Ten years. Ten long years. Ten short years. Where did they go? How could they have passed? How could the agony of my grief fade away? How could it not?
In 1996 I had a dream that Christopher’s mother called me, early in the morning, and told me he’d been killed in a car accident. I woke up crying real tears and feeling the pain of loss even though I knew it was just a dream.
On February 10, 2002, that dream became a reality. With only a few minor details different, the dream came true that morning. At the same time of the morning as in my dream, Christopher’s mother called and told me he’d been in an accident and that the doctors did not expect him to live. She told me I needed to get there to say goodbye.
Was my dream a premonition? I’m thinking it was but who knows? Can we ever really be sure of that? All I know is that about 95% of the dream was re-lived that morning. And the ultimate outcome was the same.
It’s been ten years today since that terrible, heart-breaking phone call. I got to Oklahoma before the doctors finished the last of the numerous tests they did on him to determine if he could survive. I was there when the doctor came in for the final time to tell us his brain was gone; the arteries which supplied blood to his brain had been severed in the accident and, between the lack of blood and the initial trauma, his brain had died almost instantly. There was no chance for him to survive, merely for his body to continue its existence on life support. The doctor told us he didn’t suffer and most likely never even knew anything happened. After offering his condolences, the doctor left us alone to make our decision of how to proceed.
How do you make that decision??
It took less than a minute. We looked at our 17 year old son, the boy we both loved more than life itself, and knew he wouldn’t want his body to be kept alive on a machine if he wasn’t in it. And his mom and I didn’t want that either. I went out and gave the doctor our decision. Friends and family members were in the Emergency room waiting area and we gathered them around him to say our goodbyes. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life. And it was the right decision. I hated that we had to make it and I hated that he didn’t wear his seat belt that night and I hated that he was out of the house at all. And I still do. But reality is reality.
Like most parents who have lost a child (and I know far too many of them these days) I tell my story today for two reasons, neither of them sympathy. First - to remind everyone how very fragile life can be and how quickly it can be taken away. Second, and most important – to remind everyone that because of reason number one we should all be more appreciative of those we love (and those who love us) and let them know on a regular basis. The last time I talked to Christopher I had no idea it would be my last. I told him, at the end of our conversation, that I loved him. Those were my last words to him while he was alive and conscious and cognizant of everything around him. The last time his mom talked to him, before he left the house that night, they had an argument and he left with both of them angry at each other. Can you imagine the guilt she must have felt over that? I can, because she shared it with me on more than one occasion.
The night as we said our goodbyes in that quiet, sterile place of life and death, we both told him we loved him. His brain was dead. Did he hear us? We liked to think that his spirit did. I’ll ask him when I see him.
Parents, please, please remind everyone you love of the importance of seat belts when in a car, regardless of where they sit. Christopher was thrown from the back seat because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The car didn’t roll over or anything that dramatic. It spun around a couple of times. He went out the window and never knew it. The other two people in the car walked away. They were wearing seat belts. Please ensure those you love wear them as well.
I miss you, Christopher. I miss you every day. I’ve learned to live with it and move on, as you wanted, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. You will always be my baby boy and I’ll love you forever.