Sunday, April 27, 2008


In Which We Count Backwards...

It was late last night, and there was a piece of business in front of me to which I did not wish to attend, so I started noodling around in my email inbox and shortly found myself going through messages from a little more than a year ago. This one caught my eye.

April 23, 2007

It's us. Car is packed to the roof, hotel reservations are all made along the way and were just getting ready to head out the door to come see you. But thought we'd check messages one more time and there SHE was, our beautiful new granddaughter!!

Oh, that Elizabeth is one gorgeous kid, just like her mother (and thankfully not as fat as her father. you were 8 pounds 9 ounces and it was all around your head!)

Thank you for sending the pictures. I know we told you not to bother--after all we're going to see the real McCoy in a few days and know how busy you must be shuttling between the hospital and work and home to the Big Brother and Sister. But I have to say I'm SO glad you disobeyed your mother and sent them anyway!!

SO Beautiful. And seeing her with Thomas and Anna...just perfect. My God, Anna is growing so. She will be a great Big Sister. And Thomas, that knowing smile. The old hand. But I remember how excited he was to meet Anna when he was just 2 and a half (I was there, remember!) Hope they are not too worried about Mom. Although I know I am. I hope she is getting some rest now that the delivery is over.

Your father is in the room now yelling it is time to go...but then he saw the pictures on the screen and sat down to gaze. Going to take an extra minute to send them on to Aunt Cathy and Marianne and the gang--they will love them, but not as much as we do!

And then time to hit the road otherwise we'll never get there. REALLY Can't wait now to see that baby and all our other babies too.

Including you!


I was tired--exhausted really, not having slept much this week, between the baby's continued teething woes, a nasty head cold that had attacked me from ambush a few days ago and my general state of mind. So I was exhausted, and it was very late at night. And it was raining hard outside and thunder echoed hauntingly in the distance and an eerie light flickered occasionally through the windows from somewhere far off. So I can perhaps be forgiven for the wild flight of fancy that seized me, that gave me the briefest, most insane moment of stark raving belief, and that compelled me to finally click the "reply" button and begin to write:

Dear Mom,

I'm seeing the date stamp at the top of your message, and it's just so damn big and bold right there at the front of the email that I can't help but think that even though I'm answering it today, a year and three days later, on April 26, 2008, this message is still somehow going to reach you a few seconds after you sent your note, while you're still sitting at the computer in the corner of the living room in New Hampshire, on April 23, 2007.

In which case, the first thing I have to tell you is: Don't leave the house. Don't get in the car. Toss the keys down the well. Slash the tires. Do whatever you have to, just don't get on the road.

If you do, in 3 days' time--or exactly a year ago from where I'm writing--you and Dad will be killed while you're sitting in traffic on the Indiana Toll Road, just 9 hours from the house. You would have made it that night, you would have got to hold the baby in your arms before sundown that very day. But instead, you both died a thousand miles from home on a rainslick highway just a few minutes after checking out of one of those hotels you made a reservation at.

It was not your fault. You were hit from behind by a truck driver who was looking around the cab of his semi for his cell phone. He was doing this while driving at 62 miles an hour, and so didn't see the stopped traffic on the highway in front of him, presumably, until he hit the first car.

You and Dad were 2 of 8 people killed in the accident. I know this for a fact. I spoke to the state trooper who filed the report at the scene. I talked at length with the coroner who supervised the removal of your bodies from the wreck. BB and I went through the wreck ourselves a few weeks after the accident, but not before we buried you. Not before I had to tell the kids that Grandma and Papa had died. Not before--

Sorry. The important point here is, STAY WHERE YOU ARE. I know you're eager to come see the baby--believe me, I know. So if you get this, give me a call in the morning. I will cheerfully pay to put you on a flight out here--both of you, first class. You have no idea how much I wish you had done that in the first place. But I remember whenever we'd offer to fly you out here in the past, you'd gasp and make a big deal and tell me--as you so often did, "Oh, I hate flying. I hate not being in control. I feel much, much safer being in the car."

Please reconsider this viewpoint.

Or don't. I don't care about that, really. I just want you to call me once you get this message.

Please. Call me.


Then I went to bed.

This morning I woke up and it was just another Sunday morning. I went downstairs and checked the phone--no messages. I sat down at the computer, feeling vaguely foolish. My Big Brother still keeps my mom's email account open--it was the house account. Whatever will he think when he reads that message, I wonder. But in truth, I don't really care. I turn my eye back to the business I'd been avoiding the night before.

