With the tragedy of the car accident and Mark in a coma my life felt like it had stopped. One night Dad drove me to the grocery store to pick up some essential items. It was awkward to be amongst happy and carefree people who were walking up and down the aisles, chatting with another about what they needed to make delicious meals, or what they wanted as a treat. This common environment now seemed outlandish. Weren’t these people aware of the pain and trauma that was so prevalent at the hospital just a block away? I had become used to seeing individuals filled with worry and heartache; it seemed odd to be around healthy and happy people. I felt out of place.
I was grateful our children had school, homework, friends, and activities which kept them busy, yet it was difficult to support all their endeavors. Thankfully, I had family who helped. Near the last day of school there was a party for the children and parents which included dancing. I’ve always loved to dance, but now it took all the strength I could gather and to put a smile on my face a do a line dance with my child.
I bounced back and forth between a world full of tragedy, pain, illness and sorrow at the hospital to another full of pleasure, comfort, good health and happiness at home. I appreciated the reprieve from the hospital, yet it made me uncomfortable. It just didn’t feel right to be away from Mark.
My thirty-second birthday was six weeks after the accident. I wasn’t in the mood for celebrating, but it was a big day despite my feelings. At the hospital, Mark was lifted out of the floatation bed he was in due to a large blood clot in his right leg and strapped into a big white reclining wheelchair for the first time. His eyes were wide open with a terrified looked as they moved him from the bed. I thought he must be frightened by not having control over his body while being moved. He was upright for one hour three separate times that day, which felt like a giant step in the right direction. I even saw him move his fingers while he was sitting up, which brightened my day.
I came home to a kitchen decorated with balloons, cake and happy birthday signs made by the kids. After dinner and cake we were off to Christopher’s first Pinewood Derby Race. My dad had spent hours helping him make his car. I was grateful for the time he took to support and help make this race possible for Christopher. Two days before the accident Mark and I went to the Cub Scout meeting with Christopher where they passed out the pinewood box kit and talked about the race. Mark and Christopher were excited to work on the car together. While driving to Ogden that stormy tragic day, Mark told me all about the cars he’d made as a kid and how he looked forward to helping Christopher with his car. There was no doubt in my mind that Mark was as excited about this Pinewood Derby Race as our son was and the memory of our conversation hung over me like a dark cloud. I knew that if Mark was awake he’d be terribly disappointed he was missing out.
Excitement filled the building as parents and children gathered for the big race. Despite the fact I was amongst family and friends, I felt as uncomfortable at the Pinewood Derby Race as I did at the grocery store or the school dance, but I knew life must go on and I didn’t want to deprive our kids of any happiness. I smiled and cheered for Christopher’s car as it zoomed down the track and beat every other car and finally took first place. I was thrilled for him, yet heart-broken for Mark. I watched Christopher get his trophy and we took smiling pictures, yet inside I was crying and I couldn’t help but wonder if Christopher was too. I was delighted that he won, yet grieving for his missing Dad. I felt torn between two different worlds causing opposites in emotions. It was a bitter sweet birthday with milestones happening in both the worlds I was living in. It was also the day I realized that no matter where I was life must go on.
My favorite part of the pinewood derby experience is the next time Christopher saw his dad after the race, he took his prize car and trophy to the hospital and gave them to him. The car and trophy stayed on the nightstand next to Mark’s bed during the many months of his next recovery stage at the rehab hospital. When Mark came home from the rehab hospital, I asked Christopher if he wanted to keep the car and trophy in his room now. He said, “No, I gave them to Dad.” To this day, nearly twenty-four years later, the car and trophy are still on the nightstand next to Mark’s bed. This token of love from a remarkable eight-year-old boy is still appreciated and the memory of it will be cherished forever.