And these moments like that are short lived, as tragedy can be lurking around any corner.
I feel like I survived a plane crash and as I walked away from the wreckage...I was hit by a speeding train.
To quote the bad guy in the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg movie, The Other Guys: "I think the best way to tell the story is by starting at the end, briefly, then going back to the beginning, and then periodically returning to the end, maybe giving different characters' perspectives throughout. Just to give it a bit of dynamism, otherwise it's just sort of a linear story."
The boy who died was my cousin, but I stress that this was not some rando family member I saw on holidays; he was a really important person in my life and I adored him.
I have so much that I want to get out, so sue me if I go 2 fast (timing appropriate Prince reference.)
I woke up on Tues, April 19th to two text messages from my sister. As my barely cognizant brain tried to adjust, I read through the words on my screen...
"Justin, Jesse, the boys"
"Jesse...is really bad."
Bad news never sinks in right away. It's as if a part of my mind wants to keep me from pain and goes into denial mode, stopping me from seeing the truth. When my dad came home from the hospital in Boston having not yet had surgery, my mind told me "he's coming home; therefore he's ok."
I moved to the couch and frantically typed "NJ car accident" into Google on my laptop, tightly gripping my coffee mug.
I clapped my hand over my mouth as my jaw dropped in horror. Not much for details, but photos of an emergency helicopter, ambulances, and wreckage. Among these pictures was one showing the underside of my overturned 2001 Subaru Outback...the one which had been given to Jesse after I got my new car months earlier.
Critical condition. I got up and threw on some clothes. To me, "critical condition" meant "not dead." I guess I thought that I could escape fate by refusing to acknowledge the facts. If I just go about my day like normal, everything would be all right. In a fog, I got ready for work, and before I walked out the door, grabbed this picture from atop the bureau in my room:
Mom and her brother Tim left in the middle of the night to bring my aunt Jen to New Jersey to be with her sons. My mom was calling me from the hospital.
"Erica," she said in a serious tone. "He's been pronounced brain dead. He's gone."
That's when I finally understood it. I somehow managed to go back into the classroom (I haven't mentioned it this year, but I work with a beautiful little kindergarten girl with select mutism.) I told her that I had to go and gave her the bubbles that I had for her to bring out to recess. I went to the office and told the principal that my cousin was dead and I was leaving, not sure when I'd be back. I dashed out to my car and just made it into the driver's seat before breaking down into heart wrenching sobs. Through a barrage of ugly tears, I made the short drive to my parents' house to see my sister.
I'll stop here for now and continue tomorrow where I take anyone who happens to be reading this back to the late '90s, where this story begins.
And while we're back in time, I've selected a sad af song from that time period as I like to connect blog posts with songs: It's "Gone Away" by the Offspring.