(originally posted July 7, 2012)
Five years ago today one of my closest friends and her 23-month old daughter were killed in a head-on collision on highway 26. Janene was driving to a baseball tournament with her 11-year old son, Quintin, and also one of Quintin's teammates, Tyler, and her little girl, Abigail. Her oldest child, Cynthia, was at home with her husband. They had plans to join up with them later at the game.
We don't know why the other driver veered into her lane and hit her head-on, instantly ending her life. Little Abigail and also Tyler died at the scene. Quintin was lifeflighted to the hospital that I now work at where he was treated for broken bones (thankfully no internal or head injuries). Another man in another vehicle that was also involved in the accident died later from heart failure that is believed to be a result from the accident. He was in his thirties.
Five people died on this morning, five years ago. It was the hardest day of my entire life and continues to be the longest grief of my life.
Tonight I'll take Cynthia and Quintin to Dairy Queen for ice cream. I am grateful they have remained regulars in our household and I see them and their dad often.
Whenever either of her children reach a milestone or accomplish some amazing feat--like their performances in this past school theater season!!!--I swell with motherly pride mixed mixed with grief and a sense of profound loss.
Janene should be here. Abigail should be here. They left us too sudden and too soon. I think it every time. And sometimes, under cover of darkness in the theater auditorium, my eyes will fill with sadness that threatens to spill out into the open. A wave of grief will rise up from somewhere that requires my full attention to not burst into deep sobs. Then, it will subside.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Hold it. Hold it. Hold it.
Today is a Hold It kind of day. Five years. Has it really been five years already!?
I miss them still.
One day I will write a book on death and loss and I will dedicate it to them and it shall be the best book I'll ever pen in my writing life. For it will be the stuff of breathing, holding and letting go and all the essence of life and death and what happens in between and underneath.
Death is the ultimate judge of life having been lived meaningfully. Is this true or untrue?
Who gets to decide what's meaningful and purposeful and if we've lived out loud?
Why do some die tragic and too soon while others live long? Why do some escape tragedy while others seem fated to meet an untimely end?
These are the kinds of questions that linger and I will let them steep a few more years. Then, when it seems they've reached their peak, I will pour it all out in ink from the barrels of grief that are kept under lock in the cellar. I won't hold it any longer.
But that day is not today. Today it is five years later. Janene and Abigail are gone and though they will both always be remembered, they are missed.