My daughter — along with two of her best friends, all three Sara(h)s — was killed in a terrible car crash on Friday, March 16, 2007 at around 4:30 in the afternoon CDT. I'll never forget that date as long as I live.
When my dad called to tell me, at first I didn't feel anything. I felt absolutely nothing except a vague feeling of worry for my dad because he was so sad. I started to wonder if I was a bad mom or even a bad person because I just didn't feel anything at all. It wasn't until I heard Dan calling his work to say he would be out — until I heard him say what my dad had already told me — that I sort of broke. I sort of collapsed and found myself completely unable to move or to think. I found it difficult even to breathe. I went to bed, but I didn't sleep. When I got up the next morning, I had somehow convinced myself that it was all a mistake. Sarah couldn't be gone. It was just too big to believe. The car burned up. Maybe Sarah wasn't actually in it. Maybe they had dropped her off somewhere. Surely she'd call soon and tell us that it was OK, that she was alright.
I kept that up almost all the way to Texas. I tried to be rational. I knew I was repeating a fiction, but I also knew that I was not ready for the truth. So, I allowed myself to hold on to the lie for as long as I could.
Last week is kind of a blur. The worst day was Wednesday. There was a funeral and a memorial and I went to visit Tasha in the hospital. That was also the day that (late in the afternoon) they released our Sarah's body, having matched her with her dental records. It was like another blow. It really was her, and she really was gone. We couldn't even see Tasha because she was in surgery and her parents were very worried, exhausted and weary from sitting at the hospital through surgery after surgery.
Ironically, the best day was Friday. That was our Sarah's funeral. It was beautiful. My sister, Beverly spoke. She made us do the “happy dance” that our Sarah used to do down the halls at school. She had eloquent things to say about Sarah and what that dance symbolized for her. When she had us do the dance the second time, almost everyone was smiling, even if it was mostly through tears. Then my nieces sang a song about life and living it to the fullest every day because you never know what might be around the bend. “We live. We love. We forgive and never give up.” I know our Sarah would have approved. She never gave up. Every time she fell down, she got right back up and tried again.
I went back to work yesterday, 13 days after my daughter left this world. Most people were surprised to see me back. Yesterday was hard. I pretty much cried all day. I have some really wonderful co-workers who all stopped by to hug me and tell me that they care. One of my co-workers took me down for coffee and encouraged me to just talk about it, which was very therapeutic. She even brought me lunch.
Today was easier. What got me through the day was stopping every few minutes to look at the pictures of Sarah I've been putting up on flickr. Looking at her always made me happy. Even now, looking at her picture makes me smile. She was so happy, so beautiful, such a fun person to be around. She was an “A” student at Hemphill. All three Sara(h)s were. They were the good kids you always hope your kid will make friends with. They were the kind ones who befriended people that other kids made fun of or ostracized. Their deaths were a terrible loss. Just terrible. Not just for us, their parents and family, but for everyone who ever knew them.
But, I'm determined not to succumb to sadness and self-pity. My Sarah wanted everyone to be happy. She was always doing things to make people smile. She had such a rough life, all things considered, but in the end she was just herself. When she first when to Hemphill, some kid made fun of her because she was in the AP class. “You're one of them Appy kids,” he said. She replied proudly that yes she was and from then on she went by the nickname, “Appy.” She signed the notes she passed to friends that way. She was just like that.
She was supposed to come here for spring break. I already had plans to take the week off so we could roam Seattle and do all the touristy stuff that you never do when you live someplace. I was so looking forward to seeing her. I talked to her that Tuesday before she died. We must have been on the phone for over an hour talking about everything and nothing, just enjoying the sound of each other's voice. It's a happy memory. The last time I spoke to her, she was happy. We were happy together and excitedly looking forward to spring break. Now, she's gone and I'll never hold her or talk to her again.
In the beginning, I had to keep reminding myself that I was not physically hurt. I wasn't in a car wreck. I was OK. The pain was so strong, a physical pain. I understand why they call it heartache. I felt like my heart had died inside me, the pain was so intense. It was a cold, dark feeling of complete loss, of dread, of utter sorrow. It still feels that way most of the time. I feel the need to be strong, to keep up a good front. I'm doing pretty well. When Dan and I are alone, I can let myself go and cry and cry. He holds me and tells me that he loves me and sometimes he cries right along with me.
But, others don't need to see all that. I know that my pain is not mine alone. Every parent, aunt, uncle or grandparent feels the pain, the loss, the fear that this sort of thing engenders, the realization that these things don't just happen to “other people”. I forget who said it, but someone said that after the word got out about the three Sara(h)s everyone went home and hugged their children a little bit tighter and said “I love you” just a few more times, a lot more seriously than they usually would.
So, that's where I am right now. I'm sad, but trying to be positive and hold my head up and live through this one day at a time.