“PAM, GET UP!” What I thought was a dream was the voice of my husband, Joe, calling out my name. In a stupor, I fumbled out of the bed around 2:15 a.m. Thursday morning and walked into our living room. When I saw the policemen standing there, I knew that Jenny, our daughter, was no longer with us.
The Sunday before the accident, I now know Jenny knew she was going to leave Joe and me. As we normally do, we attended church that day. What was not normal is that the preacher stopped by our house. We were going to have our granddaughter baptized so I assumed he stopped by for that reason. Jenny was home and I was going to cook dinner for her. “Mom,” she said. “I want garlic shrimp, cabbage, macaroni and cheese, squash casserole and peach cobbler.” This was somewhat not normal as these were all of Jenny’s favorite foods.
Jenny was walking around the house holding our second daughter’s little girl. Out of the blue, Jenny said, “When I die, I wonder how many people will come to my funeral?” I could not believe she was talking such things for no reason and replied, “Why in the world would you be saying something like that?” “Well, remember, Mom, I want to be cremated and not buried.” I said, “I remember, Jenny, but please stop talking such nonsense.”
We had eaten and, as usual, the day ran by and darkness was falling upon us. I kept telling Jenny it was time for her to go home; she knew I did not want her on the road late. She went to school and worked in Greenwood, S.C. She finally got into the car but she just kept sitting there. She would just look up at me and stare. I kept insisting she leave but she just sat there. Finally, I closed her car door and said, “Jenny, you have got to go home.” I should have never made her leave. I still think about that to this day.
Over the next few days, I talked to Jenny on the phone and she said she was coming home on Thursday night and to please be sure to leave the door unlocked for her. Around 1 a.m. that Wednesday night, I woke up and went to see if Jenny had arrived. She was not on the couch or in the bed and her car was not outside. I now know the time I awoke and the phone call I wanted to make but didn’t, was almost the exact time of the accident. I still have trouble forgiving myself for not making that call.
When the highway patrol arrived, the wheels were still turning and the headlights were still shining on her car which was upside down. Jenny and her dog, Gracie, were thrown from the car. Jenny died instantly but Gracie passed away a little later. The officer retrieved her cellphone to see that Jenny had texted the guy she was dating right before the accident.
While the policemen were still at the house that Thursday morning, Joe ran into our bedroom and locked the door. I knew Joe might try and kill himself as he was very close to Jenny. She and Joe were a lot alike. Jenny, as much as I loved her, was a very rebellious child. She always gravitated toward the wrong people. Joe would not go to the morgue with me to identify her body. This was the hardest thing I have ever done in my lifetime. All of my family came to the houe that morning, but my youngest daughter was not there yet. I did not realize when I called her that I just said,” She is dead,” and not “Jenny is dead.” She thought her grandmother who had been sick had passed away.
The day of the funeral Joe was acting somewhat strange and almost scaring me. He would say something, then say that Jenny had told him to say it. The day after the funeral we were on the way to clean out Jenny’s apartment. At one point on the road, Joe said that Jenny told him the accident had taken place four miles ahead. It was exactly four miles from where he said. We had not been told the exact point of the accident, so this was a little scary.
My other daughter and I were in the apartment cleaning. Joe was outside. I moved the couch and there was some dog poop under the couch. I told my daughter that I was not going to pick up dog poop. We also decided not to take the computer desk. Joe walked in the apartment and said that Jenny told him it was okay that we did not pick up the dog poop but she paid good money for the computer desk and we should take it. Joe had to go to Lowe’s and get something, and he said Jenny told him how to get there as he did not know where Lowe’s was in Greenwood. All that seemed bizarre.
I had seen a lot of death in my family, but Joe had not. His mother had died a few years before Jenny and he had begun drinking. Now that Jenny had passed, he started drinking heavily. I tried to focus on anything I could to keep my mind off Jenny’s passing. There was a point a few years afterward when I really considered leaving Joe. I was grieving just as much as he was, but he wanted to keep it all bottled up and turned to the bottle for comfort. I had faith, though, and knew this would all pass with Joe. I knew it was his way of dealing and I knew we would work through it. I just had to have faith.
Joe did finally stop drinking and we are better now. Life will never be the same without our Jenny. My big lesson in all of this is: do not ever take life for granted and make sure you tell the ones you love just that. Do some things you want to do in life. Live a little, as they say. Also please make sure your children are not texting and driving as we are almost positive this is what helped cause the accident. My guilt over not making the phone call has gone away as I now know I could not control what was going to happen.
I’m sharing my story because if it helps only one person who has lost a child, then I have done something positive with my grief. I did keep my faith and, yes, there were many days it was questioned. It is okay to feel all the emotions. That is the best way to release the pain.
I will say that working with Sherry gave me great relief about Jenny’s death. I appreciate her coaching skills helping me get through such a sad situation. I will also say that Joe has grown to love Sherry and this is helping him move on.