It's strange how the days leading up to the loss of Daniel, and the weeks and even months afterward have been captured in my mind in great detail with a great deal of accuracy. I wonder sometimes if this is true of others who experience a life changing incident. I have concluded that it may be true for some, but not all.
When Daniel died so suddenly in late November of 2008, the days which followed turned very cold. I remember shivering at the "Celebration of His Life" and turning the heat on in the house for the first time that season. So much of that time was surreal and like a nightmare. I think I coped by ensuring that I was as busy as possible. If you keep on running, perhaps the grief won't know where to find you, and might not hit you with full force. Since we live forty to fifty miles from anything, we spend a fair amount of time driving anyway. I remember driving and thinking a great deal in the weeks which followed the funeral. Daniel's funeral had been in the beginning of December, and several weeks later, we were nearing a sterile Christmas. Since Daniel had bought presents ahead of time for everyone, I was determined to make this a celebrated Christmas for our other children. I knew it wouldn't be a fantastic one, but I was settling for a salvaged one. For this reason, I was on the road in the car even more than usual, buying presents that had special meaning and this too increased my travels. About a week before Christmas, it once again warmed up outside, which happens here quite often in Virginia. I was returning on a country road from one of the cities which is about fifty miles from us. I slowed, as the traffic up ahead did. The church in that area runs a Christmas festival each year and during the festival, always makes the two lane road rather busy, as it was that evening. As I slowed and watched ahead, I saw a man with long hair riding a bicycle. He was riding much the way a child does, and in a split second, he was hit by a car and knocked into a mailbox. Without thinking much, I pulled into the nearest driveway and went over to him. After all, after doing CPR on my son, and having the medical helicopter come and have been unable to save him, what more could I see that would disturb me ? Another driver who stopped said he had called 911. I sat with the man who was lying in the gravel at the roadside. He was crying a bit like a child, but also in much the way many of us would be given the circumstances. His first concern was that I move the bicycle from the road. The man whose driveway I occupied, moved it and promised to hold onto it for him until he returned to get it, as the man who was hit would be leaving the property in an ambulance. The man who was hit was about thirty. He asked me if I thought his pelvis was broken. I told him that he should sit very still and not move around until he had been assessed at the hospital. I told him that scans would need to be done to rule out any injuries. There were no obvious fractures or obvious injuries. Then, I took his pulse. It was completely regular and only about 78 beats per minute. For a moment, I was just a sliver angry with him. How could he be hit by a car and have a completely regular pulse of only 78 ? My own pulse was likely 90 at the time. Daniel wasn't hit by a car, and he was dead ! Where is the sense in that ? The man started to get upset at the fact that the woman had hit him, although the people who had gathered who included a couple of witnesses thought that he had been the one who at dusk didn't have bicycle lights and was riding on a busy two lane road erratically. I spoke calmly and clearly to him telling him that he was okay, and that he had a slow and regular pulse. He would need to be assessed at the hospital but he was able to feel and move his toes and feet, and at one point moved slightly as he was lying in gravel, and this alone was uncomfortable. Then an ambulance arrived and searched for a place to park. A deputy sheriff arrived at about the same time. When the ambulance took over, neither they or the deputy asked for my name, even though I was a witness. I remember getting back in my car and waiting a long time before the road was clear enough for me to leave. I never heard anything directly about the accident again. I believe the man who was hit to likely have only minor injuries as his pulse remained about the same in the fifteen or twenty minutes I monitored him.
I have often thought it strange that even after such a terrible loss myself, one that changed my life forever, that stopping at the scene of an accident to help was still simply automatic. I didn't even consider driving on ahead, even though there were plenty of people there, and the sheriff's office had been directing traffic at the festival, and most of them in that county are also EMT trained.
It isn't fair that Daniel developed an apparent arrhythmia which took his life with no obvious precipitating factors. It isn't fair that a man in his thirties riding erratically on a bicycle gets hit, and then doesn't even have the expected rise in pulse from the adrenalin we might expect, let alone any clear injuries. I used to tell my kids that life isn't fair, and often we can't really look for it to be. Somehow this was of little consolation at that time.
The following week, I asked a friend of mine who is an EMT what she knew of the man who was hit by the car. She told me that he was treated and released from the Emergency Room. Life certainly does go on, no matter what the losses we might personally endure might be.