This story is by Sabrina Bryant and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Losing what you love most is like having your soul plunged into a dark abyss. This abyss is where Saraiya Hendricks found herself the day she learned a drunk driver killed her husband and two children.
The call came in at 4:37 PM on a hot and muggy summer day. Saraiya was home alone, trying to meet the deadline on a freelance project that was due by six that evening. And Isaac had taken the kids to the trampoline park for a couple of hours to give her some much-needed quiet time. Work was a breeze for her since she could hyper-focus in the silence that permeated the house. The ringing phone finally pulled her out of her work trance and she caught it on the second ring.
“Hello, I’m trying to reach Saraiya Henderson,” said the woman on the other end of the call.
“Speaking, may I ask who’s calling?”
“This is Mrs. Munro calling from Advocate Mercy Hospital. There’s been an accident, and our records list you as the next of kin of Isaac Hendricks.”
My words rushed out and ran together faster than I had expected as my fears made their presence known.
“Is he okay, what happened? Where are my kids?”
“You need to get here right away and if possible please have someone drive you here. It’s urgent that you get here as soon as possible. Come through the emergency entrance and let security know who you are looking for,” she said.
Saraiya hung up before the nurse could get her last words out. Her heart was pounding in her ears as she struggled to see through blurry eyes. With shaky hands, she dialed her mother’s number and as soon as she heard her mother’s voice, she blurted out her demand.
“Ma, something happened to Isaac and the kids, please come get me right now. I need to get to the hospital.’
“Slow down baby, I can hardly understand what you’re saying,” Said her mother.
“Just get here now! Something is wrong!” she said.
“I’ll be there in 5 minutes,” she said, and the line went dead. Exactly 5 minutes later, as she was pacing back and forth along the wrap-around porch, she saw her mother’s red Mercedes turning right down Claybourne Street.
Immediately, Saraiya jumped off the porch and ran toward the vehicle. The car had barely come to a stop before she was snatching the door open and launching herself inside.
“What hospital are they at?” asked mother.
“Advocate Mercy on 179th and Kedzie, please hurry!”
With her mother driving as fast as the law allowed, they made it to the hospital in record time. Every traffic light they passed was green, and there was hardly any traffic. They could breeze through the streets like they had a police escort clearing the way for them. As they pulled up to the circle drive at the emergency room entrance, her mother let her out of the car and then found a parking spot. Saraiya bolted through the doors and almost tripped over her feet. The frantic motion out of control.
“I’m looking for Isaac, Jasmine, and Jeremiah Henderson.”
As the guard was searching through his computer database, she saw her mother rushing towards her.
“They are on the 4th floor in the ICU unit, take the elevator to your left up to four and let the nurse at the desk know who you’re looking for.”
Saraiya immediately began moving toward the elevator while her mother thanked the guard. A silent prayer that they would be all right was on repeat in her mind.
“Everything is going to be okay baby, don’t worry,” said mother.
The elevator door finally slid open, and frantically she pushed the four-button and then the close door button. The once silent prayer became verbal as they passed each floor. When the elevator came to a stop and the door slowly opened up, she pushed her way through and scanned the hall looking for the nurse’s desk. Upon finding it she ran towards it and began spilling out the names of her husband and children.
“Wait here MS. I’ll get the doctor,” said the nurse.
I hadn’t noticed the officer walking toward me until he called my name. “Mrs. Hendricks, I’m detective Jonah McNally. I was at the scene of the accident. A drunk driver struck your husband and children as they were passing through an intersection. The driver hit the rear passenger side and the gas tank exploded. Some drivers and passengers could pull your family from the vehicle, but they sustained major injuries.”
Just as he was finishing his statement a doctor in Scrubs with his head covered with what looked like a cloth shower cap and face mask covering his mouth was moving towards her. She rushed to meet him with her mother at her side.
“Are you Mrs. Hendricks?” ask the doctor.
“I’m Dr. Nathan silver, your husband and children came in with extensive Burns covering much of their bodies. We did everything we could to save them. Unfortunately, our efforts were not enough to overcome the damage your son and daughter received, and the doctors that were working on them pronounced them dead shortly after their arrival. Mr. Hendricks is on a ventilator right now. The heat scorched his lungs and the machines are breathing for him right now.”
“Can we see him?” asked her mother. Before the doctor could answer, there was a “code red in 437” blaring through the halls followed by an alarm sound and the doctor immediately rushed towards the room.
Saraiya and her mother attempted to follow, but the nurse stopped them at the door. She told them they needed to wait in the waiting area. The sentence the doctor said, “they pronounced your children dead,” bounced around in her head and suddenly it was hard to breathe. The room was spinning as it does on the carnival rides where you spin so fast you’re stuck in place. Her knees buckled, and she hit the floor hard. She awoke surrounded by her mother, the nurse, and the doctor. She immediately asked to see her husband, but the doctor informed her he did not make it.
Suddenly Saraiya heard this gut-wrenching scream fill the room, and she saw faces close to hers mouthing words she couldn’t understand. The nurse held her arm as another nurse directed the needle into the vein. Soon this drowsy feeling flooded her body. In her sleep, she dreamed of her husband and children, safe at home. Happy. Whole. Alive.
She awoke with a heaviness in her chest and an unbearable thought in her brain. Her family was no longer living. Gone were the people she loved most. Her mother wrapped her arms around her and squeezed tightly, whispering how they would get through this as her tears spilled over her shoulder. But she knew the words were lies. There was no way for her to get over this. No way for her to survive this. And she didn’t want to either.
Saraiya didn’t want to go back to an empty house. She didn’t want to plan to put her husband and their children into the ground. Her mother always told her that God never puts more on you than you could bear, and she believed it. But now, she knew it wasn’t true. Cause she would no longer be with her Isaac. No longer be able to see Jasmine’s smile or hear Jeremiah’s laugh.
Saraiya died inside, right along with her family. And now she was waiting to die outside too. But as she rubbed the bandages that made their way around her wrists, she knew they wouldn’t leave her alone. Her mother or her brothers and sisters or the nurses and aides that stalked the hospital rooms. Someone would always be around to make sure she remained among the living. And for now, she would.
With no purpose or hope. No children to take care of and shower with love. No husband to wake up to each morning, just the emptiness that had invaded her being and was slowly suffocating her. For Saraiya, death would be a blessing and a relief.