It’s 15 years today since that man took you away from me. Fifteen long years since I’ve been able to see you and give you a hug, tell you how much I love you and miss you. So I thought I would do it this way, I’m sure that some how, some way you will hear me.
I was 10 when it happened. That wonderful, magical age where everything seems possible, from dragons and fairies to the self assured certainty that you will become whatever you will want to be, be that president, astronaut or the first person to own a real live dinosaur. But on December 17. 1989 that changed forever. Even at 10 when I opened the front door and saw the state trooper standing there I knew something bad had happened, I just didn’t know what. The look on Dads face as he talked to him frightened me worse. Over the years I’ve been able to piece together what happened from what I heard. You were coming back from town after buying me a special Christmas present, ( I still have that little sterling silver heart shaped jewelry box mom, it sits right under my computer monitor). That curvy hill right outside of town has always been deadly but that day it was worse. From what I read and heard later on he had been drinking since he woke up that morning. By 4:00 PM he had gone through everything he had in the house. Well, I guess he felt he wasn’t drunk enough and wanted more. Like so many people in that situation he felt he was OK to drive, not realizing how truly impaired he was. You had the bad luck of going southbound around that blind curve as he was going north. He crossed over the center line and hit you head on. That new car of yours had air bags and you always wore your seatbelt but that does no good when the engine is shoved into yur lap and your face goes through the dashboard. They found him in the middle of the road, on his hands and knees, puking, with a scratch on his head that required five stitches. They tell me that the part of the brain that made you who you are was damaged so badly in the accident that the woman that was my mother died almost instantly. But your body lingered on for three more days, you’re brain just didn’t know enough to shut off your heart and lungs.
I got to see you one last time before you died. Dad brought me to the hospital to let me say goodbye to you before they donated your organs. Everyone was there. I remember how sad everyone looked. They tried to explain to me that I needed to say goodbye to you because you were dying but at 10 you don’t understand that. All I knew was you were still breathing so you were alive, you were just asleep and wouldn’t wake up and talk to me. You’re face was all bandaged up and all that but I knew it was you. I got very upset and started to cry when you wouldn’t wake up and talk to me. Aunt Annie finally picked me up and carried me out. Uncle Robbie took me out for ice cream then home shortly after that. It wasn’t until several years later that I figured out that whenever something bad was happening or I was upset Ice Cream was hiss solution.
A few hours later everyone came home and sat me down and tried to explain that you had died. I remember crying and being upset because you had been alive just a few hours ago. I know now that for all intensive purposes you had died in the accident but your body died in the O.R. when they harvested your organs. Several people are alive now because of you so part of you does live on.
I did get to see you one more time. Aunt Annie brought me to the funeral home so I could see you. You were mom, I could tell that but you looked so different. It was a closed casket general because of the damage done but she wanted me to see you one last time. Now I understand why, this way there would never be any doubt in my mind it was you.
Two days before Christmas was your funeral. How do I explain how horrible that was? I don’t think I can. The pain was almost unbearable. Then that night Uncle Chris molested me. No, molested is too nice a word, he raped me. Everyone was downstairs but I was too afraid to say anything. The next day I was still bleeding from it and was too scared to tell dad so I told Amiees mom while she was watching me. She took me to the hospital. Turns out he had ripped me pretty good and I had to get stitches. She never told anyone, thinking as upset as everyone was something worse would have happened. I don’t know to this day if that was the right thing.
Things went good with Dad for about a year, like a honeymoon period but after that things changed a lot. Even that young I could tell he didn’t like me. I guess I reminded him a lot of you and I know now that you and he were not getting along well when you died. When he started driving locally instead of over the road he was spending more time home with me he started hitting me. As I got older it got along worse. Broken bones were not uncommon then. What was so bad about it was before that neither you nor he had ever hit me. You had never even raised your voice to me!
When I was twelve he started sexually abusing me. It wasn’t the you touch mine I’ll touch yours but it was full intercourse and if I protested he took it anyway not caring if it hurt or not.
