A couple of months ago, someone asked me why I don’t write about my children as often as I used to. When they were younger, they made frequent appearances in my columns – but always with their permission.
As they became adults, I tried to respect their right to privacy. Amanda, always a whirlwind of sociability, probably wouldn’t mind if I wrote about her life; but Daniel was more introverted. He didn’t care to draw a lot of attention to himself.
But he managed to do exactly that on Nov. 2.
That was the day everything changed.
I awoke a little after 7 that Sunday morning. I wanted to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. Something was wrong, but I did not know what. I listened to the sounds in the house – but could hear nothing amiss. The scanner started going off. Minutes later, I heard the sirens going by our house.
It’s part of my job to cover wrecks and this one sounded bad. I knew I needed to go, but I didn’t want to. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. I looked out the front door and saw that Daniel’s car was not home. He was just running late, I told myself. I called his cell phone and he did not answer.
I put the camera bag in the Jeep and drove up Leafdale Road to the site of the crash, just about two miles away. I parked and walked up a hill where a fire truck blocked the road. I’ve made that walk many times before, always knowing that it could be a family member or a friend who was hurt. It’s never something I look forward to. I kept telling myself to do my job, but the bad feeling just got stronger.
They stopped me at the top of the hill.
It was my son – my kind-hearted, handsome and strong-as-an-ox son – and he was already gone. He was on his way home and lost control of his car. He did not suffer, they said.
And just like that, I lost one of the great loves of my life. And just like that, the nightmare began. I can’t seem to wake from it, I keep thinking that someone has made a terrible mistake – that this has happened to some other family – that his little blue Chevy will somehow show up at the house – that it wasn’t really him. I don’t know what I’m thinking or doing or saying most of the time.
It cannot be. He is only 22.
Many of you have told me that you “can’t imagine” how I must feel. No, you cannot. I’ve lost my father, mother, grandparents, friends and beloved pets. I’ve had a miscarriage and gone through a divorce. Combine all those events and times it by 10. It is worse than that.
It is unbearable – except that “unbearable” is something that cannot be borne. This, I must live with.
There is a creature that sits on my shoulder and whispers in my ear. I cannot escape it. “Your son is dead,” it says as soon as I wake in the morning and before I go to sleep and any time it thinks I need reminding. I see a young father holding a baby and the creature tells me, “That will never be.”
Daniel had moved back home after a couple of years being on his own. He was having trouble deciding what he wanted to do in life and it bothered him – a lot. He became interested in joining the Navy mid-October. He was proud of the decision, with his only reservation being the timing of boot camp. He didn’t want to miss being with his family during the holidays. He hoped he would be able to wait until after the first of the year before he left home.
He was also worried about me.
“Mom,” he said, just a few days before the wreck, “are you sure you’re OK with this?”
I told him I was – that I was proud of him – but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to cry when he got on the plane.
“Maybe I won’t be on a plane,” he said, grinning. “Maybe I’ll take the bus.”
For some reason, it was not to be. I don’t know why. Daniel was to take his physical exam for the Navy that Wednesday. Instead, we held his funeral.
He would have been amazed at the number of people who were there.
I believe that all things work together for good for those who love God. I believe that God can see our future as well as our past. I believe God was showing his mercy in taking Daniel that day. I believe he saved him from a worse fate, although I will never, in this life, know what it was.
God doesn’t expect me to understand. He does expect that I’ll grieve for the rest of my life – however long that may be.
I hope this ordeal will make me a better person. I hope I can be a good wife, mother and grandmother to my remaining family. I hope his friends and cousins can learn something from Daniel’s life – and his death.
I wish I could have altered the events of Nov. 2. I wish we could find Daniel’s wrestling ring that disappeared that day. I wish he could have survived long enough that we could have donated his organs – although I certainly do not wish for him to have suffered. I wish I wasn’t walking around with this hole in my chest. I wish we had more time with him.
I wish I had answers.