I stared at you a lot today. I watched you swing on the cart at Home Depot, I stared at you after you fell asleep next to me on my bed at nap time. I watched you dance unself-conciously with your sister at the street festival. I let you have nachos for lunch and pizza for dinner and pick a treat at the store. I watched Anna too. I watched the intent way she watched the potter shape a bowl tonight, the way her face drooped when she told me that she never gets picked for anything and the way she put her arm around you and said, “I’ll take you Bubba,” when you needed to go to the bathroom at the movie theater.
You pushed her away and said, “I can do it myself Anna!” I even tried to memorize your scowl and Anna’s eye roll.
I stared and Josh and Daddy when they left for Idaho this morning and tried to memorize just how they looked when they got on the shuttle. Dad tired and a little stressed, Josh excited as Dad led him to the shuttle lugging his bag of at least 5 books. He glanced back at me and looked so old.
Anniversaries do that to you. They make you stop, they make you treasure, and they make you remember what you learned on that day.
**This picture was taken a couple of days before the accident. A completely normal night, running out of room on the bed.
One year ago this weekend my Max you were hit by a truck, driven by our dear friend.
Daddy and I were out front talking. I was upset because I was hungry. Dad wanted me to stop eating bread. It felt like a betrayal of all our family traditions. Tears pricked my eyes while we talked. He was cleaning out the car. We were getting ready to sell it. You hopped on your strider bike and were riding around the drive way, you didn’t have your helmet on. Anna was with Auntie Amy, I honestly can’t remember if Josh was out with us or inside. Suddenly you were going down the driveway, right in front of a truck. I watched it happen. I saw the truck hit your bike and you go under it, right between the wheels. I screamed something as I ran down the driveway – I don’t know what, Max!? Stop!? No!?I have no idea.
After that I was numb and strangely calm. The truck stopped immediately with you still underneath it. Dad was a complete wreck, crying not making sense, yelling at everyone to do something. The friend driving was a wreck. Someone pulled you out. I think it was Dad, if not he was nearby. He had road rush on his hands and arms to prove it. You ended up in Daddy’s arms.
You were a mess, but you were crying and you knew who I was and that was a good sign. I didn’t have any tears, not yet, I was just trying to calm everyone down. Our next door neighbor called 911, and a neighbor across the street came and gave you a blessing. Dad was in such shock he couldn’t remember your full name. The driver ran up and down the street, trying to find a nurse or a doctor home (we have 2 nurses and 1 doctor on our street). I hugged him and told him it wasn’t his fault. Tears streamed down his face as he told me that it was, of course it was. Josh was there by this point sobbing, a neighbor took him in the house and sat with him.
I called Auntie Amy, “Max was hit by a car, I have to go to the hospital, can you come get Josh?”
“Yes, I’m on my way.” No questions, just immediate action.
The ambulance arrived quickly and put you on a back board, and in a neck brace. I held your hand and climbed into the ambulance with you. They decided to life flight you to Vegas in case of a head injury. We drove the two blocks to the elementary school, the closest place that a helicopter could land. I told Dad to grab me some shoes. He did and he met us there. He brought me the teeny tiny Gram’s old tennis shoes, no socks.
He didn’t have the presence of mind to remember your name, but he did manage to tell the helicopter pilot that I get really air sick. The pilot looked warily at me as I climbed in, “Tell me if you are going to throw up, it can’t get all over the controls.” I nodded wordlessly. Every detail is so fresh in my mind.
As we took off I started praying. I prayed that angels would come and comfort you. I could hear you screaming in the back for the first part of the flight. Eventually I couldn’t hear you anymore. I prayed it was because you had calmed down. I prayed that you would be OK. I prayed that we would get there quickly, and I prayed that I wouldn’t throw up. I watched the minutes on the clock tick by one by one. It was the longest 40 minutes of my life. At some point during the flight I remembered that I had been babysitting Kelsie for Auntie Amy. She’d been asleep in the office when everything happened. I had a moment of panic, but I realized that as her mom Auntie Amy would probably remember that Kelsie was there when she went to get Josh. She did. Uncle Patrick had to get through a policeman who was keeping people out of the house, but she was rescued eventually.
When we landed they whisked you away. They led me out and I saw a team of about 10 doctors converge on your little body. That’s when I lost it. That’s when I cried, in the waiting room at the hospital in Vegas. I cried, and I had a horrible cold – I found a stash of toilet paper to keep in my pocket and called Daddy.
