As most of you know, on January 1, 2013, my family was in a fatal car wreck. My husband, his parents (David & Christy), and our 2 youngest children (Maci & Caleb) both 10 years old, went to the airport to pick up my sister-in-law, Beth. It was an exciting time to see Beth and spend a late Christmas with her and kick off our New Years together, as a family. They picked her up around 8pm and were on their way home. They had to slow down and go around a wreck that had happened on highway they were traveling. Apparently they had gotten around the wreck but were still traveling at a very slow pace (no more than 12-15 MPH) when Paul saw headlights in his rearview mirror.
The rest is history. From what I am told, with the impact of the vehicle that hit them, my precious father-in-law, David and my beautiful 10 year old daughter, Maci were killed.
It just so happens, that my oldest daughter, Kelsy, had chosen to stay with us in Little Rock this year for Christmas. My 2nd & 3rd daughters, Mekenna & Kori, had traveled to Ohio to visit with their dad and had traveled back (after staying for Christmas and several days after) as far as Tennessee to where Kelsy & Mekenna attend college. Our plan was that I would bring Kelsy back to college and drop her off and pick-up Kori and bring her home (to save that much more driving for Mekenna). It went as planned, I had a wonderful time with my 3 oldest and then Kori and I headed west on I-40, back towards Little Rock.
Our 3 hour drive was uneventful. We talked and laughed and couldn't wait to get home to see everybody.
We were getting close to the airport when we received a call from my sister-in-law stating that they had been in an accident. Kori & I were only 10 minutes away, traveling the same highway. My first thought was, "Ok, no problem, we will be there to pick them up and take them home" but Beth stated, "It's bad, Shannan, really bad. They are trying to get dad and the kids to breathe." Her voice was shaky and I could tell that she was trying to remain as calm as possible for my sake.
"We will be there in just a few minutes, Beth. We will be there!" I could suddenly feel the tightening in my chest and the sense of urgency that I "HAD TO GET TO MY FAMILY". Kori remained calm, touching my hand and saying "Mom, it's gonna be ok. We will be there soon. We're not far." It was somewhere around 8:30pm and dark.
Within 7-10 minutes, I could see red tail lights in the distance. The traffic had backed up and was at a complete stop on the 3-lane highway. I tried going around on the right side of the highway but the truckers thought I was just trying to "cut" traffic so they moved their rigs to the side and I couldn't get around them. I then rolled down my window begging the cars in the lanes to my left to let me through yelling "That's my family in the wreck up there!!!" a car finally allowed me over and I was able to get to the far left lane and travel until I reached a fire truck parked in that lane. I remember turning the car off and that's it. Then, I ran. And I ran. And I ran. Kori running beside me the whole way until we reached the wreck.
There are so many details that I could write here but this blog is not about the details of the wreck itself, it's about my feelings.
I am a mom, a step-mom, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a granddaughter, a sister, a sister-in-law, a niece, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a follower of Jesus Christ and I am a nurse. And in that moment, where I stood looking at scene going on around me, I couldn't "be" anything. I was helpless. I couldn't help my family even as an RN. I begged a fire fighter to at least let me help work on my father-in-law and do chest compressions....I couldn't. In a very professional and respectful manner, the life saving personnel there, made me stand in one spot and "not move from that spot" until I was told I could. Kori was there beside me saying "Mommy just do what they are telling you to do. They are going to take care of them." She was 15 years old and showed the maturity of a full grown woman with many experiences under belt. She knew what was best for the situation. She knew what was best for me/us. So we waited and watched and cried and prayed and.....knew.....I knew they were gone.
My feelings? I cannot describe them. Pain, panic, shock, fight or flight, hopelessness, helplessness and more. All at the same time. And nothing I could do, could take it away.
I ended up riding in the ambulance with Maci to Arkansas Children's Hospital. I knew. In the ER, there were 4 child victims all from the same incident but 2 separate accidents. Social workers, EMT's, nurses, doctors hustled to care for each one. I knew. On one end of the ER was Maci and a 2 month old baby....I knew. On the other end was my step-son, Caleb and a little black boy across from him, both crying and screaming. I went from room to room, reassuring Caleb that his mommy would be there soon and that his daddy was ok. Then I would walk back to Maci's room where they had put her on a vent. So many people, so many questions.........and so alone.
