Wednesday, May 20, 2015


This can't be happening. I don't need this lesson, I get it, life is unfair, we should appreciate every moment, life is short, make the most of everything, be nice. I'll be nicer. I'll be better.  I don't need this lesson, God. I don't need it.   The other day I was bargaining with God.  This is not how I talk to God or how I believe it all works. I never thought I would bargain with God.  But I did on the day I thought my son was dying.

I also never thought I would pay attention to what I was wearing on the day I thought my son was dying. Or that I would tell jokes in the emergency room while they were fixing his IV. Or that I would apologize to nurses that I had snapped at in desperation and frustration.  

I never thought of any of it because I never thought about my son dying. And now I can't stop.


Looking back, the weeks before I found myself at my son's bedside in the emergency room feel like a Shonda Rhimes' show.  The plot line was building around one central character, my oldest son Peyton.  He was coming into his own at school and on the track team.  Tim and I had said more than once that "this is his time right now" and that "he seems so happy, such a solid, good kid."

There were tragedies happening all around us that made both Tim and I feel vulnerable but also so grateful for the life we have and our children. Tim is an assistant principal at a high school in the area. A high school that was reeling from five deaths. One young woman killed herself, another student lost her father in an accident at his work and three teenage boys were killed in two separate car accidents. I watched as Tim struggled to wrap his head around the magnitude of loss and despair. The families were grieving, the students and the staff too. He came home one night with red, tired eyes and said "There's too much pain. Too much for these families and these kids."  

After going to the viewings and funerals of two of the teenage boys he came home even more wrecked. He talked about looking at the pictures of the boys and how they reminded him of Peyton. They played football, they loved sports, they were just a couple years older than him.  

I wasn't sure how to help him process all of it. I just knew that he and I were feeling a strange combination of utter fear and fierce gratitude. 

Then I got the call from Peyton's school.  "Your son collided with another child in gym class and he isn't acting like himself," the woman in the school office told me.

As I listened to her, my mouth got dry and tears sprang to my eyes. This was bad, I knew it, I felt it.  As I drove to the school I started bargaining with God.  

I found Peyton in the office surrounded by people. He was crying and saying he couldn't remember anything. He also said he couldn't see. They put him in a wheel chair and I drove him to the hospital.  Peyton started thrashing his body in the seat next to me and screaming "I can't see, the world is black." He was sobbing. Wade was covering his ears in his booster seat in the back of the minivan.  I kept repeating "it will be okay, it will be okay" over and over and over again.

The last thing I wanted to do was call Tim and tell him that I was taking Peyton to the emergency room with a head injury. Three of the boys in his high school had died of head injuries.  But I had to call him, we needed him.  I called and told him to meet us at the hospital.

Once I arrived, I pulled my minivan up to the ambulance entrance. Peyton could not see or walk at this point. He is taller than me and I had no idea how I could get him out. I left the boys in the van and ran through the double doors screaming "someone help me! please help me!"  Two men came outside to get Peyton into a wheel chair. 

They wheeled him back and I followed along holding Wade's hand and dragging him with me. I paced back and forth for four minutes while we waited for a nurse to come check on him. Four excruciating minutes.  

Peyton was fading. He didn't recognize me and didn't know how old he was. Then he stopped responding to anyone and crumpled into a ball on the bed.  

Tim raced around the corner and I will never forget the look on his face when he saw Peyton crumpled on the bed in the emergency room.  He ran to Peyton and put his arm around him. Stroking his hair back he kissed him on the forehead and said "I'm here buddy, I'm here."

We thought we were losing him, we thought he was dying.

They rushed Peyton to a CT scan and Tim went with him.  After the scan, Peyton was thrashing and violently trying to stand up.  He was ripping out the oxygen and pulling at the IV.  Tim had to pin his arms down and a nurse and I had to hold his legs down while another nurse injected an adult-size pain killer into his IV.