I only had to wait about 10 minutes before the Doctor came out. No broken bones, no major internal injuries as far as they could tell. They wanted to do an MRI and I could be with you for that. You weren’t crying anymore, you just looked terrified, when I got to you, you said, “Don’t leave me Mommy.” I didn’t. I held your hand during the MRI and we pretended we were on a ride at Disneyland. The results came back clear. I called Daddy – who was on his way to Vegas – driven by our next door neighbor, no one trusted him to drive himself. Then I called the wife of the driver to let them know you were going to be just fine.
Your worst injury was on the side of your head. I told you more about Disneyland while they stitched you up, we had bought tickets to go there in a couple of weeks, but you didn’t know it yet. You were tall enough to ride everything – and still free – I was so excited to show you that magical place. Daddy got there right before they moved us up to the ICU. He’d stopped and bought you some ninja turtles on his way. We had a fantastic trauma nurse and he escorted us personally up to the ICU where his wife was on duty.* that’s your Daddy’s hand clutching yours…
That night Daddy stood by your bed the entire night and held your hand. Every time you woke up he was right there. I was numb and tried to sleep in the chair in the room.
We watched you, held you, and monitored your pain the next day. Mike brought Josh and Anna to us that night. Auntie Amy and some others stopped by to check on you and bring you presents. Daddy took Josh and Anna to a hotel and I stayed with you. It was my turn to hold your hand and let you know it was OK. Anna needed her Daddy. The next morning we switched and I took the Josh and Anna back to the hotel for breakfast. The servers asked me for my room key. I must have looked homeless by that point.
Later that day we were discharged and on our way home.
We got home to an overwhelming outpouring of love. Our entire neighborhood was lined up to welcome us. They clapped when you got out of the car, and there were more than a few tears. There were ninja turtle balloons lining the drive way and a welcome home banner with a huge ninja turtle on it hanging on the garage. Messages from our family and friends were scrawled across it. Over the next couple of weeks, I would sit and read them to you. You loved it and it hung on the wall in your room for months. Our house had been cleaned spotless, there was food in the fridge and presents everywhere. I was so grateful, and still so numb. I felt like nothing was real, and like I was moving through a dream.
We hibernated that week and left the house as little as possible. I hid myself in books and holding my family. The doorbell rang several times a day with gifts and meals from family and friends. The driver couldn’t sleep while you were in the hospital. He used the time to make you a lego table and collected about a million legos from the ward to go with it. It is still the most used toy in our house. Family came by with gifts and told me that when they heard the news they knelt right where they were and prayed. I felt so loved, so grateful, and still numb.
***one week to the day later – a miracle
It wasn’t until several weeks later that I finally came out of my brain fog. I was teaching sharing time when the primary children sang A Child’s Prayer.
Heavenly Father are you really there?
And do you hear and answer every child’s prayer?……
Pray he is there
Speak he is listening
You are his child
His love now surrounds you.
I was filled with love, brought by those sweet children’t voices. I knew that angels had been with you in the helicopter. Specifically that Grandma Barbara and Grandpa Purdy were there, and others that knew and loved both of us. I knew that you were still here for a reason. I finally surrendered my heart completely to Heavenly Father, and I started to feel again. I don’t mean to be dramatic, my pain, and experiences are small compared to those of millions of others, but I try to learn where I can, and I hope I can have a very little bit of empathy.
There were a few lasting effects: you were scared of cars for a long time – that’s unfortunately gone now. You were a Daddy’s boy for several months (I think due to that first night in the hospital), and you would say, “I love you Mommy/Daddy/Joshy/Anna” about 50 times a day. Something you didn’t do before.
But you saw a picture of yourself in the hospital several weeks ago and didn’t remember what had happened. I think that is a good thing.
Over the months that have come and gone since then I have thought a lot about this experience, especially in the light of other’s tragedies. Why were we so lucky, so blessed? The only answer is, I have no idea. I love the scripture in Isaiah 55:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
All we can do is try to live close to the One who can bring us peace and incredible joy. To try and find and follow his will for us. And live so that no matter what happens I get you, your Daddy and your brother and sister forever.
I was going to clean out the car tomorrow – we just got a new one and we need to sell the old one, but that’s something I just can’t make myself do. Monday is soon enough.
Love you forever,
Links to videos of him in the hospital:
And two weeks later opening his early Christmas present.
They are a little long, I’m not a video expert.