Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Bravest Moment

I entered the following essay in a contest, while I didn't win, I really enjoyed writing it.  It gave me the perspective of how far I have come and examining my choices was actually helpful for me in the present moment.  While most of this story is not new to those of you who have been following me, I still think that it is powerful in and of itself.


In an Instant.

In April 2008, I made the impossible choice to move.   At the surface, moving doesn’t really sound impossible or brave, but brace yourself.   March 30, 2008, started as an ordinary and perfect morning.  We had been in the Hill Country of Texas for the long weekend.  We said goodbye to our friends and hit the road.   The sun was shining and it wasn't yet oppressively hot.

An hour or so later, my husband was killed in a car accident. In front of me.  I was in my car with our child by the Grace of God.   The accident decimated his car, and my car was totaled as well.  The sounds, smells and images of that morning are permanently ingrained into my brain.   I remember it like a choppy movie.  Some pieces I don’t remember.  Some pieces I wish I could forget.  

I remember screaming when I knew he was dead-long before anyone actually told me. I remember my car being assaulted by flying objects before I lost control.  I remember willing my car to stop and not go into the ravine.  I remember my brakes not working.  I remember seeing Robert’s car in my driver’s side mirror hanging shattered from the door of my car.   I remember looking back at Munchkin and seeing him hold his foot with one hand and waving with the other saying “bye-bye daddy, bye-bye daddy” while he smiled and laughed oblivious to the carnage that had just happened.  I remember not being able to get out of my car.  I remember getting out and pulling munchkin’s car seat and taking cover off of the road so that we didn't get hit by flying tires, front grills, transaxles, spraying gas and oil that other cars were driving through before emergency personnel were able to close the street.  I remember looking at the responding officer and thinking he looked like a child as he gingerly cleaned my husband’s blood and shattered glass from his wallet before he handed it back to me.    I do remember a friend being let through the barricade to stand by my side.  I remember praying.   I don’t remember crying, at least not then.  I remember feeding my child, on the side of the road overlooking my husband’s mangled car and body.   I was hours from home in the middle of nowhere with two totaled cars.  Most of my family was 1400 miles away.  Luckily my aunt and uncle were only a few hours away-they came and retrieve us. 

In the following hours, days and weeks, I did insurmountable things.  I donated my husband’s organs.   I made phone calls to tell people that Robert was dead.   I planned a funeral. I planned a wake.  I chose to ignore people who were being mean and spiteful.

I slept alone for the first time in 9 years.

I unlocked the door to our house realizing that Robert would never be there again.  EVER.  I marked my 32nd birthday and our wedding anniversary.   I marked Munchkin’s first cupcake, the first meeting with my siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins-without Robert by my side.  I stood in a funeral home surrounded by chaos and sobbed.   I fainted in my kitchen.  Fairly certain I passed out at the wake, although I don’t remember much.   Well, except my 11 month old son trying to jump out of my arms and into the casket saying daddy, daddy over and over again.  All he wanted to do at the end of the wake was jump into there with Robert.  He looked at him quizzically, I am sure he thought that he was just asleep or playing a game.  That qualifies up there near the top of the most heartbreaking things I have even endured.  

None of those things, while they took fortitude were inherently brave.  They were things that simply needed to be done.  While they were hard, and heartbreaking and traumatizing each in their own way, they don’t hold a candle to brave. 

My bravest moment came weeks later.   I stood in our living room.  My eyes traveled to Robert’s chair.   I looked at the curio cabinet that he had given me filled with angel statues.   I rocked my son in my arms and I looked at our picture wall.   The wall held pictures of memories and snippets of time that were so happy.   I could see that the life I had planned was no longer.  With the screech of tires and shattering of glass, the planned future in our house was ripped from me.  There was no going back.  I would never lead the life that we PLANNED to have.   I would never grow old with him.  I would grow old, but he will forever be 33 years old.  I looked at the kitchen and saw the tile that we installed ourselves.   I glimpsed around and saw where he SHOULD have been.   

I decided then and there, that I would pick myself up and move forward.  I would do everything in my power to provide a life for my child and I would do it in spite of tragedy.  In that moment, I made the decision to go back home.   

Days later, I got on a plane with a one way ticket and headed home.  I took what I could carry and surrounded myself with family.   It was quite possibly the one of the hardest things that I did.  I made the choice to leave our house, the place where we built our married life.  The place that we had called home for nearly ten years-I chose to walk away and rebuild on the other side of the country.  I knew if I stayed, that it would be much harder for me to dig myself out of the depths of despair.    Now it hasn't been easy at all, but I do think that it was one of the key points in my journey. 

That decision was pivotal for me.   Being able to be in close proximity to my family afforded me the support that I would need to rebuild my life.   There were plenty of memories of us here as well.  We both went to school here and lived here before we moved to Texas.  In the following months, I would get a job, and list my house for sale.  

Even though I had already made the decision to leave and sell our house, actually doing it was another story.  It took me several months to draw the courage to head down there to pack up.  Mom and Dad stayed behind with Munchkin, but my siblings, they came, and they brought spouses and friends.  And my Godmother, she left her child home and came too.  Eight of us worked for a week straight cleaning and packing.  Whatever couldn't be packed-was sold.  I sold off our life, because I wouldn't have a house anymore, I didn't need stuff.  While that sounds logical, I assure you it was heart wrenching.   I walked around my house and sobbed, often uncontrollably.  I knew in my heart that I would never again have a place that both of us would call home.   I sold our bed.  I sold his clothes, I sold our furniture.  Essentially, I took what fit into two pods.  The criteria was-if I would be heartbroken because something could not be replaced then it got packed.  If I could go buy another one if and when I ever bought a house again, it was sold.  

I fought through nights of no sleep, followed by flashbacks of the accident on the rare occasion that I did fall asleep after my son’s midnight feeding.   It got to the point where I could only fall asleep with the TV on…it was pathetic-but at 6 am when I got up teary and bleary eyed to go to work, I could have breakfast with my father.  If I needed to go to the cemetery and scream and yell and cry on the way home, my mom or dad would pick Munchkin up from day care.   I fought HARD to put the memories of the accident behind me.  I focused on our time together and happy memories and creating a happy life for Munchkin and myself.   I sought solace in the sand and waves of my parent’s beach house for that summer.   I chased Munchkin on the beach and took long walks with him.   As I watched the waves wash over the sand, I could feel them soothe my broken soul.   In the coming years, I would excel at my job, learn to live on our own again and now I have purchased my own house.  

In spite of the tragedy of losing my husband, best friend and soul mate, I have been able to pick up pieces and put our life back together.   If I hadn't made the choice to cut the ties to a house that was no longer ours, I don’t think that I would be where I am today.