This story is by Georgia Taylor and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
A Journey Too Traveled
Walking my Labradoodle throughout the neighborhood I reflected on the last few years. Very few neighbors are even up at this early hour and with it being a bit chilly it increases the odds that they will not venture out. I can reflect without interruption due to the tears still rolling uncontrollable down my cheeks. I now understood what it is to weep, the deep hurting of your soul.
Receiving the great acknowledgment and award presented 4 years ago on August 17, 1991, set me up to be noticed. My career as an insurance adjuster was rocky, stressful and often the subject of harsh criticism among my friends. The majority of my close friends felt that insurance companies were out to get them. I often felt anger and distance from my friends when I heard this statement. It’s true my job was mentally challenging dealing with other’s emotions in top of hearing repeatedly I’ve paid insurance for 20 years and by golly the insurance company is going to pay! As if I was to blame.
That night seemed so far away, yet vivid in my mind still, as my son, Eric and I had shared the experience together. I felt the reward of all those long days, the sleepless nights of worrying about coverage for my insured or claimant. What a surprise, when at the award dinner my name was announced for the top national honor of Claims Professional of the Year. Wow, I was overwhelmed!
Never, in my thoughts would that Saturday night of such happiness turn to the next day being the most horrific that I was to face in my entire life. My 16-year-old son, Eric was at the award event. His smile and the shine in his blue eyes were overwhelming as he looked at me with pride. I was so proud to be his father and glowed in his approval.
The following morning was going so well. I recall making waffles for us. Being Sunday, we went to Church and little did I know that later I was to pull much of my strength from the words being spoke by our pastor. During the pastor’s message, I reflected how odd it had been on that previous Saturday when Eric came to my office with his girlfriend. He had asked for a picture to be taken of them. Eric never liked his photo taken so it was a surprise. But the really odd thing was Eric asking how many shots were left on the roll and stated Dad, I think you should take all of them which I gladly did before he changed his mind.
Sunday was also Eric’s 16th Birthday. A big birthday for him. He shared his plan that the following afternoon, being Monday, he was going to get his driver’s license. I thought about his excitement. Being his Dad, I was still a bit nervous, however, could see that he was responsible. He was bursting with energy and enthusiasm over turning sixteen. He had been driving our vehicle for the last six months under my supervision. He had $3,000 saved from a summer job for buying his own car.
Eric had some birthday money to spend. He asked to meet up with his girlfriend, Jenni and best friend, Nick. Eric had been dating Jenni for almost 7 months and they were inseparable except when they worked. Both Jenni’s family and I loved the two of them together, making a very lovely couple. It was first love for both of them.
The local downtown sidewalk sales were going on, creating a festive atmosphere. Eric was anxious to put his birthday money to good use. They left excited to spend the afternoon together. Sidewalk sales in our small town bring out all the residents.
I decided to work on files at the office, spending most of the afternoon reviewing employee’s work. My office was located just a block off the Main Street so I knew that Eric would check in with me. Eric’s Mom had passed away 8 years ago from complications of childbirth. Eric and I still grieved. Because of this, our bond was even stronger I believe. It was great to know that between Eric and me, we would spend some quality time together later in the day. It never happened.
Work was awful as one employee continued to make costly mistakes. It was tedious to work on her files. I red lined mistakes page by page of numerous documents she felt were finished and ready for payment. I felt so irritated over the whole situation thinking that I may fire her. Over and over, I had to explain procedures and coverage yet she still made the same mistakes. A waste of a Sunday afternoon.
At about 4:45 pm Eric and his friends came into my office. Eric brought me a Diet Coke and Butterfinger, my favorites. He said that he was going home after he walked Jenni to work. Then as he went to leave he did something pretty odd. He turned back towards me as his friends watched. He had a strange serious look. He said, Dad, I love you and came back and gave me a hug.
I continued to go through paperwork. Then, out of the blue, I felt all the air go out of my chest. Something was wrong! I grabbed my keys and ran out the door screaming my son, my son. I felt that I had to find Eric. My office being a block off the main street in Steamboat it was easy to get to the gathering of people in the middle of the road. The ambulance and police were already there with their lights blasting out beams of red circles. It was about 5:00 pm now. In my car, I was screaming my son, my son and pulled up to the crowd and emergency equipment. I opened the door and continued to scream and cry for my son. The police officer just assumed I already had been told of Eric being struck.
