Writers aren't exactly people, they're a lot of people trying to be one person. F.Scott Fitzgerald

Saturday, April 9, 2011


         About twelve years ago, the shrill ringing of the telephone at 4am startled me awake.I knew before I answered, it was not going to be good news. No one ever calls at 4am to give good news.My estranged husband's voice was calm."I'm afraid we lost Jackie were his first words". I was confused. "What do you mean we lost Jackie?" He explained in a voice not quite so calm that our son was killed just outside Sierra Blanco,Texas when the car he was driving had a blowout on a back tire. He was going around a curve on the downside of a small hill and he lost control of the car and it went off the road and rolled. The authorities said he hit his head on the doorpost of the car,crushing the right side of his head and killing him instantly.
          His friend Mario,was alive but severely injured.  He told us later everything he could remember,but wasn't positive it was accurate due to his shock  from his own injuries. He thought he remembered going over to Jackie and seeing him breathing and moving. he left and walked until he found help. But he admits he was in a daze and may not have ever left the scene or the car.
        I hung up and sat on the side of the bed.I couldn't afford to breakdown. I still had to go and tell my youngest daughter her older brother,whom she loved fiercely,was dead.She had an older half-brother and sister from my first marriage,but she grew up with Jackie,Jackson  as we sometimes called him though he preferred Jack.
         I remember standing and heading to my daughter's room next to mine. She knew,whether she heard the conversation or instinctively knew,we will never know. she was backed into the far corner of her room,her face stricken with pain and repeating the word,No over and over while shaking her head no.
I think I moved toward her, wanting to envelope her in my arms and keep her safe and take the pain away. I  don't remember if she allowed me to do that or not.
       Lisa ,a friend who shared the rent and house with us,came out of her room and I told her what happened. I think she took over the task of comforting Molly while I called work and told them what happened and I wouldn't be in to work. I  remember the three of us sitting in the living room,but not what we did or talked about.
        The doorbell rang and I answered,needing something to keep my thoughts occupied.I could not breakdown and would wait until I was alone to cry.I had to support Molly and think about funeral arrangements,etc. Standing on my doorstep was the one person that would understand my stoic demeanor. Tracy,our chaplain for our Vitas Hospice office in Friendswood.
       She held me and whispered words of comfort while tears slid down my face and relieved  enough pressure to keep my emotions and the storm of grief from overwhelming me. I kept my composure through the funeral arrangements, the funeral, and the gathering at our home after the funeral. Our wonderful friends  organized a gathering  for us after the funeral for friends and family.
            I won't go into details about the funeral,but is was all a funeral should be to honor a loved one.We focused on the joy of having Jack in our lives for a short time. Mario was there ,even though he wasn't supposed to be out of bed.We were amazed at how many of Jack's young friends were there.
There was only two incidents I regret. One was being pushed by his grandparents to insist his sister Molly view Jackie in his casket. She told me later she had resisted because she did not want the last memory of him to be lying dead in a casket.
           I won't go into the other incident beyond saying I had a person who I despised confront me in the restroom to try and assuage her guilt. She chose the wrong things to say at an inappropriate time and I let her know how I felt about what she was apologizing for and how I felt about the entire affair.
A few days after the funeral I drove out to our property,It was still half mine at the time,and opened the Medicine Wheel. I have strong Native American Spiritual beliefs. I sat in the West, direction for strength and introspection and faced the East,direction for illumination and wisdom.
         I remember feeling the power and strength from the land and  medicine wheel flowing into me and wrapping me in love and protection. I knew it was time, I was surrounded by spirits of my ancestors, I could feel loving arms wrap around me and I let go. I rocked ,screamed my anger at God, Jackie, the angels for not keeping him safe and at Mario for living instead of my son. I asked why,anger making me physically ill until I couldn't sit upright.I collapsed still sobbing on the ground.
         Faces passed in front of my closed  eyes, faces of my ancestors or angels,maybe both. Warmth from the ground seeped into my body and I let go of the anger. I lay there crying softly,until I felt the worst of the sorry lift. I was still sad,but it wasn't so overwhelming and the anger was gone. I smiled and said goodbye once again to my son. I asked for forgiveness for being angry at him,for ignoring a request he'd made prior to his accident. I hadn't wanted to take the time and energy to drive into Houston to help him pick up some furniture for his new place.
     I am not sure I will ever forget that I didn't go.For a long time I felt maybe he wouldn't have left for California a few days later if I had just taken him.Intellectually I know it wouldn't have made any difference,but my heart kept telling me at least I would have seen him one last time.
        Allow me to backtrack for a moment. When we were told Jackie's body had arrived at the funeral home,his father,grandparents and I drove there. They told us they would call when he was prepared and ready for a private viewing. I shocked everyone, when I insisted on seeing him immediately.The funeral director did his best to change my mind. I knew I needed to see him alone as he was before they cleaned him up and dressed him in the clothes we would bring back with us later.
        Alone ,I went through that door. The room was really cold. I didn't notice it at the time,all I could see was my son covered with a sheet and  lying on the table or gurney,I really don't remember. I moved to his side and touched his skin.Cold. I caressed his face and noted his misshaped head and bruised face,noted the blood in his hair and left ear. I closed my eyes and gathered my courage. I checked his long lanky body for any other damage. There was none that I could see.
        Gathering my courage,I put my arms across his sheet covered body,held him for the last time and sang a Cherokee lullaby to him. Anger at him burned quick and bright for a moment,a lifetime. I kissed his forehead and his cheek and said my goodbyes and turned to leave,but found myself reluctant to leave him. He looked so vulnerable lying there as if he were asleep. I didn't want to leave him so alone. I wanted to be with him until as long as possible. How could I just walk away, knowing he would face everything all alone. I sighed,remembering I had other children who needed me. This son of mine was in the arms of the angels and he would never be alone again. I kissed his cheek and touched his face,turned and left the room.

       I realize this post may not be comfortable or pleasant to read. It was not my intent to make anyone sad,but merely to tell the story and remind anyone grieving the loss of a loved one, that they aren't alone in their anger,grief and pain.  I suppose I wanted to say, that you do what you have to do in the moment, accept comfort and give comfort to others who need it.I wanted to tell this story to show that they should not be  too quick in judging a person who doesn't seem to be grieving in the expected manner.
    One cannot always ascertain the level of grief and emotional turmoil and level of despair someone else is experiencing, by their actions or tell how a person feels in their heart by their outward appearance.

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