“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

The One Thing of Beauty in Each Day

“You cannot control the world outside, but you can choose what you will bring into yourself. If you do not see anything of value in your life, begin by finding one thing of beauty every day until it becomes a habit”. – Ron Rathbun

I love taking pictures of sunrises and sunsets. It’s a fascination my husband doesn’t quite understand.

As I sat on the beach the other day watching the sunrise, taking pictures, and listening to Dvořák’s New World Symphony, I acknowledged once again that I am looking for the one thing of beauty in each day.

It’s not that I don’t “see anything of value” in my life, but I think it helps me to purposefully look for that thing of beauty that encourages my heart. It could come from a multitude of things – a child’s smile, a good book, a poem, music. A beautiful sunrise.

It does not escape me that the most beautiful sunrises are when there are clouds.

I hate pat cliches, by the way. I don’t think they do a lot of good. As a bereaved parent, I found that it was easier for someone to quote a Scripture or cliche to me (or maybe “at” me) than to actually be there for me. I’m not trying to pass on an inspirational cliche that’s supposed to inspire others. It’s just a personal reflection of where I am and what I’m trying to do – look for the beauty in each new day.

I specifically remember the day, months after Jason died, I noticed how beautiful the flowers were that were blooming at the college. It amazed me at the time that I could actually notice and appreciate their beauty in spite of how deeply grieved I felt at Jason’s death. Especially since my state at the time was one more accurately expressed by W H Auden’s poem, “Funeral Blues”:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

I remember planting a huge variety of daffodils and crocuses at the crash site in the fall of 2002 because I wanted them to bloom the next spring. I planted yellow daffodils for Jason because he was my Mr. Sunshine. I planted purple crocuses for Alina because it was her favorite color. I wanted them to symbolize beauty growing from such ugly despair.

I will be the first to admit that it has not been an easy thing to do since Jason died, this looking for beauty in each day. But I am determined to keep on looking.

Not Just a Formality

From my journal dated November 25, 2002:

The arraignment [of the person who killed Jason and Alina] is on Monday. The prosecutor said it’s just a formality; it should take only five minutes. She said we don’t have to be there.

I don’t really care if it ends up being a 5 minute deal. I feel like I really need to be there. I want to be at all of the hearings. I want to put a face to those who who died and to those who lost such a precious family member.

It’s not just a formality. It’s our precious son whose life was stolen by a drunk driver. It’s our lives that will never be the same because of someone else’s reckless actions. It’s our hearts that have been shattered because Jason died in a horrendous crash not of his own doing. We miss our boy so much. Anything concerning Jason is not just a formality to us.

Charges Are Filed

From my journal dated November 15, 2002:

Marie got a call from a Seattle Times reporter tonight, and then she called me right away. The reporter was doing a story on the charges that were filed yesterday by the prosecutor’s office against the drunk driver who killed Jason and Alina. There’s going to be an article in tomorrow’s Times.

No one had even called either of us!!! AT ALL!!! The reporter had copies of the charging documents filed in Superior Court and wanted quotes or something!

I called the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, wanting to get some questions answered – like why should we hear this from a newspaper reporter instead of some official notification???!!

They filed only one count of vehicular homicide against him and one count of felony hit and run. The deputy said it was a plea bargain offer. If he says he’s guilty, it goes to sentencing and he goes to jail. If he says not guilty, they will up the charges to two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of hit and run.

The deputy said he had gotten an email this week from the prosecutor’s office that this is what they were thinking. He didn’t know they had actually filed the charges.

We ended up getting most of the information from the reporter. She tracked down the prosecutor and called her at home. The prosecutor said their victim’s advocate representative was out of town and that’s why we didn’t get called.

That’s no excuse!!! To find out from a newspaper reporter is an awful way for this to be handled! It’s an awful way to find out.

It’s like when the Herald [newspaper] published an article the day after the accident, telling things about the accident and the extent of injuries to Jason and Alina when WE hadn’t even been informed of anything yet.

The deputy asked what I thought about one vehicular homicide charge being filed. I told him it was a crock. Exactly whose life are they validating? Jason’s? Alina’s? Half apiece? It just goes against my sense of justice.

Some days are better than others

From my journal dated October 1, 2002:

Cleaned house today – kitchen, bathrooms, vacuumed. Trying so hard to get back in the swing of things…so many things I need to do. It makes me sad to clean the house, because it’s what I had asked Jason and Jenna to do the Saturday before the accident. It seemed so important at the time. So, here I am today washing the bathroom floor, crying so hard I can hardly see what I am doing.

After I vacuumed the floors, I vacuumed Jason’s top hat, wrapped it in a plastic bag to protect it, and put it  in his room. The box of photos, chess sets, memorabilia, and Jason’s top hat and gloves have been sitting in the bonus room since the memorial service. This is the first day I’ve felt like I could deal with putting them away.

I fell apart when I walked into Jason’s room. I haven’t been in there for a long time. Seven months later…and I’m still wanting and waiting for Jason to come home. I miss him so much.

