I remember watching a show on tv when I was a girl, some sort of Dateline Barbara Walters thing in which two parents discussed losing a child in a car crash. “It’s one of those things that we thought, ‘Oh that’ll never happen to us,’” the dad said. I decided right then and there that I’d never assume that I was exempt from tragedy, including losing a loved one in a car crash. “It could happen to me,” I thought.
Some time in grade school I decided that Dad and I would dance to Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World” at my wedding reception someday. He turned up the volume every subsequent time it came on the radio referring to it as “our song.”
By late grade school I remember finding an article on our kitchen counter giving the millisecond breakdown of what happens when a person dies in a car crash. All of the snapping and fracturing and separating within the matter of one second. The extinguishing of a life in one second. The aftermath of loss all coming down to one second.
Dad told me somewhat frequently that his goal was to keep me smiling while walking me down the aisle at my wedding. His plan was to have a joke at the ready right before we started our processional.
I asked Dad mere months before the accident what he’d want his grandchildren to call him someday. “Grandpa,” he said.
For years I prayed the exact same line every single night before bed: “Dear God, please don’t take my parents from me. I’m not ready yet.”
I spent April 2 — the day before the accident — at my parent’s house along with my cat, Potter. That evening, I headed outside with Potter to drive back to Decatur. Dad walked out with us. We said our goodbyes, I loaded up, buckled up, and pulled out of the drive. As I turned onto the main road, I looked over my shoulder to glance at Dad one last time. There he stood, waving goodbye to me.
I didn’t know that was the last time I’d see Dad alive…and he was waving goodbye.
I didn’t know that, though I was praying for God to not take my parents, one was soon to make his final departure.
I didn’t know how meaningful it would be to introduce Miller to his Grandpa Jim via pictures, knowing that that’s exactly what Dad would’ve wanted to be called.
I didn’t know that Dad was preparing me for smiling during my wedding walk even in his absence, even with a tear-streaked face.
I didn’t know that reading the play-by-play of how a body breaks instantaneously in a collision would someday bring me comfort.
I didn’t know that all these years later, I’d still be dancing with Dad in my heart every time “What A Wonderful World” plays.
I didn’t know losing a loved one in a car crash would happen to me.
Or did I?
Categories: Death & Grief