Moms

I’m very sorry, revisited

Tammy took this photo in Brian's room about a year after his accident - the shoes he had been wearing that day in there on the floor by the foot of his bed-the only other change she’d made at that point was the light in the window.
Tammy took this photo in Brian's room about a year after his accident - the shoes he had been wearing that day in there on the floor by the foot of his bed-the only other change she’d made at that point was the light in the window.

As the 7th anniversary of her son’s tragic accident passed on June 12, Charlotte mother Tammy Garlock courageously shares the events from the normal summer day that changed her life forever. Read her previous posts:

The beginning, revisited

Getting there, revisited

Reaching Brain, revisited

There are moments in everyone’s life which forever alter its trajectory…this is ours…

Even through the filtered lens of time, it is still hard to believe this happened to Brian…to our family.

For as many times as I’ve replayed this scene in my mind and said some of the words aloud, the raw, ragged wound remains exactly that…unhealed…eternal…

It has taken quite a while for me to work up the courage to return to the final minutes before we knew…some memories are just too painful to recall all at once. I don’t think that will ever change…

I eventually discovered the white plastic bag with B’s shoe did have a label: it said ‘victory trauma’. There was nothing victorious about that day…

With assurance from my mother that she is on her way, I stumble back inside the ER entrance. I continue to see a wall of familiar faces, questions burning in their eyes, but I cannot abide conversation right now.

Our friend Alice comes out to find me (again), to lead me back to the private waiting area, as the doctor is on his way down (is this good…it’s so soon). She works for the hospital, with trauma ICU, no less. She knows Brian personally. Another friend made her aware of our imminent arrival, of Brian’s accident, of our need. Alice immediately assumes her professional persona (I’m struggling, fighting to hold on), and helps to guide me during our wait, making suggestions to bring some order to the chaos (so many waiting, anxious teens, phone calls, updates, etc.), defining black and white choices for me amongst the swirling gray mist created by my circumstance.

I resume my place at the room’s center, as tightly wound as a bedspring, trying to pray for the best, expecting the worst. Another lifetime passes while we wait; the door opens, and there he is, the one who knows. The surgeon zeroed in on me, instinctively knowing somehow that I was the one to whom the message must be delivered.

“I’m very sorry; your son did not make it; he died.”

What? Just like that? That’s it? After all of this…it’s over? His words are impossible to comprehend, to believe, much less accept. My grasp of the English language has fled to another place, overwhelmed by the task at hand. He may as well have been speaking in a foreign tongue; for once again, I cannot process anything else being said…

The room is tilted, spinning, my life is slipping away. I hear screams all around me, from within me, cries of anguish, our minds unable to come to terms with the harsh truth that has been thrust upon us, refusing to believe that Brian has gone from us, forever…John jumping up, yelling from the corner, “Nooooo, you’re wrong, no no no no no no no no…this cannot be…no…”; Beth, leaping from the couch and falling to the floor crying out, “No, not my brother, not Brian…”; Grace, kicking and screaming, “You’re lying; it’s not him, you’re wrong, it’s not my brother…”; Sunny, sobbing, searching blindly for the trash can. I have been swept away by the same agony I felt earlier, only it’s far, far worse, for now my nightmare has become my reality, having been confirmed with absolute certainty. The primal cry escaping me announces the departure of my heart and soul, both of which have gone to join my son. We are surrounded by a small group of stunned friends, all silently crying with us and for us, for the life that is no more, disbelief visible on every countenance…

My heavy, hazy veil lifted just enough for me to realize that I had to see Brian (how can I deal with this); I have to talk to him, to touch him, at long last to just be there with him, to let him know that we tried to be there (so he wasn’t alone). I have things that I have to say (although he can no longer hear me); I need to smooth his brow (even though he can no longer feel it); I need to ask him what happened (in spite of the fact that he will never answer); I have to tell him that I am so sorry that I wasn’t there in time (I can’t fix this one, B). This was the only way I could go on, the only way that I could ever begin to face what comes next. At the same time, my mommy instinct knew that I could not allow our girls to see him right then; rightly or wrongly, I decided they did not need to remember Brian in this way.

At long last, we are taken to our son. I am taking deep breaths, trying to make sense of what (who) I have suddenly become, trying to reconcile what is, with what was, to no avail. Over and over (am I speaking or just thinking) ‘I cannot do this; I am not this person; this is NOT my life; I did NOT ask for this; I am not this woman; I don’t know how to do this; I cannot do this; how do I do this; I don’t know how to live this life; how can I live THIS LIFE’? Floating down the corridor (past a sea of faces), into the elevator (are we going up or down), delivered to another passageway (I can’t do this, I have to do this), entering another dimension (someone PLEASE wake me up), braving the place where my present and future have ceased to exist…Brian, I am here, we are here now…

John glances around the curtain to confirm with his own eyes the truth that his heart cannot bear to witness; he can go no further. I must. Alice waits with John beyond this screen, out of the line of sight, lending him her strength, as I cannot. I am finally with Brian; I do what I must, tears falling like raindrops born of a summer storm, my journey to reach our son complete. Dr. Thomason stands behind me, weeping, sharing our loss as his own. Brian is swaddled like a newborn, only his face is visible; he appears to be sleeping. The sunburn on his face is gone, so many freckles on his nose…

We have to go; what else can be done here? We must do the impossible now; we have to leave our child behind (this cannot really be happening). We return to the little room, barely able to acknowledge the many, many others here, lining the hallways, sharing our agony. We gather our girls, forcing ourselves to go from this place, on to the place we call home, without Brian; a little over two hours has passed since Brad’s call. I am forced to settle for clutching the nameless plastic bag containing his sock and shoe to my broken heart instead of him, the last vestige of the man who was our son…

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