But now I did what needed doing, answered a few questions, then sent off the the memorial company in charge of engraving my parents' names and dates on a slab of granite and placing it over their grave.

With all accounts liquidated, all bills paid (these two more or less canceled each other out), the house turned over to my brother, the personal effects either donated or thrown out or divided between us, this was the last piece of business related to my parents' death, and I was reluctant to complete it.

To well and truly have it set in stone.

Why? Because I'm still just a child--their child--and some part of me still held onto the notion that this didn't really happen. And that maybe, after some magical interval of time--a day, a week, a month, six months--the spell would be undone and everything would go back to the way it was supposed to be.

But each magical interval of time came and went, and now, here it is, a year come and gone. And still I took one last chance to reach them, to get them back, and it didn't work.

They're dead, a whole year dead.

It's time to stop sending messages backward. It's time to turn around, and head the other way.

I am glad of one thing, though: that I disobeyed my Mom and sent those photos. I almost didn't--the Web connection was slow at the hospital and it took forever to send images and Mom had insisted that I not bother with it. But I'm glad I did. It turned out to be my parents' only chance to see the baby.

I just wish they'd gotten my other message, too.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

I wish too that they had gotten your message and the last year of pain for you and your family had been wiped away. And glad you disobeyed her and hopefully that lovely image was with her and your dad throughout their last day.
So glad you sent the pictures when you were told not to! I can't beleive it's been a year. My prayers are with you and your family.
I'm so sorry. My Dad's first deathiverssary was really tough on me. And many more after that. This October will be 10 years so I've been thinking about it a lot since the year turned. I still will randomly think of something and think, "I'll call Dad and ask him." It never gets easy, it just somehow gets, uhm, maybe more accepted over time. I'm glad you sent the pictures.
MM, that was a very touching entry, and I think it was good that you wrote it as you were finishing up the last things you had to say goodbye, and get ready to move forward.
Looks like your mother was quite the writer, too. Thank you for sharing her with us.

There's a moral to this one, and of course it's always send the pictures.

I sometimes feel like email can go back in time too.
I'm so glad you sent those photos. My thoughts are with you and the family right now.
On October 4th, it will be the third anniversay of my mother's death. I knew this was looming, given that you recently celebrated your daughter's 1st birthday.

I have google alerts set up for my mother's name. She was on the internet alot researching our ancestry, so I get links to her posts occassionally.

Wow, it's been a year already. The way you wrote about them made them feel so real to me. Even though I had never met them, it floored me that they died.
Thank god that you sent those pictures. May the memories stay with you forever but the pain from one year ago become a little less each year.
I also wish that the post you put up that day never had to be put up. I don't think I've cried as hard for a family I didn't know in my life.

I knew that with Eclair having reached her one year milestone, that this milestone wasn't too long to follow.

I am glad you sent those pictures. Glad you got your Mom's response. I wish she could click on a reply to you. And I miss your Mom and Dad for you. Very much.
Thank you for sharing this here with us. You have been in the thoughts and prayers of so many during the last 12 months. While I wish we never had to travel this journey with you, I appreciate your willingness to let us in. Your expressions of the raw emotions involved in this tragedy are so moving. You have certainly changed my outlook on things over the past couple of years and in reading your experiences, I hope I have taken lessons from those stories to implement in my own relationships. You have such gift, MM.

I will continue to keep you and your family in my prayers. And like others, I am so glad you didn't listen to your mother!!
Awww shit MM. Well said. Now I need to go to the ladies room to clean up the snot & tears. It feels so surreal, doesn't it?
Truth be told - I still have a hard time accepting it myself.
Thank you for opening up your heart and sharing the good times and bad times with us. I've never in my life felt such joy and such sadness for someone I don't even know. But your writing and pictures make me feel like I know you and your family. I don't think I'll forget the post about your parent's accident just like I carry all the stories about them in my heart as well. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
MM, I can't even imagine what that must feel like. I know I left a similar message a year ago, but it can't be any easier for you to deal with a year later than it is for me to imagine it.

I pray you don't blame yourself for this. There was nothing you could've done and nothing you could've said.

My heart is still with you.
This is a lovely and touching post. I am crying at my computer as I read this, and I can't imagine the strength you have to share these touching and personal moments with us. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

You know my prayers include you and yours. I'll say them extra hard tonight. God bless.
It's still impossible for me to imagine that you have had to live through this nightmare.

