A list of things I feel have been given to me over the past few months – really in the form of “sudden knowledge” from out of the blue, usually just as I was rising to consciousness in the morning – or stuff I’ve figured out as the trauma has slowly worn off.
(1) That Mark was not afraid or in great pain, in those few hours after the accident and before he died during surgery. I’ve thought a lot about what the nurses – both in the ER and the trauma center – told us about Mark: that he never asked for pain meds (but was given some because THEY thought he needed them, given his multiple fractures and injuries); that he was “alert” and “talking” and everyone mentioned his great personality and how kind he was; that he asked, with humor but also rhetorically, whether he would be able to attend the VT football game the next day (and answered his own question, with a sardonic “Probably not!”); how he spoke to the police and was able to confirm/provide every detail. I once was crying uncontrollably and asking God where his guardian angels were when Mark died, implying they had abandoned him. And in between gasps, I felt a different answer: “They were taking him home.”
(2) That my son gave a great gift to the woman who hit him with her car: he freed her. This one was just in my head one morning as I awoke, these words: “he gave her a great gift: he freed her.” It also, in particular, makes me weepy, because, well…Mark was maturing, but he was not always great about taking responsibility for himself (something we found frustrating, and were often trying to counsel him to change), and yet: he fully became a man in his final hours. as he took on responsibility proportionate to his choices (as did she) and they offered one another implicit forgiveness. We’ve had no contact with her (although I have reached out to the detectives to ask if she is doing okay, and have received no reply); my prayer is that she is not burdened and that if we are meant to know each other, we will.
(3) That when we arrived at the trauma center on October 8th and were immediately ushered into the little room (vs the big waiting room), it was because surgery was OVER…and the chaplain’s presence meant the news was bad. I was so sure, SO SURE Mark was still in surgery that this detail escaped me at the time. And that poor chaplain – he thought we knew; he thought we’d been told. So for us to walk in, joking around in our nervousness, probably rocked his boat as much as he rocked ours just by being there. There was no rescuing the situation.
(4) That, as the world has moved on, I often feel like I am the only one (well, my sister is, too) still “looking for Mark.” I could not NOT look for him. And by this I mean connection, evidence that he is indeed around as much I imagine he can be. I am no longer fearful; I just miss his physical self, his unique personality, and am looking for how we can “talk” now, if at all. (The coins are lovely and they continue to be a regular reminder.)
One day I went for a walk with those thoughts in my mind (and talking aloud, I’m sure). I went a different way than usual, and at one point – having planned to turn left further down – I felt like I was supposed to turn left NOW. “Fine” I muttered. Several houses down, there was a domino lying in the grass at the end of the driveway. It had 7 dots on one end, and none on the other.
In the game of Dominoes, you must connect “like” to “like” in order to build and add, and so I surmised maybe that was Mark’s way of saying “We aren’t two ‘likes’ right now…” Maybe he’s the 7 – filled with abilities and knowledge I cannot and do not have. Maybe I’m the 7 – my heart and brain filled with too many things that don’t really matter, in the end.
(5) That Mark’s injuries, had he survived, may have presented a very, very difficult hurdle for him to overcome; that his brain – his greatest asset, in his own estimation – may have been starved enough to be permanently impaired. One of the nurses who had attended Mark alluded to this as she walked with me in the hall, toward his body as it lay in the operating room. She knew more than we possibly could. Later, when we got the bill from the hospital, we saw all that went into the attempt to save him…and that he had lost a lot of blood. I also wonder if Mark was given a choice by God – to come back and live, possibly impaired, or to go on to the next adventure.
About 3 years ago I had a very short dream that was marvelous, profound and yet a bit disturbing. I was standing, facing a windshield of sorts, in a rocket-ship that was about to blast off into space. The engines were rumbling as I gripped a bar in front of me. As I waited for launch, I knew, I knew I would never come back, that this trip into space was a one-way mission into the unknown and I would not see Steve or the children again, and yet I was filled with a sense of elation and excitement like I’ve never felt before or since. I even pinched myself, and roughly rubbed my arms in the dream, and I kept saying, “Oh my gosh! This isn’t a dream! THIS IS REAL!” I now wonder if that dream was really what happened to Mark, at least metaphorically speaking.