Friday, July 10, 2009

Joy and sorrow interwoven...

... love in all I see.

As you all who read this probably know, this last week has been the most trying week of my life. I don't usually post extremely personal stuff on my blog and bare my mental issues to everyone, but I suppose I can make an exception. (Yes, I do roll my eyes at you, if you bare your soul on your Facebook status.) I think it's because I'm pretty private about my feelings, which is why you might wonder if I had any emotion as you read this. Don't worry, it's very raw still. And hidden from you. Anyway. This is going to be a book, so bear with me.

Brenton Wade Salyers, 23 years old, the perfect husband and soulmate for my best friend, Cheree (Coffman) Salyers, passed away July 4th, while we were down visiting them in Houston, Texas. As it ended up, I was the only one at the hospital when his heart slowed, and finally stopped beating late afternoon. Joel was back at their rented apartment down in Houston, and arrived just minutes afterward.

They were married last year on May 31st, and shortly afterward found out that he had melanoma spread throughout his body. At that time, it was present in his brain, lungs, and lymph nodes. They agressively treated it with chemo, as Brenton was quite healthy and strong.

By and by, this spring he had brain surgery to get most of what he had left in his brain. However, it had spread to the rest of his body, especially his abdomen where it was attacking his bowel and stomach. They were going to start a new treatment throughout the summer called immunotherapy. Essentially it overstimulates the immune system to fight off the cancer. They rented an apartment in Houston and moved down there for the summer because he was to spend a week in the hospital, and 2 weeks out for the duration of the summer.

We had wanted to see them for quite a while now, and it just worked out for us to go down there over the 4th. Cheree picked us up from the airport on Friday the 3rd, and we spent the evening with them at their apartment. Brenton was resting in the bedroom, so we didn't get a chance to see him until Saturday.

Saturday morning, she was up with him around 4, I guess he was restless and was having difficulties breathing. He'd had quite a bit of fluid buildup in his lungs, so Cheree had to drain it every day. About 7, she poked her head in our door and said they were going to the hospital. What she didn't tell us is that he had tripped over a pillow on the floor, and she was concerned because it wasn't normal for him to be that weak so they were going to the ER.

We were up later and getting ready when I realized that she had left her phone at the apartment. We didn't have a vehicle and no way to get a hold of them and find out what was going on. Through a bunch of phone calls, we finally got a hold of some of the friends, John and Andrea Smith, who were on their way into the hospital. They brought us in, and we headed straight up to the ICU.

When she brought him in, his bp was 70/30, so they rushed him up to ICU and finally stabilized him around noon. He wasn't able to take any pain meds because they wanted to do some scans if they could, which they never ended up doing because he wasn't really stable enough yet. We got Cheree to eat a few bites for lunch, and then Joel and I took her back to the apt to freshen up and get away for a bit.

Joel dropped Ree and I at the hospital and went back to wash some sheets and towels for Esther and Liz and Gary that were on their way by that time. Shortly after we arrived back at the hospital, the Smiths had to leave. Cheree wasn't in the room with Brenton at that time, so I went in there with him for a bit while he was getting a mammogram to look at some of the different organs in his abdomen.

I was waiting outside the room when I saw Cheree come back with a group of doctors. I think it was somewhere between 4:00-4:30.. I can't remember. She came straight to me and said that the doctors didn't think he would make it through the night. I guess he was building up acid in his blood which means his organs were starting to fail. Also, his catheter bag was mostly blood and very little urine. His abdomen was just huge and swollen. The doctors wouldn't have known for sure if it was air, blood, or fluid building up in there without doing surgery, which he wasn't able for.

After holding on to each other bawling our eyes out for a while, she got herself put together a little bit and went in to talk to Brenton. I'm kind of fuzzy on the details of the next hour or so, but I know I was in there for awhile as well.

All of a sudden Brenton got really antsy and fidgety. He started taking his oxygen mask off and said he wanted to get up. He needed to walk around, he said. He made motions like he was going to start pulling IV's off, so I ran and got the nurse, who convinced him to settle down a bit. I just stayed outside the room, because I don't know if he was that comfortable with me being there.

The nurse left and before I knew it, Cheree ran out yelling for help because his heart rate was dropping. The nurse paged something into an intercom, and all of a sudden there were 10 doctors/nurses around. I quick called Joel and think I said, "Get here now!" and hung up the phone.

The next thing is what I see over and over in my head. Cheree and I were holding each other, and one of the nurses grabs her, and throws her into the room, telling her that she needed to be there with him. And then his heart stopped.

After a few seconds, I decided she didn't need to be alone in the room. I don't know how long we were bent over him, nearly hysterical, but it seemed like a millasecond and forever at the same time.

We left to let them clean him up, take the iv's off, etc., met Joel, went to the waiting room, warded off a chaplain who was awkward and took a page in the middle of everything, talked to a doctor who was new to the case that didn't really have any news, and went back in the room to say another goodbye.

