Time Doesn’t Stand Still
This werk I have realized that time doesn’t stand still. I think back to this day 20 years ago, and it sure felt like time stopped. My entire family except me had left for a social event. I was sitting at home talking on the phone with a friend. Someone rang the door bell, my mom’s best friend. All she said was there’s been an accident. In that moment, I swear time stopped. I didn’t know the extent of the accident, but I instinctively knew it was bad. I quickly said to my friend on the phone that I had to go because there’s been a car accident.
Little did I realize what was unfolding in the world around me.
Our family friend took me back to her house. I spent some time with her children, they were like cousin’s to us. We were all the same ages, and they tried to keep me occupied.
A few hours later our family friends took me to the hospital. I started to realize just how bad it was.
I can still picture my Dad in the hospital bed saying Mom and Sister MPB are…. I know how that sentence ended, yet to this day I don’t remember him actually saying it. I know he said it, but my mind refused to hear it.
I remember trying to hug my Dad. I was a Daddy’s little girl, and I needed my Dad. Yet, he was rather injured, hugging wasn’t really an option at that moment. Instead, the hospital Chaplin, who was in the room pulled me away from my Dad to offer a hug. I still remember that the Chaplin smelt so bad (he was clearly a smoker). I pulled away, but I wasn’t allowed back with my Dad.
From there I remember my Dad walking away from me and I wasn’t allowed to go with him (I later learned he was going to identify the bodies). But now I was with our family friend’s again and I saw my brother. He was immobilized and incoherent. He didn’t look good and the prognosis wasn’t great.
I still remember walking around that hospital in a complete daze. Time had stopped. Life as I knew it was over.
I remember our church’s minister arriving, a familiar figure in my life (the same man who would one day perform my wedding ceremony) and feeling comfort as he wrapped me in his arms into the hug I so desperately needed.
At some point in the night I was taken back to our friend’s house. I didn’t sleep a wink, I was literally vibrating I was shaking so much. As I was lying in bed with one of our family friend’s kids, who happened to be one of my sisters best friend, I remember her holding my hand trying to get me to stop shaking. She is only a year old then me, and just lost one of her best friends and essentially her aunt, yet she was trying to comfort me. Her strength and grace that night was nothing short of admirable.
Yet the next day, between visits to the hospital, our family friends and I went back to my house and began cleaning. My Dad wanted the house clean before all the out-of-town extended family would begin to arrive. I suspect now it was also intended to keep us all busy, something I assume we all needed. The radio was on so the house wouldn’t be eerily quite, until the news came on and announced the tragic death of my family. I still remember the announcement – they got my mom’s middle name wrong. I lost it, I yelled at the radio.
This isn’t how life is supposed to be. My life was now a front page news story, how could this be? Somehow my life had become a living nightmare. Once again I was vibrating. Standing in the middle of our kitchen I was crying so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. It’s the first of two times that I remember truly breaking down.
And as I write this, with tears streaming down my cheeks, I remember each moment as it if were happening in real time. I remember the smelly Chaplin who was just trying to help. I remember politely half smiling at a little old lady in a wheelchair as I passed her in the hallway at the hospital (who I later found out was in the car that killed my family). I remember lying in bed with our family friend’s, just shaking. I remember the radio announcement word for word. I remember how my sister’s room looked the first time I walked in knowing she’d never walk in again. I remember our door bell ringing constantly with flower deliveries, so much so that we had to start sending them to senior citizen homes and community centres. I remember sitting around our families kitchen table planning the funeral. I remember the first night back in my family home and crying hysterically when I went to bed (my second and last epic breakdown).
I remember everything.
In those first moments I thought time had stopped. Yet, time kept going for those of us who were still alive. The clock kept ticking, the days kept passing.
In the first few days, I thought for sure my life would never be the same. And I was right. My life would never be the same.
In those first few days, week and even months, I also thought my life was over. And now, 20 years later, I can say with confidence that I was completely wrong. My life didn’t end. I kept going. As I said earlier this week, a lot has happened in 20 years – I graduated high school, I lived in a foreign country, I got a university degree, and then another one, I got married, we had 5 miscarriages and now I am even a mother myself. Clearly I am not the same young girl whose life was turned upside down by a tragic car accident.
At the young age of 14, my life could clearly have gone off the rails. Instead, I made the decision to live my life so that my mom and sister would be proud of me. For a while I thought I had to live my life for my sister too, since she’d never be able to. Eventually I realized that I could never live my sister’s life, we are/were two different people and I cannot bare the responsibility of trying to be more then just me. And so at some point I simply made the decision to live my life to the fullest, because I am the fortunate one who has a life to live. Yes, there is guilt around the fact that I wasn’t in that car, and I am the one who is alive, but no matter how guilty I may feel some days, the fact is, I am alive. Life is a gift without guarantees of tomorrow. So, I decided not to waste it. As a teenager I decided to continue my life in a positive way. And, as I’ve continued to age through the last 20 years, I also decided to surround myself with positive people and to create a life for myself outside of being the girl who’s mom and sister died. And while I’m not perfect, I am mostly proud of what I have accomplished and who I’ve become.
So, I realize today that the young 14 year old girl still lives on. Time kept going. Moments became hours, hours became days, days become weeks, weeks eventually became months and eventually months because years.. And some how, I stand here today and realize that years has turned into 20 years.
20 years later, I realize that 14 year old version of me didn’t die that day. Along with my mom and sister, my innocence, naivety and childhood died that day. But, I didn’t. And, time didn’t stop. Instead, within moments, everything I knew in life was changed. My life changed and as a result so did I.
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