Monday, June 1, 2015

Long Time Ago

Fifty-five years ago today, on a scorching sunny afternoon, we buried my mom. She was thirty-one. I was ten. At that time, I thought she was incredibly old. I learned the error of my ways when I approached thirty-one myself.

She died close to midnight in a head-on collision in the New Mexico desert on a narrow two lane road. My three brothers were in the back seat, but survived unhurt except for my youngest brother who suffered a broken leg.

I was with my father in our truck, traveling just ahead of her as we drove tandem-wise, moving from Arizona to Indiana. When we reached the next town, Dad pulled off at a closed gas station to wait for her to catch up. But she never did.

I knew something was wrong long before the police officer pulled up next to our truck. I knew she wasn't going to ever come to meet us.

The next hours were a bewildering jumble of images. And then my brothers and I were in the back of the pickup traveling back, back across New Mexico and Arizona to my grandparents' house in Chandler, Arizona. That was where we were going to have a funeral and bury my mother.

At ten, I learned the hard truth that people we love can die in an instant. And they never come back.

Perhaps that's why I worry so much about my family members, my children and their families, my siblings, my parents when they travel. I fear the day when a police officer will show up at my door to tell me someone has died in a car accident. Today, more than ever, when folks insist on texting and talking on their phones instead of watching out for the other vehicles around them, I worry more--not less.

If you're not paying attention, if you're driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or lack of sleep, if you're texting or talking on the phone...stop it. STOP IT! I am here to tell you the unvarnished truth. The survivors never recover. They never get over it. They might move on, because all life moves on. But they never, ever reach the point of recovery. Never.

I miss you, Mom. I loved you with all the love a ten year old can hold in her heart.

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