Moms

Leaving Brian, revisited

“Until that day, I had no idea loving someone could result in such devastating, incomprehensible pain…nor did I realize the love of others-family, friends and community-could sustain you through the darkest of times.”
“Until that day, I had no idea loving someone could result in such devastating, incomprehensible pain…nor did I realize the love of others-family, friends and community-could sustain you through the darkest of times.” Getty Images/Zoonar RF

As the 7th anniversary of her son’s tragic accident passed this summer, 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

I’m very sorry, revisited

I remember very little about that terrible afternoon; without my old journal, I would be hard pressed to recall much of anything. Mainly it’s a series of images, kind of like a Polaroid snapshot array: John’s car parked in the hospital garage…the white plastic bag encompassing Brian’s single sock and shoe…a sack of bagels, hanging from the doorknob…John sitting at the bar in our kitchen, close friends on either side, plates of scarcely touched food in front of them…piles of unmatched socks, stacked on the laundry room counter…

Until that day, I had no idea loving someone could result in such devastating, incomprehensible pain…nor did I realize the love of others-family, friends and community-could sustain you through the darkest of times…

Leaving Brian behind was an involuntary betrayal, an unavoidable breach of sacred trust. We were forced to break every promise we made as parents (how can I just desert him leave him to these people to this place) and walk out. The fight has gone out of me; I am drained, running on empty. This is just insane! My ordinary day…mutated into something so unspeakable (don’t think don’t think stop thinking no more thinking) that I cannot bear it, cannot consider how we came to be in this position.

The friends who bore witness to our tragedy offer comfort, knowing there is no solace to be found, no safe place to go. Rhyne asks, “Do you mind if I come to the house with you?” John, not wanting to be a further imposition, insists, “No, man, thanks, you’ve done enough; I’m fine, we’ll be fine.” Rhyne knows exactly how to respond, and I will never forget his words. “I don’t want to come over for you, John; I need to come over for me. It would make me feel better.” That reasoning, man-logic at its finest, makes it permissible somehow, and I am grateful (thank you bless you I can’t face this alone). I need for others to be with us when we arrive home (is it anymore how can it be), for the world as we knew it no longer exists. We are merely shadows of our former selves…ill-equipped for this future that has arrived, unbidden, unwelcome, incomprehensible…

Auto-pilot takes over, the blessed numbness of shock finally quieting the argument in my head…it’s real, no it’s not, yes it is, no this cannot be right, what am I missing, I’m forgetting something important, don’t go there, oh no Brian, Brian what happened, this is wrong, this is not happening… Grace immediately rejects our altered family, refusing to even consider riding with us. She runs back to Sara Anne (she brought her to us), and begs to go with her, as if reversing her steps could somehow undo this awful thing. John insists on driving home himself; he has slipped on a protective armor of anger…his ranting litany, “I cannot even believe it”, followed by “I’m so pissed”, with an occasional “Are you kidding me”…an endless looping commentary on his irrational state. Beth also slips away with others, completely withdrawing from us, a wall of silent rage radiating from her with such intensity that it flashes and sparks, warning of the tempest to come.

As we reach our driveway (already? how did we…what time is it), diminished and broken, a wisp of awareness flickers. This will be the first in a long series of firsts; we are going to enter this house for this first time knowing that Brian will never do so again. If home is where your heart is, what has this place become? The thought drifts away… Out of the car (must I do this), in we go (I can’t stand it), forced to confront (reality, nope, think I’ll pass) the fact that he won’t be here later (please, this, I cannot do)… welcomed into the warm embrace of many waiting arms (thank you, thank you Lord).

I have always known that our community was very special, but the outpouring of love shown to this family could only be heaven sent. They came: old neighbors, new neighbors, our friends, Brian’s friends, Beth’s friends, Grace’s friends, parents of friends, teachers, family members, my beloved S-contingent, tennis friends, golf buddies, swim team, our Pine Lake family in mass, even a few caring souls that we did not know. And they kept coming. Bearing gifts of food and drink (cannot eat feel sick), paper products (thank goodness, toilet paper), and much more…folding clothes (Brian’s clothes, TG just walk away), attending to the cat box (where is Silly anyway), handling mundane details of our life (please I want my old life back), each person gently consoling us the only way they knew. Several step up and take charge, organizing these tokens and gestures (I cannot keep up someone please keep it straight on overload too much can’t think Miss Type A has left the building the country the planet she has checked out).

The constant refrain: “I’m so sorry…I don’t know what to say”. My universal response: “Well, me either”. This is uncharted territory…and there is no perfect thing to say or do. They sit with us (chair, bed, floor), listening to our rambling (did I just say that again), crying fresh tears (cannot stop it’s like holding back Niagara Falls), remembering Brian (he was so full of life, always smiling…), encouraging us to laugh (not likely but maybe someday), eat something (can’t do it no way), rest a while (can’t stop moving sitting still equals thinking equals agony)…each and every person is shining their own light into our valley of shadows and sorrow.

Time marches on, afternoon giving way to evening yielding to night, and suddenly we are left to consider the emptiness, and to battle back the dark places. Tomorrow has its own challenges to be faced down. As I lay with my weeping husband, unable to distinguish his sorrow from my own, it occurs to me that I have never seen John cry before…and that tomorrow is his birthday…

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