After we arrived at the hospital, after we found out she was dead, after the cops questioned us, we stood in an empty hospital room with just us; Zach, myself, and McKenna. For some reason Zach and I knew RIGHT AWAY that McKenna was gone. I have seen in the movies were people just don't believe it and they keep screaming "WAKE UP, WHY WONT YOU WAKE UP!" but Zach and I... we didn't do that. We stood at the foot of the bed and stared at her. The most resistance we showed was when a nurse walked in to grab something and I asked in a very quiet voice "Did you try to revive her? Did you already do CPR and everything else possible? Is there nothing we can do?" With sadness in her eyes she said "I'm sorry, we have done everything we can. We tried for a long time but in all honesty I think she was gone from the beginning." "Thank you." I responded and the nurse walked away with tears in her eyes.
We took a seat by her side and just stared in silence "She doesn't look dead." I said to Zach, and she didn't. She looked alive and healthy, like she was taking a very deep nap. "I know she doesn't but she is." he replied back with a shakey voice, once again I whispered back "She doesn't look dead." Immediately after Zach began to share soft sobs of grief and I just sat there and stared. I could feel nothing, I was completely numb, it was like I had ran face first into a giant brick wall and my body was no longer comprehending sensation. I looked at Zach and wanted to cry with him, I started feeling more numb and more distant from everything in the room like I was not really there and was asking questions as if I was an observer of myself and the situation, "Why am I not crying?" "Your in shock" "No, I don't think so, something is wrong with me, I should be crying right now." "Your in shock Shannon, it will come later, don't worry, nothing is wrong with you." "Am I a bad mother, shouldn't I be freaking out right now?" "Shhh, it's ok, your not a bad mom, it's ok, shhh".
I remember calling my dad, he was the first person we told. There was not a single tear in my eye but I could feel the enormity of what I was about to tell him and I had no idea what to say. "Dad, are you at home?" "Yes" "I have something to tell you, are you by yourself?" "What's going on? Whats wrong?" "It's really bad dad, I need you to be somewhere you can hear this and be safe." "Just say it! What's wrong?" "McKenna is dead, she drowned at moms house, we are at the hospital with her right now." I felt like a robot, my dad went silent. I don't remember what we discussed after that but something about him coming to the hospital immediately. After that, I don't remember how everyone else found out except answering the phone for my friend who had been studying with me only an hour ago for final exams that were next week.
I touched her body and it was warm, her hair was still wet from swimming. As time went on she slowly began to change and she no longer looked alive and healthy but I won't go into that. Some things should never be a visual for anyone and this is one of them.
People came in and out of the room, every entrance was the same, they would see McKenna first and have a look of absolute sorrow then they would see Zach and I and put on a brave face. We just continued to sit with her. I gave her little kisses and told her how much we loved her. I stroked her hair and so badly wanted to look into her eyes one last time. Hours had passed, people kept asking me to eat but I was not hungry or thirsty, although I had begun to fill very nauseous and asked for a throw up bag because I felt at anytime everything might come poring out. It never did.
I remember taking a step out while others came to say goodbye and sitting on a dirty floor in a long empty hallway, dry heaving into a plastic bag, with my sister close by my side. I remember wondering why it was so empty back there and assuming this must be where they tell people that someone you love is dead, they give you a whole section to lose your mind. I still wasn't crying. I still felt very numb and was worried I was going to leave that hospital and regret not saying my proper goodbyes.
I went back into the room. Once again it was just Zach, myself, and McKenna. "What happens now? What do we do from here?" That is when I realized we don't just stay here forever with her in the room and mourn, eventually we are expected to leave, eventually... they will take her to the morgue. This is when I was starting to be sucked back into reality. "I don't want them to take her to the morgue. I don't want to leave. I don't want to say goodbye." but the time was coming, I could feel it.
As I sat next to her one last time I touched her tiny hand. It was ice cold. Like a hammer on a nail everything came sharply out and I finally cried. She no longer looked like herself so I focused more on her hand then her face and as despair started to fill my entire body a song I learned at church when I was a little girl, one I sang with McKenna many many times, came out of my mouth from no where. "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way, teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.". Zach joined in and together we finished the song.
