Dear Dr. Gloria,
My youngest son Nathan, just 20 years old died in a car accident on my husband’s birthday, July 7th, 2007. He took a curve too fast on July 4th at 3:30 am, the same curve he had taken 100 times before. He was not not wearing a seat belt, he was ejected from the car window. He landed in a grassy meadow in a remote area and it took emergency response a while to locate him. His car rolled end on end, but the inside of the car was unharmed, he would have lived if he had his seat belt on. He was life-flighted to the nearest hospital.
I was on vacation when I got the call and I took the first plane home. I don’t remember much of the flight, I almost fainted and cried uncontrollably. My husband (his step father) had to drive eight hours home so I flew alone. I lay on the airplane seat alone sobbing. No one asked if I was ok or if I needed help. My father-in-law met me at the airport and drove me to the hospital. I was scared my ex-husband and his wife would already be there and my relationsip with them was distant at best. Nathan is the youngest of four sons, my oldest is a Medical Dr., I have a second son in law school, both married with children and out of state. My third son, Nathan, was engaged.
I was warned on the phone by my eldest son that it was very serious and it would be a shock to see him on life support. As he is also a doctor he had been in touch with the local Utah doctors and he told me exactly what we were facing. There were very little brain waves, because or lack of air from the impact. Other than a punctured lung and a black eye, he looked perfect.
I watched for three days and nights and my baby son lay with tubes in almost everywhere keeping him alive. I was told there was really no hope, but I never gave up, once.
I talked to my unconscious son for three days and nights, I climbed up on the bed as he lay lifeless, moved his tubes and held him in my arms. I tried to cram a lifetime full of advice into him and expressed my love for him over and over. During these three days and nights I cried and screamed with pain and sufffering as I never knew I could. I had seen people do it on movies, but the pain was so intense I could not contain myself.
He twitched some and I swear I felt him grab my hand, but on the third day he was pronounced brain dead. Of course the organ donor people were there hovering around him waiting. His lungs had healed, he was perfect….just no brain waves at all.
“He would want to be a donor, he could save or make an effect on almost 30 lives,” they said.
It is great in a lot of ways to have a son there who is a medical dr. to guide my decisions. I know it was selfish, but all I could see was the doctors taking my baby son whose heart was still beating, whose lungs were still inflating, whose hands were still warm and cutting him to pieces. But all my sons and ex-husband and husband agreed that, that is what Nathan would have wanted. And that is what they did. I knelt by his bed took his hand, prayed, kissed his warm face for the last time and gave permission for the doctors to take my son apart so that others may live.
I know somewhere, in some hospitals, mothers were rejoicing because their children would live. But now mine was dead.
I tucked a Tigger stuffed animal in his casket, a V8 and a motorcyle magazine. I threw myself on top on him, hugged him, kissed his face and brushed back his hair. The last time I saw him.
Besides the guilt of divorcing his dad when he was 15 and the fact that my son, Nate, and I have had a fight three weeks before all of this, I was devastated. Fortunately he had come to my home and kissed me and we told each other we loved each other just a few days before. I had told him we would do lunch, we never did, I got busy, more guilt. He was at that free spirit stage and trying to figure out what path to take. I was hanging back giving him his freedom. Did I give him too much, was it my fault? He only wanted to hang with his friends who were into things I did not appove of.
This path of grief is never ending. It hurts clear into my bones. It has been 7 months and yet the pain lingers on. I pray to find him, to see him, to talk with him. It seems at time unreal that I have continue to walk this path of grief. People no longer want to talk about it, this is a very lonely road that I walk alone, and in a very dark place.
I can’t remember things anymore. It’s as if I am only half here. I can’t really accept the fact he’s gone. There are times, like when I was in Vegas last week and saw a young woman celebrate her 21st birthday, that I fall apart and realize he and I will never see that. I will never see what he could have become, he was brilliant, see him get married, have children, grandchildren. I can never call him and hear his latest music on his phone’s voice mail, although I still try. It hurts, it’s hell. I will forever have this dark cloud of pain that follows me. I sit in this dark place where Mothers go to grieve. People have forgotten, or avoid me. Everyones life goes on. I have gotten good at pretending for the benefit of others.
If only I could have changed places with him, or called him that night and checked on where he was…
This is my story. I honesly don’t know what I am interested in as far as volunteering. I don’t know what I can handle.
Dr. Gloria Responds
We are so very sorry for your loss. As a mother who lost her son in an accident, I truly understand your pain. Few words can help. This is a time to be gentle with yourself and just do the best you can. Seven months is a very short time for grieving a son – there is no correct amount of time nor no right way to grieve. We do what we have to do until the healing begins. For most of us the pain does not totally go away but we get to the point that we can breathe again, function in the world and find some areas of joy once more. Choosing to donate organs is is an excruciating decision to make and one that gives others hope while you suffer. It takes a lot of courage to do that and we hope that someday you will be able to take comfort in the fact that your courage helped many, many people receive the gift of life or a fuller life.
It is important that you find some kind of support system and we recommend The Compassionate Friends. http://www.compassionatefriends.org. This is a group of bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings who understand what you are experiencing and are prepared to give and receive loving support. You can find a chapter near you by going to their website. If there is no chapter of Compassionate Friends in your area you may want to contact your local Hospice for a grief group recommendation. However, we understand that groups are not for everyone. If groups are not for you we recommend that you reach out to your family, church, and friends for support. You might find that a few visits with a grief counselor might alsso be very helpful. We have found that the load of grief is lighter when it is not carried alone.
We have a loving group of readers who often reach out to each othe so we encourage you to check back for comments that may be posted to the letter you submitted.
Dr. Gloria Horsley