I finally got ahold of someone who was able to get me to the hospital within an hour of Hannah’s initial phone call.
That was a Life Changing Call for me. I will not speak about my father and his condition. However, I will say 2 things.
I had a different experience when Gary called me at 8:16am, February 6th, 2019. I was still in bed. I was going into work late that day because one of the company cars from work, backed into my car and caused significant damage. I refused to get my car accessed on my own time. So, I decided to go that Wednesday morning. They didn’t open until 9:00am, so I was still lying in bed when “Papa Gary or Bunny’s” called. As I have said before Aria and my phone were linked. That explains the two possible phone numbers that could be calling. I thought it was Bunny’s. I had worked the night before and thought I messed up on my cash out or maybe accidentally took it home with me. I didn’t think it was pressing. I didn’t answer. When the same number called back moments later, I thought, “Oh yea, my mom volunteers at a school on Wednesday mornings. Gary drives Bugs to school on Wednesday’s. Its probably Aria asking to go to a friend’s house after school or something along those lines.” So, I answered, while still lying in bed. But it wasn’t Aria on the other end, it was Gary.
“Brittani, I need you to get to the house right away” said Gary.
I replied “Huh, what are you talking about? What’s going on?”
He repeated “Brittani, I just need you to get to our house as soon as possible.”
I sprung up, sitting on the edge of my bed
“Gary, what happened?”
He paused and said………
“Aria (details I’m not willing to share yet)”
I went numb, the only thing I could say was
“Is she dead?”
He went silent………..
“GARY, IS SHE DEAD?”
He let out a firm yet broken “Yes”
I said “Are you sure?”
He then confirmed again “She’s dead.”
I hung up the phone and I sat on the floor in front of my fan. My boyfriend came over and kneeled next to me. I said “I need you to call Gary. I’m pretty sure I just heard him say Buggy is dead.” Nick came back and confirmed what I heard. I went into immediate shock. It took me 20 minutes to get off the floor. I was too scared to see her.
THAT, WAS AND WILL FOREVER BE, MY LIFE CHANGING CALL. I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. My heart still falls to the floor every time Gary calls me. I know it was just as traumatic of a call for him to make as it was for me to receive. I won’t go into anymore detail about that right now. But after spending a few hours at my moms, I left. I didn’t know what to do. Time stopped but everything kept going. It was very strange. I decided to go to my dad’s. I wasn’t ready to go home to my empty place. Aria wasn’t physically there but everything in my house embodies her presence.
My dad, Amy, Molly, Hannah, and Danny were all there waiting for us. Nick and I got there around 12:30pm. At around 1:00pm, I got a call from a random number in Wisconsin. I didn’t know if it was the Medical Examiner or the Detective. But I knew I needed to answer. When I answered, it was the American Association of Organ Donation. They asked if I would be willing to donate Aria’s eyes and heart. I told her I wasn’t ready to make that decision. I asked “How long do I have?” She told me till 5:00pm. I had only known Aria was dead for 4 hours. Time of death 8:16am because that’s when paramedics pronounced her dead. There’s no way of knowing the exact time.
I called my mom and she told me she would stand by whatever decision I made. I looked at my dad and he said “Yes, you do it.” I called them back within 20 minutes or so to give my permission. They told me Aria would give 2 people sight and save 4 lives with her heart valves.
When originally writing this blog, I thought about negative Life Changing Calls. That was my experience with both. Getting the call that your child is dead is fucking awful, terrible, the worst possible thing that could happen to a human. I wish it on NO ONE! Then while trying to figure out a way to finish this blog, I imagined the phone calls that went to the 6 (3+2+1) people that Aria donated her organs to. While I was still trying to process that Aria was actually dead, giving away her organs, solidified it. At that same moment these 6 families were receiving Life Changing Calls of Joy, because of Aria Joy. That’s how she would have wanted it.
Aria, you have already saved so many lives. And you will continue too…………………