I have thought long and hard and prayed for the right words because understanding this kind of situation is almost impossible. I have lost my grandchild and a part of daughter left with her daughter. My life, nor my child’s life, will ever be the same. Grieving hearts will never be whole again. My daughter needs to grieve and come to terms with the reality that she is now living every parent’s worst nightmare. My child is broken beyond repair.
It was a Sunday early evening, my phone rang, and it was a call from Tennessee. I did not answer it. A few moments later, it rang again and this time it was from our daughter. When I answered her call, all I could hear was her crying and screaming. A young man who had stopped to help took the phone and explained to me that there had been a crash. I asked him how they were, and his words were "it doesn't look good ma’am." He told me where they were and we got ready for the longest ride of our life, we live an hour away. Then I realized by the time we got there they would have been transferred to the hospital. I called her number again and her phone was answered by a paramedic. He informed me that Shannon and Dane would be taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, but it would be a bit before they transferred our daughter. You see when the incident occurred, they only saw two adult victims, our granddaughter was under the car that ran them over. Our daughter yelled "mom, you and dad go to Arnold Palmer “in case" Adalyn wakes up, I need her to see a face that she will recognize, and that loves her.” Shannon had forced herself to remain conscious because she knew they were on a bike ride, and they had no identification on them. How would anyone know who they were or who to contact? Adalyn would have been all alone if not for her mother fighting to stay conscious so that she could get someone to call me. Sadly, our “in case" never came true and instead we identified Adalyn. I had the privilege of telling sweet Adalyn the story of her mama and dada and how much they loved her. I recited the books that I knew were her favorites and I sang songs that I knew her mama would have if she had been able to be there. I held her little hand and assured her of all the love that was going with her. I prayed the prayer we had prayed with our children when they were young because I knew Shannon was passing it on to Adalyn. The Medical Examiner's office came way to soon. My heart was broken, and now it was time to tell our daughter that a every parent’s worst fear had just become her reality. And this is how our forever nightmare began.
In the past when any of my kids had an issue I could call the teacher at school, or the team coach, or their doctor but this time there was no one to call for help. This time, there was not anyone to call that could set right what had just happened. I could not fix this nightmare for my daughter. All I could do for her was offer my unconditional love and support. I followed her lead while trying to hold in my own emotions. I had to accept that I could not tell her how to grieve. To her, this was her grief and it belonged only to her. At that time, that was okay. As Shannon’s mom, it was my job to be there for her as much as I could and as much as she would allow me to be. After the first week or so I found that I had offered all my advice, shared as much wisdom as I had, and said all the words that I could think of that I thought might make even a small difference. As her mom, I tried everything I knew to do but I soon realized that nothing I did was making it any better. She knew I couldn't possibly feel or understand her pain and the truth was, she couldn't imagine mine either.
I finally tried to stop saying much of anything and realized that this was her walk and though I wanted to help her, just being there when she wanted to talk or sometimes just being there in the silence was all I had to offer. Shannon was not only struggling emotionally but physically as well. Her leg was healing but not before she encountered several problems. In addition, she was trying to be by her husband's side as often as possible. She wasn’t taking care of herself. She would give up sleeping, eating, or anything else she had to be with our son-in-law as many hours of the day and often into the night as possible. Soon after our arrival at the first hotel, I found myself calling 911 because her body had finally given out and again, she was admitted to the same hospital she was only recently discharged from. The hospital where her husband remained in the ICU.
I lived with Shannon in the hospital, two hotels so that she could stay close to Dane, and then finally her house. Her injuries required a 31-day hospital stay for her leg and the complications of intense bodily trauma. Her story also includes a husband who suffered a catastrophic brain injury in the same tragic incident. There was no husband for her to share her grief with and no daddy to plan their daughter's funeral with. I couldn't have lived with myself if I hadn't spent that time with her. Her dad continued to work to help keep himself occupied while I was gone.
At times, it was hard for me to know my place. And then came the day that I knew I had hovered long enough and the rest of the road she would need to walk alone. There are just some parts of this journey that only our daughter could do, and my presence would hinder her as she struggled to move forward. And then, I began to grieve my granddaughter. It was (and still is) a pain I cannot begin to explain. For a while, life just did not make sense. In the beginning I was so caught up in our daughter’s world and her needs both physically and emotionally that I did not recognize my own. When I backed away, I felt the pain all over again.
The greatest pain I have ever felt has been watching Shannon, my youngest daughter, kneel at the cross of her daughter. I watched as she carefully picked flowers for her daughter’s service, it all needed to be pink, and everything had to be perfect. I was there when she met with the pastor and hand selected Bible verses that held special meaning for her. I walked behind her as she walked with a walker down the aisle of the sanctuary into her daughter’s service. I admired her strength while so wishing I could take away her pain. A pain that I knew was going to last her lifetime. How could all of this happen?
The cross at the site of the incident bears Adalyn’s name. Shannon carefully picks flowers and special things to represent the season, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and just because Adalyn needs to be remembered. She kneels in front of Adalyn’s cross each time she changes the decorations and checks for perfection. Shannon shared with me that the reason it’s so important that the tiniest detail not be missed is because “it’s the only way I know how to be a mother to a child that now lives in Heaven.”
Counseling helped me but finding a good match took a little time. Our daughter had counselors, many counselors, and I needed mine. I learned to give myself grace as the days rolled into months and then years. It has been a long journey and it’s been hard. Unexpectedly, a sadness will overcome me, and eventually it will pass but I know it will come again. It is the price of loving our sweet granddaughter. Even though I can’t see her I know she is still with me.