October 12, 2006
After carrying my very pregnant self to my 37 week doctor's appointment, I was told that I was being induced the following morning. I practically danced out of my OB/GYN's office. I was going to meet my daughter! I headed over to my parent's house to pick up Owen (they were watching him at the time) and spent some time chatting with my mom about the logistics of the next day. Travis (my older brother) was there, having just gotten off of work. He had stopped in to use the shower before he went out to dinner with a friend. We were all in good spirits. Boy, I think I was talking a mile a minute about how excited I was about the next 24 hours. I remember him chuckling at me when I insisted that my mom take one last belly photo. I remember asking him if he was coming to hospital the following day, to which he responded "Uhhh yeah", like I was a total jackass for even asking. And then I left. I don't remember if I told him goodbye. I don't remember if I told him I loved him.
I hate that I don't remember. I hate that time has a a way of smearing your memories, making you question what actually happened.
After arriving home, kissing my husband, and putting Owen to bed, I remember drawing a bath, and settling into the water, trying to calm my nerves. I laid my hands on my belly and tried over and over again to memorize what it felt like to be pregnant, (I thought this would be my last pregnancy.) the roundness of my midsection, how it felt when she kicked. I couldn't believe that in a few hours, I would be holding my miracle, the baby we thought we were going to lose at 14 weeks. I spent nearly an hour in that tub, thinking about all the ways our lives were going to change that next day, imagining Owen's little smile upon seeing his little sister for the first time. Tomorrow was going to be the start of the rest of our lives as a family of four.
October 13, 2006
I dropped Owen off at my parents' house bright and early. Neither of them showed any hint of anything being wrong. They told me they'd see me in a few hours and off we went.
Labor was a breeze. Three hours after beginning my induction, Olivia was born. I swear even her first cry was so ladylike. I don't think I can adequately put into words what it feels like to hold your child for the first time. First child, fourth child, twelfth child..it doesn't matter. The feeling is the same. Euphoria, love, an overwhelming urge to protect. It's like having your heart ripped out of your chest and put into another tiny body. When they put her in my arms, I was immediately struck by how calm she was. Those little eyes were piercing right through me, looking up, almost like saying "I'm here and I'm going to get you through this."
For that first hour after she was born, life was complete. Perfect. I felt 100% whole.
Then the phone started ringing. First, from one of John and Travis's mutual friends. I saw a look of confusion come over John's face, him muttering under his breath that he didn't understand what was going on. He hung up the phone, looked at me, and said.."He asked me if we found Travis yet."
It hit me like a ton of bricks. What did he mean? Well, why didn't he show up at the hospital? Who's looking for him?
"He said that he's been missing since last night."
The next call came from Travis's girlfriend. I could barely understand her through her sobs. What was going on? Why hadn't anyone told me?
"No one wants to ruin this day for you."
(My poor parents. Even in the darkest hours of the darkest day, they were still trying to protect me.)
The next half hour is a blur. They found him. Car accident. He's gone. Bull Run Road. My mom's sobs through the phone. The blank stare on John's face. The overwhelming urge to rip the IV out of my arm, grab my baby, and just run. Getting wheeled down to recovery, clutching onto Olivia with one arm, squeezing the hell out of John's hand with the other, not being able to catch my breath between sobs.
How the hell am I supposed to do this? Take care of a baby and a toddler and John and not completely fall apart at the seams? I just lost my big brother. John just lost his best friend. Owen just lost his uncle. And now I have a newborn that is depending on me for nourishment and love. And I can barely see through tears, how am I going to do this?
Once we were settled into my postpartum room, I remember staring blankly out the window, watching the cars whiz past on the Intracoastal overpass. Life wasn't going to stop because he was gone. And neither could I. I remember John, sitting on the bed with me, pulling me close and telling me that we'd, no doubt, get through this together.
Today marks five years. Honestly, the pain is still there. But time has a way of numbing it. Making it bearable. Whenever I'm having a "rough patch" and life sort of seems sucky, I think back to October 12, 2006. It immediately puts thing in perspective for me. Compared to that day, almost anything seems easy.
Call me a fool, but I honestly think that there is some sort of master plan and this was a part of it. The two events had to coincide. To teach me that even in times of great sadness, there is rejoicing. There is something to live for and celebrate.
Now, five years later, I don't choose to remember how he died. I choose to remember how he lived.
And boy, did he live. In the 1800+ days since he died, I've met countless people who have recounted stories of their times with Travis. How wise he was beyond his years, how he seemed to bring people together, how he could turn even the most boring of gatherings into a party. He had a way with people. Everyone who knew him felt as if they were his best friend. God, what a gift.
I remember how much he loved his daughter and how his eyes would light up when he held her. I feel as if he's entrusted us with a huge job. To make sure that his daughter knows him. To make sure that his memory stays alive through her.
It feels really good to be able to say that five years later, I no longer question why. I've accepted that I'm not owed an explanation. He's where he belongs.
I love you, Travis Jay.