I had remembered placing calls to certain people while riding in the ambulance. To a friend from work and to my brother in Kentucky and to one of my daughters at college. I wanted to know how my husband, mother and father and sister-in-law were doing. I needed SOMEONE! And where was Kori? I had left with Maci in the ambulance. Kori was still there and the car was in the middle of the highway.
Before long, people from our church arrived at Children's. And one of them had brought Kori....I was so thankful to see her. So thankful to see nurse friends who sacrificially went back to the wreck sight and retrieved our car out of the middle of the highway before it was towed away.
I needed to see my husband and in-laws, I needed to see my older girls from college, I needed to have my "blood" relatives; brother, mom, dad, aunt, cousins, grandmother.....and they were so far away. My best friend....so far away.
Once they moved Maci to the PICU on the vent, we waited in the waiting room. I called some of my best friends here in Little Rock and they came and sat & prayed with & for me. I remember a neurologist coming out and telling me that Maci had a fatal brain stem injury and that she had a bleed in her belly. That they could take her to surgery to fix the bleed but there was no hope of her survival.
I wanted to wait for my older girls to get there to see her before we took her off life support but once I went back (Kori had gone back to see her as well) and saw how bad Maci really was, I didn't want their last memories of their baby sister to be "that". So, I demanded that she be removed from the vent....she was gone....I knew. She was giggling with her brother minute and in Heaven the very next when that wreck happened. "Take her off! Take her off right now! Don't waste any more of that precious blood you are pumping into her. Save it for a child that is ALIVE!"
The staff at Children's Hospital cried with me. They respected me as a mom but also as a nurse and allowed me to help clean up my baby girl once she was "pronounced dead". I wiped her sweet face and kissed her freckles. I washed her nail polished finger and toenails, her chest and legs. Then picked out a quilt covered in butterflies to cover her with.......then I layed down beside her and talked to her. "I love you so much Maci. I'm so sorry. I know you are in Heaven with Pappy (David) and Jesus but I miss you already. You were the most wonderful baby girl I could have ever asked for." At that, I kissed her freckled face several times and left her room and didn't go back. There was no need....she was not there. Only the box that held her sweet soul was there, broken and torn apart.
My older girls, along with Kelsy's boyfriend, Jonanthan, had arrived somewhere around 1:30am. I was so glad they were there, even though the circumstances were a nightmare. And I was glad to have all my children where I could see and touch them.
"This isn't real. This isn't happening. This is a bad dream. Why?!"
They were bringing Caleb up to the PICU at some point during all this and all I wanted to do was get to his bedside. His mom & step-dad were there and they lowered a side rail where I could lean down and talk in his ear. He was in so much pain from his broken legs and face. I reassured him that everyone was going to take good care of him and that he was going to be okay and that I was going to go see his daddy. I kissed him and told him that I loved him.
Then all I wanted was to get to Baptist Hospital where the rest of my family was admitted. At some point, when I had come out from Maci's room, Kori had told me that David didn't make it either, but....I already knew. But I wanted to see Paul, Christy and Beth.
Someone drove me there....I can't remember who. I just remember seeing Paul, telling him that Maci didn't make it (which he already knew from the wreck) and gave him the update on Caleb. They had Paul on a lot of pain medication for his injuries but I knew that he understood everything that I was saying and would probably remember more than me....like Kori, he is calm under pressure and can remain reasonable in very insane situations.
I had asked if Christy knew about David. They had said, "Yes, she knew but didn't know about Maci and was in shock". Paul and I both felt that "I" needed to go ahead and tell her about Maci now and not prolong it.
So I went to Christy's room to see her. She smiled and took my hand and said, "I lost the Love of my life. But I can't even cry", I said, "I know....and I'm so sorry and you're still in shock, Christy". "How's Maci & Caleb?" she asked. "Caleb is going to be ok but Maci.....Maci is with the 'Love of your life' in Heaven". There was silence....she needed to absorb what I just said. "She didn't make it, she was killed instantly at the wreck, Christy". She still couldn't cry but told me how heartbroken she was that I lost my baby girl. I kissed her and said, "we're gonna be okay, you get some rest." ~ I don't remember much after that.
January is a blur. I just remember bits and pieces.
New International Version (NIV)
The Burial of Jesus
57 As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58 Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59 Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The Guard at the Tomb
62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”