Mary is in her mid-30's now, but when she was around 15, our family took a camping vacation to Cape Cod. The weather was beautiful for the entire week, so on one of those days, we decided to bring the kids swimming in the ocean.
Mike, Mary, and the boys took off for a swim and the 2 little girls stayed behind playing in the sand with me. After a while, I took out the video camera and started taping. It was one of those big old clunkers...very "in" at that time. As I was taping, I heard one of the little ones say "hey someone's drowning". I tried to focus the camera on what was happening...2 people were being rescued by lifeguards. Then it hit me...it was my husband and my daughter. They had been caught in an undertow.
Afterward, when the kids went to bed, Mike told me that he was sure they were going to die. He said that he kept thinking over and over that he couldn't let it happen to her. He kept trying to get under her to lift her out of the water. He said he would have died trying to keep her alive.
Fast forward to October 30, 2009. On that day, I went to dinner with my daughter Megan and my grand daughter. During dinner, I noticed that my phone kept going off. Afterward, I re-dialed the number to find an answering service from a hospital almost 3000 miles away in the state where Mary lived. When I was finally able to reach someone, I was told that Mary had been in a horrific accident. She was comatose, needed open heart surgery, had suffered 2 strokes since the accident, had a crushed carotid artery, kidney and liver damage.
The next couple of days were a blur as we tried to decide who would go to be with her and who would stay behind to take care of things at home. I went with a son and daughter. Mike stayed home. I didn't know then that we only had 26 days left with each other. I stayed with Mary for a week and came home when my work leave ended.
On November 25, 2009, the day before Thanksgiving, Mike and I took a walk in the rain. The hospital was saying there had been some improvement and that we should start thinking about what to do for long-term care. She couldn't talk, needed 24 hour physical and emotional care. The accident was caused by an uninsured drunk driver. There wouldn't be any financial assistance. We didn't know how we could get her home or pay for the services that she would require. Mike was sad because Thanksgiving was also her birthday and she would be alone in a hospital 3000 miles away from us.
Mike said he wanted to spend the night at our camp. He asked if I wanted to go with him, but I told him no way was I going up there in the rain and cold. I would stay home in my nice warm house. He called me as he was getting to camp and asked if apple juice could cause heartburn. I told him I would look it up and let him know tomorrow. sigh.
Thanksgiving morning...I was awake at 3 a.m. Something wasn't right. Was it me? Mary? The hospital staff said she was sleeping. The morning dragged on. I got dressed and went to my daughters for dinner. Mike had told me that he would pick up my mom at 12:45 and be at my daughters for dinner by 1:00. At 12:50, my cell phone rang. Mom said he wasn't there yet. My heart dropped. He would never be late for her. Never.
My daughter asked me if we should go up to camp. It was a 30 minute drive, but I said yes. Nothing made sense. If he had been called in to work, he would've called. As we got closer to camp, I told my daughter "if his truck is there, he's dead."
We drove into the campground and rounded the corner to our camper, but his truck wasn't there. Just as I breathed a sigh of relief, Megan said, "no...it's there...in the front." My hand shook as I put the key in the lock. Then I opened the door. You can feel death. It slams you in the stomache. I screamed. He was lying on the bed, one arm crooked under his pillow. No, it's ok...he's just sleeping. No!No!No! This can't be happening.
I remember running outside and falling to the ground...screaming. Within minutes, our friends were there, picking me up from that cold hard ground. I was holding onto the bumper of his truck. I couldn't let go. My heart was exploding. I would die with him. Then the police showed up. Because he died alone, they needed to do an investigation. The rest of my kids showed up. Then Megan's phone rang.
It was Jaime calling from the hospital. Mary was doing so well. She was talking. She was understanding. Did we want to talk to her...perhaps say Happy Birthday?
Megan explained what was happening and that we would call back later. I made the call the next day. She understood. She cried. She said "I love you." Two weeks later, my sons flew across the country to bring her home.
I believe that Mike gave his life energy to her. The same energy he summoned trying to keep her above the water that day so many years before that. She's gone back home now. I wish he was still here with me.