“Fatality Reported in Crash”

At work today, I heard that the highway nearby was entirely shut down and all the surface roads were clogged because of two huge accidents a mile apart. One involved three passengers who were transported to the hospital, and one involved a fatality. One of the accidents – I’m not sure which – involved children. As a result of these accidents, the highway was shut down for hours.

I wrote a blog a while ago (based on my journal entries from the year Jason died), explaining how I no longer view cemeteries the same as I used to:

I look at cemeteries differently now. I used to be distanced from them. A cemetery was a place I looked at and felt sorry for the poor people who were burying a loved one or visiting a gravesite. Now I feel compassion, empathy, and a kinship to the people who are there…which is entirely different than “feeling sorry for.” Now that person at the cemetery isn’t some disconnected entity…it’s me, visiting the graves of my son and his friend who were killed in the prime of their lives.

The same is true for traffic accidents. Hearing about a car accident involving a fatality is no longer just a tragic news item for me. I physically feel empathy for those involved, because I know what it feels like to suddenly and tragically lose a dearly loved one in a car accident. I know accidents happen. They happen to people who don’t expect it to happen to them. They can happen to anyone and take away the life of someone you feel like you can’t live without, because it happened to us. Death comes and touches your life…and you are changed forever.

My heartfelt prayers for those involved in these accidents today.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

The Siren Trigger

I hear sirens rush down the road this morning and I cringe. It feels as though I am at the dentist and he has touched a nerve with his drill. That’s the best way I can explain how I feel sometimes when I hear the screaming sirens of emergency vehicles. The sound touches a nerve and the zing of pain and panic goes straight through me. If my family is not close by or I don’t know where they are or if they might be in harm’s way, I feel like I curl toward the inside of me and start to pray earnestly and urgently for their safety.

Somewhere inside of me, on some level and after all these years, I am still that mother, grabbing my keys and running down the stairs to the background of screaming sirens, heading to the site of a bad car accident. I am right back in that place of panic where I am driving towards the unknown, heading directly toward the sound of those sirens, praying with all my might, “Oh, God, please NO! Please, God. NO!! I need him!!” It just couldn’t be Jason…he HAD to be all right. My family had to be safe and okay. But they weren’t. Jason wasn’t safe and and he wasn’t okay.

I no longer feel that my family and I are “protected” and that a huge tragedy such as the death of a child or close family member happens to “someone else” and not to me. I feel vulnerable. I am that mother whose precious son died in a car accident – through no fault of his own – but because of the actions of someone else. My family and I are the ones who have had to walk through a lot because of the actions of someone else. A drunk driver broadsided our son’s car at more than twice the speed limit, and Jason and Alina died instantly. Jason didn’t deserve to die. He was a good kid, making good decisions. Of all people, Jason deserved to live, to marry, to have kids, to live a long and full life. He was one of the best. When I hear them, those sirens are a trigger that reminds me that my family and I am not immune from tragedy. No one is immune. We are all vulnerable, whether we know it or not. Tragedy can – and has – touched my life. It has taken something incredibly precious from me that can’t be replaced.

The other day, as I headed home from work, the road to our house was blocked by emergency vehicles. All I could see was a little gray car (similar to Joe’s) and a young woman who looked very similar to our daughter standing next to the crumpled car. I felt myself tense up and take in a sharp breath. I reached for my phone to call Joe to make sure they were both safe at home. I had to know that they were both safe. They were safe. But I am no longer a curious onlooker to the tragedies along the roadside and to the sound of passing sirens. They have touched my life and made a deep and indelible impression, one that still zings whenever the nerve is touched by the sound of a siren.

And so I earnestly pray for the protection of my family whenever I hear sirens or see emergency vehicles. It’s not that I don’t pray for their safety at other times; I just feel an panic-y urgency to pray for the safety of my family whenever I hear those sirens go screaming by. If I know my family is safe, I pray for the people who may be impacted by what the emergency vehicles and screaming sirens represent.

Oh, God, please protect my family. I pray for your hand of protection, for your mercy, for your gracious favor and blessings to rain down on them. Be close to those whose lives may be impacted by the sound of screaming sirens from emergency vehicles. I know what those sirens can mean and how much they can impact one’s life.

© 2013 Rebecca R. Carney

I know they’re just “things”

From my journal dated January 21, 2003:

Calculus homework awaits

I need a graphing calculator for my math class. We had bought a new one for Jason not too long before the accident; it’s still sitting beside his calculus or physics homework on his desk in his room. I’ve debated and debated what to do. It doesn’t seem practical to go out and buy another expensive calculator when there’s a perfectly good one just sitting in the other room.

It’s just so hard to think about actually going through Jason’s things or using something that was his. It just seems so wrong. I guess it still seems like he should be back soon, and that I would be invading his privacy to just take something that belonged to him. I know it’s just earthly “stuff” from an eternal point of view, and he certainly doesn’t need it any more; but it’s so hard to reconcile. It’s another step to admitting he’s really gone.

Working on homework

It’s been hard just to take math this quarter. Math is so closely related to Jason in my mind. He loved math – since he was a little kid all the way through college. He topped out of the math classes at the community college. He tutored other students in math.