I hope that one year's time has, if only very slightly, assuaged some of your grief.
I don't have anything to say; just wanted to reach out to you in comfort.
The first one is the hardest. It's been 15 years and not a day goes by that I don't think of my dad. I think of all the important milestones he's missed. I gets easier but it never goes away. Please know you are in my thoughts. Let the memories come and they will be your comfort.
I know words are just that, words, but I am so sorry, mm. you'll always be their little boy, and it is just a shame all around. I, too, and glad they got to see the baby.
Oh, MM. If there was an award for making me cry with nothing but words... you would blow the competition out of the water, my friend.

Of all your posts, this is my favorite one. I've never seen the part of you that holds that sort of desperation. You write about the past a lot, but most of it is in the form of an anecdote or something. This one was more vulnerable and palpable. Thank you for that.

I'm glad you're going to make a point of "heading the other way." I'll be thinking of you.
So, so sorry. The first EVERYTHING without them is the worst, it seems. I was thinking of your family this weekend. All my best to you.

Oh, MM. I knew this date was fast approaching; you've been in my thoughts much of late. Here's to better days ahead.
Tears in my eyes, aching for you and your family. I, too, wish this was an anniversary you didn't have to endure.
Your words are so poignant and sadly beautiful MM. Even in heaven, your parents must still be so proud of you and your sweet family. My thoughts are with you all at this still difficult time.
I'm sitting here, bawling my eyes out. Reading this lovely, painful entry reminds me, on a night when I've been feeling sorry for myself and my rotten back, just how lucky, lucky, lucky I have been. I've been seriously hurt in rear-end collisions twice now in under seven months (both times by people messing with cell phones), and I've been so self-centered, that I forget.

I forget it could have been worse for me. I forget that friends near and far have suffered in ways much more devastating. I forget that you lost so very much in a split second.

In reading your e-mail to your mother, I felt all my regret pouring out about what I didn't get a chance to say and do before my own mother died. I understand your message all too well.

You recently wrote about wanting to meet Stephen King. I meant to write this to you a while ago -- I've told friends this, when I pass them the link to your blog -- you and Stephen King are my favorite storytellers.

Every good thought in the world to you and your family. Be well!
I write my mother long rambling letters, ink on paper (had she been around for email, I have no doubts she would have been addicted to a Blackberry), and save them up. And every few years I feel mentally ready to make the 2 day drive to the graveyard where she shares a burial plot with my little brother. I haul up the stone and hide the new stash of letters underneath where the elements will make quick work of them, letting my thoughts and emotions bleed into the ground.

I am able to get more done with ink and paper than I ever could verbally, my grief flows that particular way. There is something about putting down my thoughts directly onto paper that forces me to be brutally honest in a way that I was never given the chance to do with her when she was alive.

I used to hate when people would say that it would get easier with time. The reality is that time gives us the ability to, well, live with. Not a day goes by when I don't think of my mother in some form, and the pain is still as raw as it was many years ago, but the moments come and go. And those brief moments provide constant inspiration and motivation to complete tasks in my own life.

For everything you have written about your parents, and for everything that will remain unsaid, I wish you and yours peace of mind and heart...and the inspiration to continue to move eyes wide open into every moment yet to come.
It is so hard... We are never "done" being the children of our parents; the depth of your grief is tangible proof of your love for them.

(((hugs))) to all at The Mansion, & BB, too.

MM, That was a very well composed and heart-wrenching post. Thank you for opening up and sharing it with us. I can't imagine the anguish of dealing with that while dealing with all the challenges of a newborn baby.

God bless you and your family, MM. I'll be praying for you during this emotional and difficult time of remembrance.
Other commnts have said it all. All I can add is Me Too.
gosh, i still cant imagine all that you went through in the past year. i'm so sorry for your loss.
Anniversaries are tough....hugs to your family.
Teary eyed at the office. I can't believe its been a year already. Hugs to you all.
a year? christ... a year :(
I have not been here since jan. I am so very sorry, still

your cousin
Imagine my surprise when his 49 year old heart attacked him. And here I am 2 yrs and 7 months later and that old bereavement bat can still whomp you upside the head.

I'd coincedentally watched the movie, *Feast of Love,* on his birthday last weekend, I'd been suffering from the important-date blues. It actually turned out to be quite cathartic and after a reeeely good cry, I have to admit this quote from the ending of the movie really stuck with me,

*The unexpected is always upon us. And of all the gifts arrayed before me, this one thought, at this moment in my life is the most precious, ...

'... And so, we begin again'.*
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