It was a Friday
It was a Friday, and I was in second grade. I got up that morning eighteen years ago, had breakfast, and my brother and I went to catch the bus.
It’s interesting how many school days I’ve been through and I don’t remember what went on in many of them, but I remember that on this day, we had art class and I completed a project (a paper bird stuffed with cotton – side note: my art skills were not any better back then). Our class took a walk out onto a trail to observe some of the natural wildlife there. In science class we had been learning about the eye and I was looking forward to our school nurse bringing cow eyes for us to dissect the next week.
That afternoon, I was taking a spelling test and I was 17 words in out of 20 when the secretary said my dad was there to pick me up. My teacher, impatient, asked if I could finish the test but that wasn’t an option; I’d have to make it up later. We met my dad and his work colleague who drove me and my brother home in his van.
I remember it being a pretty quiet ride home. My dad’s colleague asked me if I was looking forward to my birthday, and I excitedly said I was (it was coming up in just over a week). I don’t remember much else about the ride.
When we got home, we all walked into the house. My grandpa (who lived with us at the time) passed by and said hello. We sat down in the living room and my dad gave us the news. By then he was crying and I knew something was wrong.
“I don’t know how to tell you this, but Mom and Brandon were in a car accident and died.”
We all just sat there for a minute, hugging each other and crying. I walked into my bedroom, passing by my now-deceased brother’s bed.
I paced around the basement, and went outside and paced around the mailbox, not knowing what the heck to do.
The next week or so was a frenzy of family suddenly coming together. That evening my grandpa picked us up and there were a bunch of people at their house. It was a shock to everyone. Almost immediately family started showing up from everywhere, coming from as far as West Virginia. It’s so odd feeling this way, but much like how you feel a sense of solidarity after a big disaster, that’s the sort of feeling we all felt when everyone showed up all of the sudden.
The funeral home we were working with was sadly familiar; I had a baby brother the year prior and he died after eleven days. It’s not the kind of place you want to be familiar.
We had the funeral at the church my grandparents attended, and everybody came to it, even my teachers. It was the same church my parents were married in. I’m not religious anymore, but that particular church on the hill does holds a lot of memories.
When you say goodbye to someone, you often don’t ever really know that it’s going to be the last time. And you can’t assume that it will be, either, because then after awhile you’ll just get desensitized to the possibility after awhile.
When they died, I didn’t feel like there was a moral to the story; it was just a terrible thing that happened. There was no underlying lesson about appreciating those around you while you still can. You don’t start thinking in terms of that until you get older and you start trying to see meaning in events. And as I got older, I did start to think of that accident as a lesson in appreciating your loved ones and understanding that life is fragile.
But the truth is, the accident had no meaning or intrinsic value. I didn’t lose 40% of my immediate family in one day because I needed to learn a lesson in not taking things for granted. And if I really did need that lesson, that was a shit way to teach it to me or my family.
I’m not a better person for this happening. Changed, maybe, but not better.