Anyone who is LDS knows this song, its a very common song, one of the first songs you learn to sing because of its simple melody. I have never thought much into the song before this moment. What was the song really saying? "Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way" I originally thought it was talking about Heavenly Father watching over and protecting His children but in that moment I realized it is talking about the parents, our spiritual roles in our children's earthly lives. Our job to "lead them" and "guide them" in this short mortal life so one day they can return with God for eternity. Is that what this song was telling me? That I had done my job and now it was time to let her go?
Many people talk about signs from loved ones after they have passed. I can honestly say we have not received such things. Maybe small ones, but always the "maybe", never sure if we just made it up to make ourselves feel better or if it was really her but this song, this one is different. I was not thinking about that song, I was definitly not in a mood for singing, I was surprised when the words were flowing out of my mouth, and I even had to contemplate "Where did it come from and why that song?". I truly believe with all of my heart McKenna was in the room with us in that moment. She saw us, she could see the fear in our eyes, the uncertainty of our future, the absolute terror of leaving our little girl behind in a room, all alone, and never coming back for her. In that moment she only knew what to do what she always did, to sing a song, to show her love, to let us know that we had done all we could do for her and now... she was starting a new life, one that required her to go ahead of us.
With her grace, that song was a tender mercy for us. We had "helped her find the way", we had "taught her all we could" and I guess we did a better job then we expected because at only the age of 2 she was ready to "live with him someday". In that moment, I found it strange to sing this song. In fact the only comfort I felt from it was singing with her one last time. She always loved to sing. It was not for months later as my mind would go back to the song that I would find the true beauty and message she was trying to send to us.
Leaving her in the hospital room was the hardest thing I have EVER done. I turned back several times. I felt like I was abandoning my child at a grocery store. I remember asking Zach "Who will stay with her? We can't leave her all alone in there!" but we had to go. There were more battles to fight... we had to pick up Dominic and somehow find the strength to tell him that his little sister was dead. How do you tell a 6 year old boy, who found the body in the pool, who watched his grandmother perform CPR on her, who heard the ambulance truck come to pick her up, that his little sister didn't make it?
I don't share this story to make you feel depressed for the rest of the day and forever fear swimming pools and your child dying. I share this because we are real people. This really happened to us. This is not a scary bedtime story to teach you a lesson to watch your kids more closely. This is our life and we live it every day. Two years is not a long time. In a blink of an eye your baby turned 2, then 4, then 8, and is now grown before you know it. Two years of her being gone is a blink of an eye to us and we deal with it the best way we know how. Some days are great, others are slow, and days like today are... well there are no words. I have cried writing this blog, this one is very near and dear to my heart and the reason I have never shared this special moment with anyone is because it is literally sacred to me. To speak of it is to lesson the beauty of that moment with her. I feel my vocabulary is not eloquent enough to capture what really happened that day, the message behind the song, her final goodbye to her parents.
We are so blessed to have had her in our lives, even if it was only for 2 years. I love her today just as much, if not more, then I did when she was alive. She is our angel and someone who will always be in the forefront of our lives. My grief for her will never stop because my love her will never quit. Today is a difficult day but tomorrow will be better and with the grief comes the ups and downs and all we can do is try our best to honor her the only way we know how.
This year for her anniversary we have decided to raise money for the "McKenna Eve Bundy Scholarship". I mentioned it in the last blog but have not promoted it on here very much. We started a fundraiser account and have been sharing stories of when people did "random acts of kindness" for us after McKenna passed away and the affects it played in our lives. We did this because we thought it was the best way to help people understand that no good deed goes unseen in some form or another.
If you donate, you are helping someone like our family. This money is not granted based on GPA, a well written paper, or any leadership roles they have held. It is solely about helping students who have endured a difficult trial while trying pursue their education. It is not about giving them money but more about giving them support. Letting them know they are not alone. Their struggle has not been ignored. They are loved, supported, and encouraged to keep trying and that they too shall overcome this trial. This has been a healthy distraction for our family, honoring our daughter by uplifting others in their time of need has been very healing to us all.
Thank you to all of those that have already donated. If you haven't and you are interested, hear is the link to the website:
If you would like to read some of the stories we have shared I have posted them on facebook publicly so everyone can enjoy them.
Here are some of my favorite videos of her singing.
This was her favorite song.
The classic "Barney song"
This was my favorite song to hear her sing because she could hardly say any of the words. haha
Happy 2 year "Angel Anniversary" baby girl. We love and miss you so much.