Yesterday we went to see Sweet Home Alabama with the McFarlane’s. Cute movie. It was so weird, though, after the movie. We were getting ready to head over to Applebee’s for dessert, and I had an overwhelming feeling that Jason was on his way to meet us there…like he’d been somewhere else doing something with a friend, but was meeting us to celebrate my birthday. It was just a momentary feeling, but it seemed so real! I wish it had been real!

My sister called to wish me a happy birthday. I feel sometimes like I just go through the motions of conversation, but it doesn’t quite reach my heart. I’m like a robot talking, doing things. Maybe I just don’t want to feel anything.

I was so antsy and frustrated today…had a hard time sitting still and concentrating in school and while working on homework. I can’t seem to get a focus on my story for my journalism class. My brain seems like it’s moving through molasses!

The Herald [newspaper] called about doing another story on Jason and Alina. I just don’t really see a point in it. I feel like they’re using Jason and Alina to sell stories – some story on victims not getting fair justice. It just doesn’t feel right. Why now?

The reporter talked about no arrests being made yet, and how other victims felt that justice was not being done for them. I just don’t see where it brings honor to Jason and Alina to have their names associated with a gripe fest. I told her we weren’t interested in doing an article right now. She wasn’t very happy with me.

They’re probably used to people wanting their 15 minutes of fame…but this is not fame I want. It brings pain to too many people with little purpose. Jenna says it’s fame she doesn’t want either. She doesn’t want to be in the spotlight. I told her that I think we probably can’t help but be in the spotlight during the trial, but there’s no good reason now.

I took some bulbs and a small shovel with me today when I left for school. I stopped by the crash site on my way home. I cleaned up the trash, and then I dug a few holes and planted the bulbs – a big variety of bright daffodils for Jason, my Mr. Sunshine, and white and purple crocuses for Alina. Some will come up in early spring and some will come up in late spring, very near the one year mark of the accident. I want them to symbolize life out of death with a bright array of color along the side of the road for everyone to see as they drive by.

Today was a tough day for me.

The ongoing accident investigation…

From my journal dated August 31, 2002:

We (the Christiansons, Joe, Jenna and I) met today with the Snohomish County Deputy handling the accident investigation to go over the case they had presented to the prosecutor. It’s odd…I remember the deputy being older than he actually is. The last time we saw him was the week Jason and Alina died.

Marie invited us to breakfast at their house and the deputy came a bit later. Marie brought out pictures they had put up at Alina’s memorial service. She had some really cute pictures, some with Jason I had never seen before. It was a little awkward at first…we hadn’t actually seen each other since graduation in May.

The deputy went through some things regarding the accident. Since Brian is a witness and will have to testify at the trial, the deputy was very careful not to say anything specific about what they feel the speed range of the Eclipse was. He doesn’t want any preconceived ideas or thoughts put in Brian’s head before he has to testify.

The deputy went through what they feel happened, car-wise, in the accident. Another deputy had put together a poster board with drawings of the accident, intersection, location of cars, etc. It’s all very sobering to look at…very weighty.

He went through the major participants and witnesses – J.H. (driver of the car that hit Jason), D.P. (owner of the car), two other guys and two other girls (ages 15 and 16) who were hanging out together before the accident. They were at J.H.’s house, which was also where D.P. was living at the time, and the parents were out of town. J.H. and D.P. went out to buy beer and somehow also got ahold of some rum. They were playing a card game called “King’s Cup.” Whenever any of them drew a king, they had to take a swig from their cup.

At some point, they decided to take one of the two girls home, so everyone except J.H, piled into a Bronco owned guy one of the guys and took off. The owner/driver (of the Bronco) ended up being too drunk to drive, so D.P. took over. As they were driving down 180th, D.P.’s Eclipse passed them at a high rate of speed with J.H. driving. Right after that, they saw the accident.

D.P. says he saw J.H. walking away, but they didn’t stop to pick him up. The five kids in the Bronco went by the accident, turned around, and drove by it again without stopping. They went to a nearby Texaco gas station to discuss what to do.

After some discussion, they went to someone’s house and a parent advised them to report the car stolenlike they had no idea what had happened and weren’t involved. The deputy feels that no one will give much credence to the “my car was stolen” statement. Too many things point to knowledge that J.H. was driving D.P.’s car.

Somehow J.H. got home and called his girlfriend to come over. She said she thought he was suicidal. Initially, J.H. told the deputies he was home all night, knew nothing about the accident, that the injury to his face was from a fight down by Bothell High School. His girl friend backed him up, saying she had been with him all night. By 4:30 a.m. or so, though, she called back to say she’d done a stupid thing and now wanted to tell the truth.

The deputies didn’t find J.H. right away, because they went to the registered address of the car, which was different from the driver’s home address. As a result, too much time passed in order to test his actual blood alcohol content at the time of the accident. They can’t arrest or charge him with drunk driving.

The Deputy brought pictures of the accident scene for us to see, too, if we wanted to. He had hidden the more gruesome ones, but they were still hard to see. The impact was so hard and right on the driver’s door. It’s incredible how much damage was done to Jason’s Cavalier.

I looked at a few pictures, but couldn’t handle many. It’s just so hard to think of Jason absorbing that much impact…directly on the body of my precious boy. I’m sure they have pictures of Jason and Alina in the car, but I never want to see them.

It was such a draining morning.