4 am Phone Calls are Never Good


4 a.m. phone calls are never good. Already dressed from our late arrival home from the hospital, we made it back to the hospital in record time.  Nurses had sent us home.  They said we couldn’t stay in intensive care overnight, so against our best judgment, we left.  Our son, Clifton had coded and they were trying to revive him.  They did.  He was only 3 months old.  After that night,  I never left the hospital again without him. I was too scared to leave my little boy alone again.

Nearly two years and several surgeries later he was growing, nearly caught up with his twin brother, Eric and only had one hole left to close in his heart. Clifton’s surgery was scheduled for August 12. His last one!

It was a simple procedure, he had been through so much already that nothing could possibly go wrong at this point.  We were so excited. He would be home the next day. We were finally done with near death experiences, trips to hospitals, ridiculously large medical bills and continual battles with the insurance company.  I couldn’t wait to get home and have a normal life again with Amy and Eric who had been staying at Grandma’s house for so long.

14 hours into what was supposed to be a 2 hour surgery, the nurse came to the waiting room to tell me Clifton wouldn’t make it off the table.  Thank goodness my friend Debbie was sitting with me. I went to the chapel to pray.

My son did make it off the table.

Clifton died 6 days later due to other complications.

We went home.

4 am and another phone call.  I raced to the phone, heart beating rapidly and answered with anticipation of a mistake. There had to have been a mistake.  My world was shattered even further as I consented to the embalming my son.  It was the funeral home.

My life was forever changed.  Looking back over the past 20 years I realize I was an empty shell, only existing.  It took a trip half way around the world to discover just how empty I had been. Life sucks if you let it.

About cessley

I am a bereaved parent. I write to give hope to other bereaved parents who are fresh in their grief. I want them to know life begins again. It (life) is forever changed, as are you, but one day, you will smile again. You may travel, you will make new friends, your heart will mend, though never heal and it will be a painful ride. It is one step at a time....sometimes, even one breath to the next is all we can seem to live through each day. But each day will be a new beginning, a different beginning, a different you. I have two surviving children: Amy, who is married to Brandon, and they have one daughter, Avery, and one son, Dylan. and Eric who is a doctor and is Clifton's twin brother. Clifton passed away when he was nearly two years old. As any bereaved parent knows, it is tough, REALLY tough trying to live after the death of a child. I lived in Shanghai, China for three years after the death of my son, and then lived in Beijing for two years. I am discovering life again, one step at a time. I returned to Oklahoma in February , 2020 due to the uncertainty of the virus. Little did I know the uncertainty would follow me across the ocean. This is nothing compared to the death of a child. I will survive! View all posts by cessley

11 responses to “4 am Phone Calls are Never Good

  • rucker

    Seeing yourself and all the weaknesses we run from is really tough. You are a strong woman. I am proud of your courage to the world and to yourself. The best part of life is often the hardest.

  • lori

    wow cathy what a story. You are strong.

  • tinaswells

    I loved seeing the picture of Clifton. (So did Matthew. He said you “have him on a necklace,” which made me smile.) If that precious face couldn’t make you write, sing, laugh and cry, what could? Thanks for sharing.

  • Amy Carter

    Mom I had no idea of your feelings for so long! You hide it very well. I’m SO glad you are finally doing what YOU want to do! No more worries about Eric and I (of course, that will never change) :). You need to spend the rest of your life happy, not just “happy”, no matter what it takes! I am really glad you are now expressing your feelings and what went on in my early years. Neither of us are very good at expressing our feelings, but it really helps to let it all out sometimes, so I’m proud of you for starting this blog! Please keep it up ( I am still learning things too!) Eric and I love you and we want the best for you just like you do for us! 🙂

  • Kesha Stanton

    We love you Cathy!!!

  • Julie

    Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life; rather look to them with hope as they arise.
    God, who’s very own you are, will deliver you from
    out of them.
    He has kept you hitherto, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will bury you in His arms.
    Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same
    everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and everyday.
    He will either shield you from suffering, or will
    give you unfailing strength to bear it.
    Be at Peace and put aside anxious thoughts and
    imaginations.
    St. Francis del Sal
    1567-1622

  • Cindy

    So sorry for all you have been through.
    I miss teaching with you.

  • miranda

    You’re an amazing woman, Cathy. I remember Clifton and think of him from time to time. I love you and admire you for staying so strong after that.

  • Chelsea Agent

    I’m so glad Eric shared the link to your blog on facebook! He’s told me about Clifton before, and about your trip to China, I am so interested to read about how it all came to be. Your story is really inspirational, what a strong mother my friend has!

  • Dina Ledbetter

    I keep meaning to comment on your blog and every time I try my phone locks up. I’ve given up and gone back to the traditional PC reply.

    I hadn’t realized how many experiences we shared. I too lost a son to heart disease. Oddly enough, his name was Clinton. In fact, we lost him 19 years ago today and he had just turned one year old.

    It is a pain that most will never experience, thankfully, and is very difficult to heal and allow yourself to move on. I am so glad that you’ve decided to put it out there for others to read. Sometimes it’s therapeutic to actually just put it out there. Who knows, you may also help other deal with their loss and healing.

    Hang in there!

  • Kelli Pate

    I remember you coming to Terry and my apartment… You were so strong but I knew you had to be screaming in side. Of course we said that we would do what ever you said you needed… my heart broke for you as you said lullabys. When I had my beautiful little Ellen I thought about those lullabys and “All the pretty little horses” was her favorite and I thought of you and Clifton all the time. Time does heal some – it does not take all the scars away though… it’s the scar tissue that is so bothersome. I love ya honey and I pray that the scar tissue that is so pulling at your heart be loosed so that you can be free to look at the other possibilities that God can give. Hugs from Kelli!

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