By 13 I rather realized that he didn’t much care what I did as long as I wasn’t around him. So I guess you could say I became a wild child, bouncing in and out of relationships with much older men. The only one around that seemed to care and tried to keep me in check was Amiee and her family. Amiee always has been more than a friend to me, she’s always been like a sister. And her mom and dad always treated me like a daughter.
By 15 I was a walking disaster. Dad and I couldn’t stand the sight of each other. I had hooked up with a man 20 years my senior who wanted me as a sex toy and introduced me to every kinky perversion out there and got off on hurting me. It wasn’t strange for him to break bones while we had sex. So is it any wonder I started to fall apart? At 14 I had pretty much quit eating or binged and purged. At 15 I was anorexic and was committing slow suicide. Between 14 and 16 I can’t remember how many times I tried to kill myself. I guess dad had pretty much given up on me and decided to let me die if that is what I chose. He told all my friends to prepare for my death. Even during this time he was still molesting me, not caring how sick or skinny I was.
Finally what the Doctors had warned everyone about happened; I had a heart attack. It was a minor one but it scared the shit out of me. I weighed 54 lbs by then. After that I started to eat again and slowly started to put on weight.
I even tried the best I could to straighten my life up with thee help of my friends. I dumped the abusive asshole and tried to move on.
Dad re-married when I was in college and I couldn’t stand the woman so I moved out and lived on my own. His and mines relationship hadn’t gotten any better after that. But at 20 he finally stopped hitting me when I finally got the backbone to make him stop (OK, I slugged him back. By that time I was boxing and could hit fairly hard so I hit him and told him if he ever did it again I would have him arrested.). He died not long after that, heart attack.
That was a hard time for me. I kinda fell apart. One day I took every pill I could find and slit my arms from wrist to elbow. Amiee found me on your grave, more dead than alive.
It took me a long time to get it together after that mom but I did. I met a man so different from what I am used to that it’s like night and day. He is sweet and kind, treats me like a queen. He never even raises his voice to me! It was like you had put your hand on my shoulder when I met him and said, “That’s him Dani, that’s the one.” We’ve been together for four years now.
I’m not writing this to bitch and man. That’s not the purpose. You see, I only had you for 10 short years but your legacy lives on. You gave me so much. I remember when I was little you encouraged me to write those stupid little stories, looking up words with me and helping me with structure and form. You encouraged me to read and to learn, a gift that carried on long after you were gone. I graduated high school and collage top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. I write now and am published. Something I can thank you for.
In the last few years I realized something else was well… I had a pretty hard life, yes, BUT all that pain made me the strong person I am. I’ve still got problems, yes, a lot of them, BUT I’m still here! They didn’t destroy me. They just made me stronger and better able to cope with them. I can tank you for that as well. You laid the foundation for that when I was little and empowered me to build on it.
You passed out of my life 15 years ago leaving behind a void that to this day remains and still hurts. I admit I still see you with child’s eyes as the perfect mom who could do no wrong. You will always be that to me, forever and ever. Everyday I miss you and every day that hurts. I feel alone in this world most days. Sure I have Annie and Robbie when I chose to let them be there for me but they are no substitute for you. Dad has been gone for four years now as well and in my own way I miss him as well, but not like I do you. Each year about this time I miss you so much it’s like a physical pain and it’s hard to deal with but I do and get through it. You are sorely missed in this realm mom and I wish you could come back but I know that is impossible. I settle, instead, by thinking that you are still with me but more as a guardian angle with the fiery red hair and the Irish brogue, who looks out for me the best she can.
Someone once said that if one person remembers you after you are gone you will continue to live on. And you do mom, you live on in my heart and my memories. And will as long as I live. As will the memory of your unconditional love and how it felt for you to hold me. You live on every time I tell someone about you. You live on in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to have known you. You live on because goodness, kindness and love are always remembered, What better legacy can there be?
I miss you mom and think of you every day but most of all, I love you mom.
For Bernadette who passed from this realm Dec 17th, 1989. Hit and killed by a drunk driver. May the road rise to meet you, May the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon your fields and, Until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand. ~Irish Blessing