I taught Ryan how to swim before he could walk. I nursed each of my children for over a year to build immunities. I had Ryan inoculated against diseases. I gave him healthy foods, used every child-proof gadget available, always put him in a child-safe car seat, and suited him up with a helmet, knee pads and SPF 50. And I encouraged him every day of life and stood beside him in each disappointment.
So, why couldn’t I save him from death?
The guilt came when the shock wore off and has been a companion of mine ever since. Some days ‘guilt’ operates in my subconscious; others it marches straight out ahead of me. And believe me, that is not an easy place to be. So I stay busy- running here, running there, running for exercise and running for ‘running’s sake.’ And yet . . . .
The accident. “It all happened so quickly.” ( Isn’t that what people usually say? ) Thinking backward now, what sounded like a gun blast, was a tire blowing apart causing the car to spiral out of control. We rolled over and over landing passenger side down on the grass. Complete silence was filled with suffocating smoke. The pain from my legs being on fire was almost unbearable, but I knew it was only a matter of time before the car blew up and I had to get to my children! In pure panic, I fought my way out of the car knowing I had to find another way in to break my children free. Parents are trained by flight attendants “in case of emergency, place the mask over your face first; then help those around you.”
I was on fire. There was no time to stop, drop and roll when it comes to saving your children. But if the fire consumed me, who would save them? Ron had gotten 2 yr. old Tyler out so he could fight his way into the fire to grab Ryan, who was in shock, unable to react to Ron’s shouts to unbuckle his seatbelt.
We failed. Everything we did wasn’t enough, and we lost our little boy.
The years since have been plagued with “why’s and if-only’s.” Every day of our lives we will be in ‘restoration mode.’
If I can ease the pain of one parent who has experienced this sort of tragedy, the book I am writing on recovering from tragedy, will be worth it. More to follow next week.