One moment you are working peacefully on your computer, catching up on your Facebook messages and debating in the back of your mind what to have for dinner; the next minute you see your husband enter the room his face a mask of twisted anguish, his shoulders hunched over as if he were going to fall. You run to him to see if he is all right and all he says is “Michael, oh God, Michael, motorcycle”, over and over. You know he was just speaking on the phone to your youngest daughter. You know she has a son, your oldest grandson and his name is Michael; you know he rides a motorcycle. Reality jams at your brain like a two by four. You grab your husband and scream, “no, no.” It doesn’t matter. Your beloved oldest grandson was killed in an accident while on his motorcycle by a hit and run driver.
To say that unexpected death is devastating doesn’t even begin to describe the anguish. One minute someone you love is alive and breathing and you know you’ll see him again or he’ll call and say “Hi Grandma” and your heart will rush with the joy of hearing from someone you love who took time out from his 80 hour a week job to remember you. The next minute he is somewhere else, somewhere where you are unable to step across the dimensions between life and death and talk to him. You hear someone screaming and it is a minute or two before you realize it is you. Where is he? Where did he go? Michael come back, Michael come back. The next few days are a blur where you cry till your eyes are swollen shut and the tear bin has emptied. Then you are numb for the next few hours. Someone says something about the accident and where is the body and reality knocks you again to your knees where you again cry till your head feels stuffed and your eyes are burning.
This is where I have been since Wednesday afternoon when we got the phone call. We drove to California to be with our daughter and help plan the funeral. But nothing is simple. Three days later we are still waiting for paperwork from the coroner’s office to begin the process of cremation. Michael’s brother is still searching for a church that will accomodate us. We find out that there is a 3 day process because Michael’s wife who he has been separated from for many years is the only one with legal rights to the body and we need her cooperation to get the paperwork started. She needs to sign it over to Teri, my daughter who is Michael’s mother. Despite years of ugly hostility between the wife and Michael she cooperates. After 3 days it still isn’t done and we find there is another 5 to 7 day period after that when the Department of Health does whatever their legal responsibility is. Tom and I drove 8 hours to be here.
We wait day after day praying that each phone call will bring news that a process has been started. Tom is running out of meds by Wednesday. We are running out of things to keep busy to keep us from falling apart. Family feuds surface. One grandaughter is filled with rage and aims it at us. I am heartbroken for one more reason. Our daughter wanted a Catholic service. Her ex husband rages there’ll be no Catholic service. Michael’s brother, sister, other grandmother and one of my daughters agree. After days of wrangling Teri gives in. There’ll be no Catholic service. A devout Catholic, I feel the hemorrhage in my heart one more time. What a mess. Finally Teri decides to go ahead with the services before getting the remains from the mortuary. That way everyone can go back home and the waiting will be over. I’m relieved. Dying should not cause such intense emotional uproar. It should bring everyone together. We need to be together. How could this have happened?
I pray the Twenty Third psalm and as the words, “the valley of the shadow of death” pass my lips I feel a gentle stroking on my heart. Michael is with his grandfather Chuck who loved him so much and preceeded him in death by twenty years. I am lost but I am also feeling stronger. One day I’ll see him again.
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