Monday, October 23, 2017

It Still Counts

I was awake around four this morning. Those who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will understand when I talk about re-experiencing and how that interrupts sleep cycles and causes all sorts of nasty stuff like irritability, anxiety, fear of crowds and public places, and hypervigilance (the obsession with staying safe and keeping your loved ones safe). And the ones fortunate enough to have benefited from therapy know that talking about their trauma is a necessary part of their treatment because they process it instead of blocking it out.  

So I guess I had better warn my readers that I am about to describe a traumatic experience. If you can't deal with that right now, you are welcome to stop reading at this point. If you want to continue, you might want to grab a tissue. Especially if you're a parent.

Four years ago today seemed like any other day I had spent since my youngest daughter moved to Alberta and eventually ended up on the street, living in her car.  I was always wondering if she was safe, doing everything in my power to give her the tools she needed to get even half a chance out there. 

The previous evening she had asked for some money so she could sleep in a motel and have a shower to be ready to view an apartment the following day. I agreed and sent it.  

But she never got there.

All morning I was texting her from work, reminding her of her appointment. No response. I tried calling her again and again. No response. I gave up around 12:30 because I figured she was on the road by then.

She wasn't.

I remember what I had for lunch because I was eating it when the phone call came from my husband at 1:10 pm.  He told me that she had been in an accident. No, she wasn't okay. It was head-on at highway speed. She had died instantly.

I felt as if someone had drop-kicked me in the stomach. My breath came in gasps - I wanted to scream the words but they came out in disbelieving sobs instead. "Oh my God.  Oh my GOD!  My baby! My baby is ... DEAD!  Oh God!"

Suddenly the world seemed very, very small. There was barely enough room in it for me to breathe, almost like those scenes from horror movies where the camera gives an extreme closeup and there's a delay, an echo, in the words and actions - and they feel jerky, disjointed, surreal.

"Do you want me to come pick you up?" he patiently asked me after I stopped talking ... if you can call what I was doing talking. 

"Up, oh yes, pick up. Yes that would be good."

"I'll see you in about 20 minutes. Okay?"

"Umm, yeah. Okay.  Umm, drive safe," I said automatically. 

People at work had formed a small crowd around me, I noticed as I hung up the phone. Someone handed me a tissue. Apparently my face was wet. I can't remember who all was there, but I know there were concerned faces all around me.  I heard voices expressing sympathy - but they sounded like they were coming from the other end of a metal tube. 

I was still clutching what was left of my lunch - a spoonful of peanut butter and a couple of dried mango slices - as my manager suggested that I go to her office. She guided me there, sat me down in a chair, and waited with me for my husband to arrive.  She expressed her condolences, and asked if there was anyone she could call for me to let them know. I obediently gave her the number for the church I attended. She called them and told them the news while I ate the rest of my lunch - which felt drier than usual in my throat - because all I could think of was that I needed to keep my strength up, that my family would need me to be strong. So it became all-important for me to finish eating. Strange what trauma will do to the mind.

As we waited after my manager hung up, she leaned over and hugged me, rocking a bit, and started to sing softly in my ear, "Come to the water, stand by My side, I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied...I felt every teardrop when in darkness you cried, and I want to remind you that for those tears I died..." - the chorus of a song that (there was no way she could know this) I sang with my brothers as a teen. Of course that helped to set off a fresh wave of tears. I appreciated her expression of caring; I needed it!

When my husband arrived, those with clearer heads met him at the door. Others ushered me downstairs to meet him. One dear lady took charge and arranged to have someone drive us home - my manager took the front passenger seat and let us sit together in the back - while someone else drove behind us in a car and followed our van back to our house. 

These memories are fresh for me today because - well - it's one of those anniversary days. As I think back and remember, and relive those moments and the grief that overwhelmed me during those days and weeks that followed, the one thing that overarches everything is the one thing that heals the most: the love shown to me and to my family from all who knew us. And I mean all, from my best girlfriend who took my daughter's death as hard as I did, to the co-workers who all were so affected by it, to the doctors who worked in our area at my work, to those who came to the wake and to the funeral, to the hundreds and now thousands of people who have read my blog post about it (look in my archives on this blog for my October 24, 2013 post). 

Image "Snowflake Background" by oana roxana birtea

Those who know her story (which I told in that post I mentioned) know that she lived her life by the motto, "Every Snowflake Counts" - which to her didn't mean that everyone is unique and special like a snowflake, but that every bit of good that a person does, no matter how small, is helpful. It counts. There is nothing insignificant. 

It still counts. Folks who know me well, know that 2017 has been particularly hard for me emotionally, partly because if my baby girl had not had that accident, she would have turned 25 this year. So this anniversary date is a bit more raw than one might expect after four years. Grieving is not something that one ever stops doing; it takes a different form after a while, but it never goes away. 

My friends have been so supportive and so compassionate - and so patient - toward me and my family. To them I say, it still counts. Your love and your kind thoughts and words do not go unnoticed; I appreciate every bit of good that you intend and that you do and say. And I just wanted to say it.

Thank you. Thank you all. :') 

No comments:

Post a Comment