As I was hysterical someone from the crowd pulled me away and attempted to hold me back. I had yet to see Eric, just known without a doubt that he was in trouble. The Fire Marshall, Jim Munn, told me that they were taking him to the hospital however, someone would have to drive me over there. Everyone just assumed that I knew it was Eric lying on the street. I did not know what happened.
I was hysterical. Someone drove me to the hospital. Eric and the guy that hit Eric were already in the emergency rooms as I entered the waiting room. I heard screaming, but it was not Eric. I was told that a motorcyclist had hit Eric while he had been crossing the street. A nurse let me go down and look through a small window. They were cutting away his torn clothing. Blood was everywhere. Eric lay there quite still and quiet. As I watched and cried, I turned and noticed the clock on the wall said it was about 6:00 pm. Sixteen years ago at about 6:15pm, Eric had been born. Out loud, I said, “Lord, you are going to take him. Please give me strength to say goodbye.”
I recall wanting to scream, Don’t leave me”but did not want Eric to struggle with passing on, so, with great effort, I was able to say good-bye. My words ring in my head today. I told him what a fine young man, he was; a great son; that I loved him and that he was going to be okay. I explained to Eric that a motorcyclist had struck him. He had been dragged almost 100 yards down the road. I often wonder if Eric could hear the motorcyclist screaming in the adjacent room. I can still hear him screaming in my mind.
The emergency nurse asked Eric do you hear your Dad?”with me responding, Eric I’m holding your hand. What a blessing when Eric responded by squeezing my hand. He could not talk but I knew he heard me. The physicians, now six of them working on Eric suggested that they take him to surgery. I did not want to give up and agreed. Off he went to the surgery room.
As I sat there waiting I called my good friends and asked them to sit with me. I went out to the waiting room and found that most of the pastors, ministers, and youth pastors from our small town of Steamboat were sitting with other friends praying for Eric. I was in a daze. My conversations were with God. I did not bargain, as I knew in my heart that Eric was dying.
One of the nurses came in and asked if I would sign a consent form for utilizing Eric’s organs. What! How was I to do this, make a decision? I had never discussed it with Eric. What would Eric want I asked myself? I signed the form giving permission to harvest his organs. I sat, cried and prayed. I really did not know what to do. I felt that my life without Eric was completely over. What anguish I felt.
Then the worst moment as the six physicians came out of surgery covered with blood and met with me. They were crying too. They told me he was gone. I don’t know what I did at that moment but recall falling and hearing the mourning sounds come out my throat. I thought losing my wife and unborn child could be the worst nightmare in my life, yet here I was unable to even function, weeping, hurting beyond belief as Eric left my life.
Later I learned that Eric died from trauma to his heart. He bled to death as a result of 3 inches of the motorcyclist’s femur piercing his heart. The motorcyclist hit Eric so hard that Eric was speared by the motorcyclist’s femur and carried down the street until they broke apart. The motorcyclist lived and my son was dead! There was no way to save my son even though the physicians and surgeons tried so hard.
Home I went to the silence. Eric’s dog, Slugger was so concerned that he never left my side. Friends came and stayed with me. The anguish was unbearable. I really did not know how I was going to survive the death of my son. How I ached to hear the door open with Eric yelling out, Dad, I’m home.
Flowers and cards arrived. Some of congratulations and others of condolences. Recalling that I had just received the award of a lifetime many of those business associates did not know my son had been killed. It was a time that I could not even go there with those congratulation cards. I was not sure I could survive. My body hurt, my mind hurt and my soul. Pain, pain, pain that all I felt. Each morning I’d awoke and look out the window and think how can my neighbors go on…. don’t they know life stopped for me?
So the journey continues here. A journey none of us want to take. During the first year, I recalled the tears just rolling down my cheeks, as I wept each day. It felt like my soul and heart would never heal. I learned that neither heals but the journey gets softer as time goes by. Life is a journey of detours, which we must face with determination and faith.
Remembering is good, though so painful often. Now, my labradoodle pup is looking up at me with worry as he sees the tears on my face. I think dogs can sense our loss and feel our pain. Boy, it is getting even colder so I am heading home. I think I’ll have a piece of chocolate cake, as today is Eric’s birthday. I choose to celebrate living along with Eric’s life.