When the nurse told me it was Dilaudid, I joked with her that that happened to be one of my drug-addicted mother's favorite pain killers.

Peyton was fighting all of us and he was gasping for breath and his eyes were still searching to see.  It was all very primal.  But then finally he slumped onto the bed again.

Tim and I sat together holding hands, our faces inches from Peyton's. We were watching and waiting. Tim's mother had thankfully come and taken Wade to preschool. So, it was just the three of us in the corner of the emergency room. 

The doctors came back and told us that the CT scan showed no brain bleed but that there was swelling and a Level 3 concussion. So, they sent Peyton to have an MRI. The doctors were hopeful that the swelling would go down naturally but they wanted to monitor him overnight and follow up with tests over the next couple of weeks.

Hearing the doctors be hopeful was reassuring. But seeing Peyton wake up hours later and be able to see us and respond to us was the absolute best feeling ever.

Tim decided he was going to spend the night with Peyton at the hospital.  He didn't want to leave his side.  As I left to go pick up the other kids and make them dinner, I looked down at the workout clothes I was wearing.  I had on two different socks, no makeup and a baseball hat.  I laughed at how bad I looked and then I cried. I cried because I was thinking about  my clothes and because I was relieved and in shock and scared and grateful again and couldn't believe that any of it had happened.


We are moving forward. Peyton is begging to go back to normal life, but the doctors say to take it easy for the next 7-10 days.  And we still have follow up tests.  

The first two nights he was home I snuck into Peyton's room and checked to make sure he was breathing. I just stood over him to see his chest moving up and down, and then I breathed a sigh of relief.  I used to do that when he was a baby and I felt overwhelmed with love and responsibility and a little bit of fear.

On the way home from the hospital, Peyton asked to stop at Wade's T-ball game. It was and is all so surreal.

Right now I can't stop feeling the fear and being emotional. I am stuck with those feelings of utter fear and fierce gratitude like before Peyton's injury. Everything seems more intense though and I'm tired.  I want to unsee Peyton slumped on a hospital bed and gasping for air and thrashing and crying. I want to unfeel it all. I want to not be afraid of the randomness and the fragility of life. 

I want to stop thinking about how I acted and what I wore on the day I thought my son was dying. I want to stop thinking about him dying and that he could die from some stupid injury in gym class or playing sports or a car accident or some stupid decision he makes when he is older and drinking or getting in the car with someone who is.  

I want the "appreciate the moment, life is short" idea to feel like it used to, like some pretty, inspirational Pinterest quote. I don't want it to feel vulnerable and real and ugly and raw and scary and so, primal.

I want there to be some narrator to say something profound and play an amazing, meaningful song like in a Shonda Rhimes' show.

It will take time. I know. I am hopeful and still fiercely grateful that Peyton is doing well and for his life and my life and my family.  It will just take a little time to get my feet back and feel stronger and less fragile. It will take Tim time. It will take time and friends and sunshine and the front porch and kitchen dancing and good food and good music and our dogs and our kids and each other and all the things we love about this precious life.

The first morning Peyton was home we had a late breakfast on my beloved front porch and the sun was shining and everything felt so right and I never wanted to leave that moment.


  1. Thank you for your words and allowing readers to go on this terrifying journey with your family. Peyton and the rest of your brood have been in my heart and thoughts a lot since you first shared his injury. You described the fear and fragility of sudden illness so perfectly - I was simultaneously feeling your feelings and being flooded with my own emotional memories of time spent in hospitals. Time will help heal, but I believe that while it won't be so painful, this experience will remain and change you. Sending you so much love, strength, and peace.

  2. Oh hon... Just all the feels. I wish I could take this worry away from you.

  3. You are so surrounded with love. I know that's not a forcefield or a shield, but I hope you can feel — at least a little — how you and your whole family are being loved from so many sides, and I hope it helps take at least a smidge of the fear off your shoulders and your heart.