It was early in the night and I was sleeping in my bed when the outside light came on and woke me up. There was a knock on the door . I thought it was my mom. Perhaps she had lost her key?
SIDENOTE: I wasn’t supposed to be home. I was supposed to be with my friend Artea, but I felt like crap and decided that my own bed was the best bet for me. In part because one time I puked all over her bedroom floor and didn’t want a repeat of that…especially considering I can’t handle cleaning up puke….sorry about that Tea. Andddd especially considering her room is always messy (even now as an adult), so that meant puke wasn’t just on the floor….oops.
I heard a mans voice and honestly was a little scared. I decided to just lay there. (The demise to every woman in a horror movie…just avoid the scary man outside…just hide under the covers). Good plan genius. But my phone rang. It was my uncle…in the middle of the night.
I ran to the door, confused and half awake. My uncle was standing on the front step with tears in his eyes. He told me my mom had been in a car accident. My first thought was,
“crap we gotta go.”
“What if she broke bones?”
“What if she is unconscious?”
“What if I have to say goodbye to her?”
And then we turned right out of the driveway instead of left. What the heck did that mean? We didn’t have time to go to Grandma’s house. We needed to get our butts to the hospital. My heart was racing a mile a minute. And my thoughts were so unfocused. I was confused and scared, yet somewhat still hopeful. Naively.
I’ll never forget the next ten minutes. As much as time fades my memories, I couldn’t if I tried.
When we pulled into the driveway, everything stood still. My body began functioning on its own, without my mind or heart there. I stood above myself watching one of the most horrific moments of my life unfold.
The state patrolman and the sheriff had pulled in right before us. There was a group of family members, dressed in their sleep deprivation and pajamas, standing at the edge of the walkway, waiting for someone to say something.
Why was no one moving? We needed to get to my mom. Where was she? Why weren’t we going to her? She needed me. I was screaming at the top of my lungs and yet my mouth didn’t move.
Everyone walked inside and stood in the foyer.
The patrolman and the sheriff removed their hats.
And I knew. I finally understood. I don’t remember where I stood or what was said. I don’t remember his words or even how I physically responded. I remember feeling empty. I remember feeling like the life was just swept out of me and I remember chasing after her.
My mom overcorrected on the right side. Her car spun around, hit a guardrail, and flipped onto a tree. Once it hit the tree, she was ejected and the car landed on top of her in the embankment.
My mind wandered to a sweet memory of my mom and I. I stayed there for a while. I stayed in that field with our ponies. I stayed with the adrenaline from having just raced her (and winning might I add). I stayed with the wildflowers and tall grass. I stayed with our laughter chasing the wind. I refused to move from that spot. And even now, seven years later, I still stay there sometimes.
As my grandma wept and everyone hugged each other, I stayed there. Once they left it got worse. She was dead. We kept asking if they could be wrong. They had to be. My mom was only thirty-one. She couldn’t be dead. She was invincible. She was my rock. She could not be dead! But she was.
The next couple of days are a blur. But as the reports started to come in we found out that my mom had been heavily intoxicated, as is the tradition for holidays like today. A hardworking single-mom certainly deserves a rare night out on the town.
She wasn’t planning on driving, knowing that she had drank too much. But I was sick. I had texted her earlier in the night and told her I was going home and I didn’t feel good. She felt terrible for going out and sadly responded with a text that was filled with insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. She replied, “I am sorry I am worthless.” Those were the last words my mom said to me.
What was left. People would later write her letters on the guard rail, plant flowers in the embankment and leave other tokens of love all over the crash site.Her saddle was in her car and the tree of it was ruined. However, a local craftsman was able to fix it for me. It’s the very saddle I ride in today.
I was so proud of my mom. She had overcome so much and pushed herself. She listened to me and respected my feelings. She tried for me. She worked hard for me. She believed in me and pushed me to be better. She was so proud of me. I told my mom that night that we were survivors. I told her the same words she had told me a few years earlier when my own heart felt defeated. I told her how much I loved her and how thankful I was for all of her hard-work. I never thought those silly texts would be the end to the closest relationship I had shared with anyone at that point in my life. Those words wrapped themselves around my heart, choking me with guilt in the years that would follow her death.
With the guilt came the why, what if, and how. They traveled hand in hand to every thought I would have. It was my fault. If I had only done more. If I had only checked on her. If I had only stayed at Artea’s house. Why was it her? Why couldn’t it have just been a broken bone? Why didn’t I get to say goodbye? How could I live without her?
Those are the thoughts that I resonated with for so long. Seven years later and my understanding of death has been shaped and reshaped again with more loss. I no longer believe those things and I have been able to find the brightside where I needed to.
Today marks the only day of the year that I truly allow myself to revisit these memories in all of their ugly. I allow myself to reflect and to grow from it in new ways every year.
My mom is still all around me. She is the whisper in the wind. She is the drive to my ambition. She is the quiet voice at night that tells me I am doing okay and that she is proud of me.
Nowadays my dreams are filled with sweet images of my mom and my cousin Tory dancing in the living room, always a short step away from me. They are filled with short visits where I can talk and cry with her. I have hope that one day I’ll be able to laugh with her again in that very field… in the quiet of just her and I.
Mom, me and Logo. Logo died the winter after my mom. I took care of his withering body and grieved not only for her, but also the first horse I ever truly loved.
To love someone so much that their absence hurts is a beautiful gift.
“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hallow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.” -Unknown
And so I grieve for you mom; everyday.
Till Heavens End,