(I want to apologize ahead of time to Forsyth and my two nieces, whom I hope won’t mind that I am writing about this extremely personal and difficult situation.)
Something terrible has happened in my family, and I have to admit I’ve been in shock most of the week, unable to think clearly, feeling extremely helpless. With Bob down in Pennsylvania now, beginning his new role as minister, while spending a day supervising the unloading of the first moving truck, and me here all alone, getting ready for Stage Two of the move, I’m realizing that I need to write. I need to get this out. I need my blog, and, in some odd way, I need all of you who read me.
Last weekend, the night before Bob’s ordination, my nineteen-and-seventeen-year-old nieces were hit by a drunk driver while they were on the road to visit a friend in a nearby town down in North Carolina. Miraculously, they both survived the accident, although the prognosis was not good for my youngest niece (who suffered multiple life-threatening injuries). How does one write about such things? How does one describe how difficult it is to be so far away, to be in the midst of a move, not to be able to see and hug and hold everyone involved? How does one capture the feeling of wanting to be on the phone every minute with everyone in the family, holding onto voices, at least, if nothing else? How does one come to grips with the fact that she is in some ways carrying on with her life, as usual, not even telling everyone she encounters what’s going on, despite the fact she wants to scream at some people, “How can you care about such stupid things when two beautiful, innocent, extraordinarily-lovable young women are fighting for their lives right now?” How does one struggle with the guilt she feels that she's throwing herself into work and other tasks at hand which are a distraction? Or the guilt she feels because she can still laugh, still interact with others as though nothing has happened?
I’m so proud of my nieces, both of whom are fighting and holding on and are managing to impress everyone in the hospital with their strength and their wills to live. Although they both remain in intensive care, we are no longer worrying about survival. We’re just worrying about the weeks and months of recovery ahead. I’m proud of my sister who manages to call and email and relay news to oh-so-many people who are calling her every minute, proud that she nonchalantly describes one “meltdown” she had one night, when I’m sure I’d be in perpetual meltdown. I can’t even begin to imagine how she must feel, this being every single mother’s worst nightmare. I’m proud of my family, because we’re all so wonderful in moments like this, supporting each other, “tag-teaming,” so that someone from the family is down there to help at all times. They were all here when it happened (Forsyth, thank God, it turns out, had made a last-minute decision due to work and other obligations not to come up for the ordination), and on some levels, that was one of the good things to come of all this, because we were here to get the news together and to offer support. They all chose to stay for the ordination (a decision I think helped everyone involved, because the ceremony was quite soothing, and the loving support we all got was nothing short of miraculous) but to leave a day early, so that at least one of us could get down to North Carolina to hold Forsyth’s hand.
I’m touched by my nieces’ friends as well. Don’t let anyone tell you anything about the selfishness of teenagers. From the descriptions I’ve been getting, their friends have practically been holding vigils at the hospital. Nurses have complained about my nieces having too many visitors. My youngest niece’s boyfriend (who is the hero of the day, having been in the car as well and kicked his way out to get help) has proven his loyalty and love in a way only young, passionate, teenagers with all their raw emotion can.
I can’t stop thinking about what it must be like for them, what kind of pain they must be experiencing. Imagine being seventeen years old, an age at which no one thinks she’s beautiful, and to be facing major reconstructive surgery on your jaw and face. Imagine having your jaw wired shut. Imagine being in a back brace, possibly for months. Imagine being exhausted all the time at an age at which one should be the most full of energy. Imagine having surgery to drain blood on the brain and memory lapses at that age. Imagine missing school and parties and all the other things nineteen-year-olds and seventeen-year-olds shouldn't be missing. And yet, the sarcastic sense of humor, so prevalent in our family, still reins as one of them rolls her eyes at ridiculous questions and the other one, when her mother tells her she (her mother) has no idea where her (the daughter's) cell phone charger is, comments, “Your daughter’s in the hospital, and you can’t give her the one thing she asks for?”
I don’t know. Does it make sense that I find myself experiencing moments in which I can’t stop crying?