I often wonder how it went, that last week of his life.
The accident was on Tuesday morning, November 14, just outside of Memphis, TN. Daddy was the passenger, taking his seatbelt off for a moment to get some books out of the back seat. The brakes failed. He went through the windshield, hitting his head on a tractor trailor parked on the side of the road.
Mom tells me he never woke up. His head was shaved and swollen, his broken jaw wired shut, making him unrecognizable. Jerry, the friend he was supposed to meet for lunch that day, sat for hours by his bedside as soon as he heard the news. Mom called family to come take care of Jeanna and me, saying that she understood he would be in the hospital for a very long time.
My grandmother once said she knew they were in trouble when they moved the family to a private waiting room the following day. Her “mother instinct” kicked in before the doctors delivered the news of failing kidneys.
November 15, 1967
Cause of death: Severe Cerebral Contusion.
After trying to piece this together for the past 43 years, I know this part of the story well.
But it leaves a million unanswered questions.
What did he do for his 27th birthday, just a couple of weeks earlier?
What did he preach about for his sermon that Sunday morning?
What was he wearing?
Was I awake when he left that morning?
Did Jeanna get to hug him good-bye?
What were his plans for that weekend?
What did he last say to Mom?
And who called to let her know?
As a young girl, I hated the fact that I had no memories of my Daddy. The truth is that to this day, I would still give anything to have known him, to remember his voice, his touch, and the look in his eyes.
But I realized something through the years of this process known as grief; maybe, by having no memories of my own, God was somehow protecting me from the pain.
Because I was a baby, I didn’t have to receive the phone call that changed everything. I didn’t suffer through a painful funeral, visit the crash sight, or see my Daddy so broken that he was unrecognizable.
Having no memories might just be a blessing. Because of this, I was free to be an innocent child. A child, who, for as long as I can remember, had only one goal; the goal of getting to Heaven. That’s where Jesus lives. Where God lives. Where my Daddy lives.
Today, and this week, especially, I have no choice but to think of Daddy in a way that rips my heart open.
It’s what stops me in my tracks the second I hear of someone’s else’s loss. It’s what draws me to all the other mommies and babies who lose their daddies. It’s what drives me to treasure my family and make each day count for something. It holds me accountable for the life that I’ve been given.
And for all of my unanswered questions, I believe I finally found an answer to my greatest one; the question that kept me awake at night for most of my life.
Dear God, Why couldn’t he have lived?
As it turns out, the answer is on right in front of me, on his death certificate.
“Severe Cerebral Contusion.”
I fully believe now that God rescued my Daddy on that early Wednesday morning back in 1967.
He saved him by bringing him home, because that was the only way to completely heal him.
And by doing this, God somehow protected him from the pain. He did the same for me.
Because this is what healing is all about.
Janet Morris Grimes 2010Tags: anger, belongings, funerals, money, Depression, guilt, signs and connections