Check out my honors! (Click on the badges to see other great blogs too)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My "purple heart"

The Purple Heart is a United States military decoration awarded in the name of the President to those who have been wounded or killed while serving with the U.S. military.

It occurs to me that many of you may not know the exact story of what happened to Andie. In a nutshell, he had heart disease that led to a fatal arrhythmia while we were on vacation at my family reunion. One minute things were fine, the next minute they weren’t. It was sudden, and unexpected, and traumatic.

It was like I entered a war zone. This is how I received my “purple heart” for being wounded in the line of duty as a wife.

While the emergency team worked on him in the ER they allowed me to sit beside him and hold his hand and talk to him. They even got me a stool and I remember being concerned that I would be in their way. I never let go of his hand, and never stopped telling him that I needed him to hang on. The doctor told me that they had gotten to a place where they needed to stop trying to save him, but that if I wanted them to they would keep working on him a little longer. Of course I asked that they continue, all the while knowing that even if they got him back he had been without oxygen long enough that there would be permanent damage, and he would not be the Andie that we all knew and loved. After another round of medications, and shocks, and CPR, and all efforts- there was still no heart beat. The doctor looked at me and our eyes locked, and I knew what the next moment would bring- I had to let him go.

It’s funny the things you think about in moments of extreme stress. I looked at the clock and it was roughly a quarter to midnight, and I asked if they could wait and not call the time of death until after midnight because then it would be 6/19- I did not want him to die on 6/18 because that was his niece’s birthday and I didn’t his death to overshadow her life. The doctor told me that it was too long to wait and they needed to go ahead and pronounce him. All I could say was, “okay”. I stayed on that stool holding his hand, kissing it, and caressing it on my cheek for what seemed like an eternity.

The necklace I wear with Andie’s wedding ring on it was put on me that night by a nurse and I haven’t removed it since that moment. The trauma team had gone and a nurse came in to turn off the machines. I was in the room alone with him and the nurse, and she asked me if I wanted his necklace. I said I did, so she removed it from his body with such tenderness; almost like she was afraid to hurt him. She went to the sink to wash the vomit off of it and brought it back to me. She asked if I wanted to wear it, I said I did. In that moment of silence as she put the necklace on me and clasped it, my world shifted. The finality of all that had just happened hit me. The necklace that I had never seen my husband without was now around my neck. In that moment the nurse showed me the meaning of human connection- silence between us with a thousand words unsaid. I don’t even know her name but she will always hold a very special place in my heart and in my memories for her loving act of compassion.

So I wear his necklace with his wedding ring on it like it is a war wound, my “purple heart”, my “medal of valor”. It’s my symbol to the world of what I’ve been through. I feel almost as strongly about removing it as I do my wedding rings. I find myself toying with it during the day, slipping his wedding ring on my own finger, touching my hand to it when I speak of him. Often I don’t even know that I’m doing it, it’s like my subconscious way of reaching him.

That necklace is a symbol of our last moments of connection as husband and wife. Where he ended, I began.


  1. Brooke, I love you and think of you very often and the pain you are going through. Just want you to know that even somewhat distant people are pulling for you and sending prayers of serenity. /Becky Hansen

  2. What does one say to such words. You're in my heart sweet Brooke.

  3. I lost my John the same way... he had a rare heart disease called myocarditis....
    i found him when I got home after looking at wedding reception locations.
    it was just horrible. And I too, feel like I have earned my purple heart. The trauma we had to experience... it will never escape our thoughts. And I am so sorry we have to be part of this exclusive club that no one wants to join. Thinking of you...

  4. Brook - I don't know if you remember me, Shelley Myers, I lived two doors down from the Pritchards. My mom still lives there. Marcia sent me the link to your website tonight. Four days before you lost your husband, my stepfather Bill was killed in a motorcycle accident. Reading your thoughts have brought tears to my eyes and have allowed me to better understand the pain and heartache my mom must be experiencing. My loss of Bill as a stepfather is nothing compared to my mom's loss of her love, her partner, and her hopes and dreams for the future. My mom has worn Bill's ring around her neck since that day and reading this post really hit close to my heart. I am so very sorry for your loss. You and your girls will be in my thoughts and prayers. I am going to share your blog with my mom. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  5. Shelley- yes, I do remember you! I'm so very, very sorry to hear about your stepfather. Please pass my condolences along to your mother. You will all be in my thoughts and prayers. I'm glad you were able to find the blog helpful- check back in anytime. I usually update pretty frequently! Hope your mom can find comfort in the blog too, and perhaps even do a little blogging/journaling of her own. It's quite therapeutic. Keep in touch.