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.

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.

He’s just on vacation, isn’t he?

From my journal dated July 18, 2002:

I passed by the crash site earlier today, and they have those black rubber things across the road to count traffic. The last time I talked to the Sheriff’s Office, the traffic count and DNA results were the only things they were waiting on. So, it must be close to going to the Prosecutor’s Office.

I don’t think people realize that all of us have to pass by the crash site and cemetery…sometimes multiple times a day. Jenna probably goes by there more than any of us because it’s the closest route home from school and work.

I can’t help myself but look at either the cross at the crash site or toward the grave when I go by the cemetery…not that it makes it any more real. Sometimes I’m just so aware that my brain refuses to accept that he’s gone. It’s like Jason’s on vacation or at school, and I’m expecting him home soon. And then there are times when I just sit and sob because I’m so sad I just can’t bear it.