Briana asked me to write a little about what has happened in the last 24 hours.
She is headed up to their home in Oriani again to be with the girls: Lydia, 8, Ellie, 6, Joanna, 4, and Addy, 2. They have some people down here taking care of the details and paperwork. The girls have been with Lacey (she's married to one of Oriani's ministers) and their schoolteacher Amberly. Briana said she was very glad that they were sleeping when all the drama started, and Lacey has been trying to keep the house quiet today, but news travels fast, and the Haitian custom is to gather at the "house of death" to offer support.
There has been a sort of cold/fever going around here. They all say it's NOT Co-vid. People have sore throats and fevers and achy bones. Briana said their family hadn't been completely healthy, but nothing serious. But by Wednesday, Jay was having diarrhea and vomiting, and he looked sort of yellow.
In the evening when she was putting the girls to bed, Joanna asked her, "Is Daddy puking?" When she went into the bedroom he looked really sick and he said he was having trouble breathing and it felt like a panic attack.
Quentin Russell came and picked them up and took him to the clinic. Amberly and Claudia, their new Haitian nurse, came in to stay with the girls. Roseline, the Haitian nurse that just quit (getting married in 2 wks) was up there to help with training, so she was with Jay and Briana throughout it all. She has a lot of knowledge and I'm sure Briana was so glad to have her there.
They put him on oxygen at the clinic because his numbers were very low, and tried to decide what to do. Ilomy, one of their ministers in Oriani (Lacey's husband) came to stay with them while they waited on an ambulance from a mission down in Fonds Parisien. It's called L'Eau de Vie, or Water of Life. The ambulance got there about 4:30. Briana had gone home and packed and checked on everyone, so they made a game plan and then left soon. Briana describes it as a very calm ride down the mountain. The oxygen tank really helped. But soon his back started hurting really bad, enough that he was squirming a lot and sweating. They did a Co-vid test in Fonds Parisien and it was negative. That's when Briana got really worried, because -what was it then? And the back pain was dominating everything. She tried putting ice packs on it and also pain meds but nothing helped.
They changed ambulance drivers at Fonds Parisien and just hurtled through the Papaya zone (the 400 Mawozo gang's territory). Quentin and the two ministers from Oriani, Fre Ilomy and Fre Willie came in their car about and hour and a half later. Gario met them at Fonds Parisien because they weren't sure the L'Eau De Vie people would agree to take them through the Papaya zone to Port. So it was he and Roseline that were in the ambulance with Jay. They decided against going to DR as the capital, Santo Domingo, is a ways away, and they knew the oxygen would run out before they got there.
And just before they got to the hospital in Port au Prince, Bernard Mevs, the oxygen did run out. He got really bad really fast. Roseline was pretty emotional talking about it all, and she thought the people kind of just stood there and they could have been faster to get him more oxygen. But Briana says the whole thing actually happened really fast. Of course they weren't expecting him, and they were probably caught off guard by it all. Jay tried to get out himself, and Briana started yelling at everyone that they needed oxygen. Roseline stayed there with Jay and Briana tried to go into this room. She thought it was off limits probably but she saw some people with oxygen tanks and was just going to try and grab one. They hollered a bit at her, but pretty soon a doctor did come and hooked up oxygen. By then Jay had fallen back on the stretcher and it was too late.
They did chest compressions, and Briana said she didn't watch. She felt very strongly that God was telling her "It was time."
She went in and said goodbye before they took his body to the morgue. He was in his big, fuzzy white robe - the one he bought in the Foret market and proudly wore during those cold, Oriani evenings.
We hope that she can hold to those words as she faces her empty bed and her children that need their daddy. All she has is 11 short years of beautiful memories... snorkeling trips and other adventures that Jay was so good at planning that will never happen now. She says it was a lovely, lovely life that had. And that one word, "was", breaks my heart.
Zèzè and I met Roseline and Briana at the hospital this morning, along with Roseline's mom who had rushed up there to be with them. Gario and Fre Jeantho, Zèzè's boss, seem to be helping with the paperwork details. Anyway, we brought the ladies back to our house, and about 1:00 Quentin, Fre Ilomy, and Fre Willie, came to pick them up.
I didn't know Jay that well before I came to Haiti. Briana had spent time helping our family in the youth right after my Uncle Tim's died.
But when I arrived here in Haiti to get married, feeling a little bumfuzzled and alone, Jay and Briana showed up right away! Jay led our choir of Haitian friends singing the only two English songs on our wedding. I remember that night so well - how he just took charge of that little choir practice lit by string lights in the back of our house, and Briana helped make popcorn.
And after the wedding, it was so good to have some cousins in this strange land.
A honk at the gate - then everyone piling out of the Land Cruiser. Jay with his sunglasses on, dishing out some choice words about the ride down and the traffic situation and Port au Prince heat.
Addy crying in terror about the airplanes going overhead (we live right by the airport) - the older girls just counted them. And Jay could always tell you what airline and where they were headed.
And that restuarant above Stop and Go, where you watch the planes take off through windows with many spidering cracks from protesters throwing rocks - That restaurant will always be Jay and Briana's restaurant to Zèzè and I. The girls loved the french fries and Jay loved watching planes.
Jay in his fuzzy, white robe getting on a high horse about some subject while Briana started one of her delicious breakfast spreads for the next morning. We stayed up till midnight or one talking on those rare evenings we managed to spend in Oriani with them. Not small talk - interesting facts about random subjects and discussing Haitian versus American culture - nursing stories - singing sometimes.
He would always advise you on the best tourist spots in Haiti. In a little under three years, he took his family everywhere. They fell in love with snorkeling in the Caribbean and ji anana, or fresh pineapple juice. He helped me plan our trip to The Citadel. Jay, I wish you could have gone back to O Cap and gone to the little Rat Island. You are the one that convinced us to go, and it was gorgeous. I also kind of wish you would have stolen a cannon ball from the Citadel like you said you wanted to.
Jay and Briana welcomed my husband into the family. Hanging out with them Zèzè's first little taste of a Nichols reunion. In fact, we joked that we should just invite all the family here to Haiti for Christmas. He was always there to help when I had minor health problems and didn't want to brave the Haitian medical system, or to keep my husband stocked up on albuterol for the nebulizer.
And now, Jay is on to his greatest adventure ever. He has plenty of people to talk to and questions to ask. A person who was so enthused about life is experiencing the greatest joy ever.
But we wonder why Briana and his precious girls have to try to continue without him. How could God allow such a beautiful family to be broken apart? We don't know!
Pray for them! Pray for the congregation in Oriani too. They all loved Jay, and he helped so many people during his time in Haiti.
And... Bondye konnen tout bagay. God knows everything.