We stood by as Cheree opened her Bible and read for a bit. I'm so proud of the strength that she showed. Both her and Brenton loved and served the Lord with everything they had. God gave her strength that I don't think I've ever seen before. I asked her as we were leaving if she wanted another moment alone before we left. I'll just quote her exactly: "No, it's just his body.... I loved his body, but there was so much more than that."

All the tv shows and movies show the height of the action in ER cases and the commotion of surgeries gone wrong, etc. What no one ever shows and tells you, is the waiting. The long stretches of silence in the waiting rooms. The looks from one person to another. The way your body is still and your mind is racing while numb at the same time.

We went back to the apartment then. We just sat, looked at each other, and waited. Waited for something. I don't know what. Maybe some kind of relief from the mental anguish.

And that's when the hymn popped into my mind. "Precious thought, my Father knoweth, Careth for his child. Biddeth me to nestle closer, when the storm beats wild, Though my earthly hopes be shattered and the tear drops fall, Yet He is Himself my solace, yea, my All in All." and then the very last thought of that hymn: "Joy and sorrow interwoven, love in all I see." The joy in their lives, and the sorrow in his death, and yet so much love. Love for each other, love for the Lord, for their families.

Brenton had so much love for others, especially Cheree. When we were gone after lunch, John (Smith) was in the room with Brenton when a doctor came in. They were talking about his chances of living, and Brenton just held up a hand and said, "Stop." He said he knew how bad his situation was, and he was just worried about his wife. "Take care of her," he said. Such love.

Cheree's mom, Esther, arrived in Houston at 10:00, and she got to the apartment by taxi at quarter to 11. Liz and Gary, (Brenton's folks), his brother Shane, and sister Ashley, arrived at quarter to 12. The workers in their field in Missouri also came down, stayed in a motel, and came to the apartment the next morning.

We all sat around Sunday morning as funeral plans were made, memories were shared, and last wishes were expressed. After lunch, they were able to get Brenton's body to one of the funeral homes in the area that allowed for a viewing for the families, since they weren't able to see him in the hospital.

Afterwards, we all headed back to the apartment and packed up all Cheree's stuff. The workers left first at around 5, the Salyers around 5:30, and finally Cheree and her mom at 7-ish.

That night was interesting for us, no transportation in a city we had no idea of and completely at the mercy of the Smiths to take us to the airport the next morning.

Anyway, we got home okay Monday night and the weekend was finally over.

We left for the funeral Wednesday morning around 7:30 and got down to the funeral home for the visitation about 6:30 in the evening. We stayed with the Townsends on the Clever convention grounds. We really enjoyed our time there, as they were super nice. We then left after the burial at 2:30 or so and got back home at 12:30 this morning.

As Cheree asked me Saturday night, is there no limit to the number of tears a person can cry?

Every effort Joel and I have put forth has been more than well worth it, and I realized that there really is no cost too great to be able to stand by a friend in need. But then again, I've never sat in a car for 21 hours just to "be there" for a friend.

I've also come to realize, as we heard in the funeral from Randy Satterfield, that these gifts that God has given to us are so precious. Every person and every relationship is a gift, and it's something God gives to us to enjoy our life.

Now that I'm mentally exhausted and once again, a nearly-blubbering sap, I'll let this be all.
I can't imagine the continued anguish of losing someone that you've so dearly loved, and it's made me so much more thankful for my wonderful husband (who is also willing to spend a hard weekend, go through hours of flying, and drive 21 hours for the best friend of his wife) and all the gifts that we share together.

Just a side note, I do have Cheree's address in Missouri if you would like it. However, I believe she'll be going back up to stay at her parents for a few weeks, so it might be better to send correspondance there.


Snigglefrits said...


You and your friend have my deepest of sympathies. It's so hard to read about a life cut so incredibly short, even when it's not someone you know. You're a truly amazing friend to that lady and that's something no matter how far you may drift apart in the future, she will never forget.

Angels walk among us and in my opinion, you were one this past week.

Love & prayers sent your way.

Erica said...

Mariah, I'm so sorry for you and Cheree. Mom and Dad were up with us when Jenni called to let us know what had happened. I can't even image how Cheree can be so strong. I don't know what I would do with out Stephan.
I didn't know Brenton (only met him once at meeting) but he must have been truly wonderful.

Cheri said...

Thanks for sharing this. I can't imagine what it must have been like going through this experience. It helped ME put life back in perspective...and I hope I can keep it that way. Thinking of you and the family.

ruth said...

Thanks so much for folks meet with Cheree's folks and when I was home in April they were in the Sunday am meeting..they had such a nice spirit..

Sarah said...


Thank you so much for sharing this - it really made me step back and think. If you need someone to talk to, or just to sit with, I'm here!

Love, Sarah M.

Jeff & Aleigh said...

Wow have me in tears just reading that. Cheree will remember forever that you were there for her when she needed you the most and I'm sure will cherish that weekend forever. You are an amazing and wonderful friend. It sure makes me so thankful for what I have.


Thanks for sharing Mariah! It was good to see you down in MO... we won't forget experiences like these and hope that we learn from them. xx

Burchibunch said...

Glad you were able to be there. It's a good reminder of the seriousness of life. *hug*

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