Intoxicating Trauma

Sweet Emily, Part One

I keep meaning to write about it. The composition swirling around in my head every time I notice something that reminds me of her, of it. But there is something about trying to force into words the experience of a child’s funeral that feels utterly impossible.

I think I’d start with the fact that we left for the airport before dawn, driving the empty highway out to the interstate. Alone on the road, it was easy to see the collision before it happened, some 50 yards ahead. It was just after 4am and clearly the car turning into the intersection on a red-light had assumed there would be no one there. But the car side-swiped the SUV, then swerved to correct itself and ended up crashing, head-on, into the traffic light pole. Both cars were smoking as we pulled up to the intersection. We were the only other car on the scene. We stopped and wondered what we should do. Aside from the smoke billowing out from both hoods, the scene was still. Were they ok? Shortly after, both doors opened. From one car, a man staggered out, profusely apologizing in a drawl that felt intoxicated, but was perhaps just traumatized. From the SUV, the woman he had hit was screaming at him in a yell that also felt intoxicated, but was perhaps just traumatized.

I called 9-1-1 and explained the scene. The operator asked if everyone was “ok?” and I thought “Not in any way,” but said, “Yeah, nothing life threatening,” because I knew she meant physically. The woman was screaming at the man and the man was apologizing and shaking while he walked around in circles. The operator asked if we could stay on the scene until the police arrived, but we couldn’t. We were already running late, and what, were we to miss our flight on account of making sure a fight didn’t break out among two possibly drunk, but definitely traumatized, people with smoking cars in the middle of an intersection at the break of day?

We drove away from the scene and I remarked that us running late was the only reason that we had not been t-boned by that drunk driver.

“None of it makes any sense,” I said into the rising sun.

“Not a single bit.” Josh replied.

We drove the rest of the way in silence.

When we pulled-up to the airport, the bright sun was rising in the Eastern sky, casting beautiful deep orange rays onto the peaked tent of DIA. This airport used to mean adventure and vacation… possibility, but in the last couple years, with 15+ flights to Philadelphia in my travel log, this stupid place just holds the memories of trying desperately to survive.

What if our plane crashes and Joshua and I both die and our kids are left orphans.? What if then Beau relapses and he has no one to take care of him in the way I would? I settle in to the parking shuttle and send a text to my cancer mom bestie:

“If anything happens to Josh and I, I want you to have decision making over Beau’s health. And I know a text likely can’t make that official- and holy logistics- but you’re the only person I trust in this space. And I’m clearly only thinking of this bc Josh and I are traveling to Emily’s funeral and life is so fucking fragile and all I can think is that we will probably die there. Because none of this makes any sense. “

I felt intoxicated, but knew it was only trauma.

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