On August 22,1986, my only son, Jim, was killed
in an automobile accident. It had been a long week for me, and I just wanted
to stay home and rest that night. But my boyfriend, Dan, and I had to go
to his parent's home for dinner. We returned about 11PM and went to bed
immediately. Dan was an electrician and was often called out during the
night to do light checks along the highway. I was exhausted, and hoping
this would not be one of those nights, I fell sound asleep.
I awoke with a start
on the first ring of the telephone, and I sat straight up in
bed and screamed at Dan,
"Don't answer it!!" He wasn't even awake yet, and had no idea
what I was screaming about. The phone kept ringing, and finally
he reached for it. I KNEW what the call was before the phone
rang. I do not know how I knew, but I knew that either my son
or Dan's son was dead or dying, and God forgive me, but I prayed
it wasn't mine! The voice on the phone informed me that my son,
my Jim, had been seriously injured in a car wreck, and was at
the University Hospital, where he had been brought by Ambulance.
I was to get down there as quickly as possible. Without even
thinking, I pressed down the receiver, and then dialed my son's
father and gave him the information. I was numb, and acting like
Dan drove me to the hospital,
and when he pulled up to the emergency entrance to let me out, I was so
tense that it had distorted my vision, and all the people I saw standing
around the entry area had ridiculous concave faces. I went to the glass
window inside and identified myself, and I was taken immediately to a narrow
corridor and into a very small room with a bench that looked like it had
been painted in prison pea green and was reserved for inmates. I was directed
to wait there until the doctor could update me on my son's condition.
It seemed I was sitting there
for an eternity, but it was actually only about ten minutes. The doctor
came in, and Dan was shown in by a nurse. Then the doctor told me that my
son was gone, but he assured me that they had done everything humanly possible
to save him. He absolutely refused to let me see Jim, due to his injuries,
assuring me that I would be much better off to remember Jim the way I last
saw him. I was having a really hard time accepting all this, and had so
many conflicting emotions, I didn't know which one to address. I remember
feeling completely numb and my head was fuzzy. I needed help getting up
and assistance walking around the room.
A brown paper bag was brought
in and given to me. It contained Jim's last effects.There were no shoes
or clothes included, and when I asked, I was told I would not want them.
Soon after that, Dan took me home, and I don't remember much of what happened
The next morning, I was obsessed
with going directly to Jim's apartment and removing all of his things before
anyone got word of his death. I was afraid his apartment would be robbed
by people who knew him, but that I did not know. Jim was 25 and had been
living alone in an apartment downtown and working nearby. I was not familiar
with many of his new friends, and he and Dan had not been getting along
recently. I had talked to him on the phone more than I had seen him the
last few months.
I drove to his building and told
the manager that Jim had been in a car accident and was in critical condition.
I said he would not be returning, but that I would move everything out and
make sure the apartment was clean and available by Monday. She gave me the
keys, and my sister and Dan and I packed all of Jim's things and took them
to my garage until I could bring myself to deal with them. It was one of
the hardest tasks I ever had to face, but I knew I had to do it and do it
now. Throughout, I was very possessive about even the smallest thing, and
became totally irrational when I found that things were being thrown out
without my knowledge or consent. I began to harbor this awful resentment
that it was MY son who had died, and not theirs.
We worked furiously all day without
taking time to eat or rest, and finally finished about dark. I was too exhausted
to sleep but went in and lay down on the bed anyway, hoping I would doze
off. No luck. It was impossible to sleep. I had to force myself to even
keep my eyes closed. I tried deep breathing, counting, meditation and prayer.
Suddenly, I heard someone moving
down the hallway. It was not Dan. He was snoring loudly beside me! It was
then that I smelled my son's scent. At first, I thought it was just because
I had been handling all his things that day, but the scent was different;
it seemed fresher somehow!
Then my son came around the corner
into the room! I was stunned though not frightened. A voice somewhere in
my sub-conscience seemed to be telling me to stay calm and not be frightened.
I obeyed. I was surprised because Jim looked so fantastic. He looked as
I had always dreamed he would look if he were completely happy and fulfilled---only
much better! He literally glowed from within. His hair was perfect. Everything
about him was perfect. And I was so impressed with his appearance, that
I forgot to be afraid.
He came to the side of my bed,
and we had a wonderful conversation as he stood there. We didn't seem to
use sounds, yet we communicated perfectly! He said he was so sorry for all
the pain he had caused me and others, but he was in a wonderful place, a
much better place, and that I should be happy for him. His half-brother
was there, he said, and he named relatives he had never met before. He told
me about the people who were there to help and to welcome him, and he said
not to worry about him, that he was better than he had ever been, and I'd
I remember thinking
to myself that I must be dreaming and that if I pinched myself,
I would not feel it. This was a mistake! I pinched myself and
really felt it! Then I became confused, and I guess it showed,
because Jim reached down and grasped my right forearm in a reassuring
gesture. When I felt his warm hand on my arm, I lost it completely
and let out a scream! I sat up abruptly, and Jim just started
to fade, but he continued saying words of reassurance to me,
Mom, don't worry about me. I'm in a better place. I'm great,
you'll see, don't worry....."
At my blood curdling scream, Dan
woke up and could not figure out why I had screamed. My voice was completely
gone, and I could not say a word. But then a peacefulness settled over me
that I had never experienced before or since, and I seemed to grasp quietly
all that had happened.
I thought maybe I wasn't supposed
to share this experience then, and have only done so a few times with people
I felt would benefit from the sharing. But if my story helps one mother
feel any degree of peace, I am happy to tell it here. I know my son sees
God now, and I have rejoiced for him since his visit to me.