I know it may seem silly. It’s just a calculator. But I remember so vividly the day we got it. So clearly, I picture Jason sitting at his desk, working on homework and using that calculator.

So many memories are tied into all this “stuff.” Things – like this calculator – trigger memories and such intense emotions. They’re just things, but they were Jason’s things.

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

Road Trip 2001

From my journal dated January 2, 2003:

California Road Trip 2011 - Disneyland

This was the first day in a while I’ve been home alone. Joe, Jenna and Eric all had to work today. It’s not as hard as it used to be, but it’s not easy, either.

I cleaned up the kitchen and then started cleaning the bonus room. As I was putting movies away, I ran across the video of Jason and his friends on their road trip to California in September 2001. I decided to sit down and watch it.

Jason - California 2001

It’s a very shaky home video filmed by teenagers, but it was so good to see Jason again like he he was – alive and having so much fun.

It didn’t upset me at first as I was watching it. Jason was having so much fun; it made me smile. But, the more I watched it, I started to feel worse and worse physically. I don’t know if it was the shaky video or some physical grief reaction, but I ended up throwing up. I rarely get sick or throw up. I felt so weak, sweaty, headache-y, nauseated. I don’t know what happened! I felt awful. Ended up going to bed and slept for a while.

Oh, I miss my boy so much! I want him to be alive and having fun. He enjoyed life so much! He made everything fun!

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

Christmas Season – Not the “Same as Always” This Year

From my journal dated December 11, 2002:

On Sunday, Joe and I took Brandy [the dog] for a walk on the Woodinville Slough Trail. We were so sad and needed to get some fresh air. I think the Christmas season is affecting us so much more than we ever thought.

After our walk, we stopped and purchased a Christmas tree from the lot at Mary Sutton’s church. Came home, put it up, and started decorating it. Joe put on the lights, as he’s always done. But he just couldn’t handle doing any more than that. Eric and Jenna weren’t home, either, so I had to do the rest all by myself. It was so hard.

Christmas 2001

Debra* had asked Eric to fix a guitar for her daughter’s birthday. She came up to our house that afternoon to pick it up. We have known Debra and her family for many years; we considered them our extended family – family by choice instead of birth. We chose to make them our family. I feel like Jason’s death changed all that.

There I sat in the middle of the family room floor, surrounded by boxes, tissue paper, and ornaments waiting to be hung on the tree. I was such a mess. I was just drowning. I felt stuck, unable to do anything else. I would have given nearly anything to have someone help me. I guess I just had a hope in my heart that Debra would take time to sit down and help me. I would have loved some help right then. It would have made such a difference.

But she couldn’t do it…wouldn’t do it. I don’t know which. She probably had some place else she was headed. It was like she couldn’t wait to get the guitar from Eric and get out of our house. She barely even talked to me.

We always went as a family to pick out our Christmas tree, and then we would put on Christmas music and start to decorate the house and tree. Joe always put on the lights first. Then I would unwrap the ornaments, and each person would put his or her special ornaments on the tree. Sometimes a story starting with “I remember when…” would accompany the ornament.  Jason always put the angel on the top as soon as he got tall enough to reach.

We loved our Christmas traditions: Going to look at Christmas lights and rating them by “stars”; Chinese food on Christmas Eve; Christmas Eve candlelight service; freshly-made cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning; Joe reading the Christmas story to us; taking turns opening presents; Christmas dinner filled with goof food, family, laughter. Now what do we do?

Nothing is the same. Traditions now emphasize Jason’s absence. How can we just go through the same traditions this year? What are we supposed to do instead? I can’t just throw them all away. We can’t just do nothing. That seems wrong, too.

Christmas 1999

It took me a long time to decorate the tree. I absolutely fell apart when I pulled Jason’s stocking out of the box. How can he be gone??!!?? It’s just not right!! It’s all so very wrong!! This hurts!!! My heart hurts!! How do we celebrate Christmas without our boy??

© 2011 Rebecca R. Carney

One Holiday Down…Another One Right Ahead

From my journal dated November 28, 2002:

I was listening to an “oldies” station on the way to school yesterday. They played “Christmas in the Northwest,” which used to be one of my favorite Christmas songs about celebrating Christmas in Seattle. “Christmas in the Northwest…a gift God wrapped in green.” I instantly teared up. I had to change the station so I could hold it together in order to safely drive.

I’ve known that Christmas was going to be really hard this year, but that was a hard slap of reality right in the face…a painful punch right in the gut.

A “trigger” that pierces my heart

From my journal dated September 18, 2002:

Today was the first day “Jason” things came back full-force…a “trigger” that would reach pierce my heart and hurt like crazy. It was like when we were in Hawaii everything was new and different – different places, different scenes, different things surrounding us. When we got back here, everything is in our faces again.

As I wrote a note for Eric on the whiteboard in the kitchen, I could visualize all the notes we left for Jason and that he had left for us over the years. Later, as I slid into the car to leave, the seat was in a similar position to when Jason drove. He liked to have the seat slightly inclined back. He helped pick out that car when we bought it. Maybe if he’d been driving that car instead of his things would have turned out differently.