Thursday, September 13, 2007

Celebration of Life


Today marks seven years since that tragic night that I nearly lost my, then, future husband and life as I'd known it. I was 17 and he had just turned 18 a few months before. It was to be the best year of our life: We were Seniors in high school and were to be married shortly after graduation whether our parents liked it or not. We were all about us and so innocently in love. The world revolved around our relationship and we didn't know any better.
I remember that day as if it were today! Unfortunately, that is. I would give anything to forget it. Alas, I now realize that this event would make me who I am today...flaws and all. It set into motion events that have been life altering for us both. What a beautiful Sunday morning it was!

We met up at church that morning. He drove his own truck. He was so thrilled to finally be driving, a long two years after most of his friends had been. We managed the audio/visual equipment at our church. We sat that morning, side by side in a small 4x4 room, listening on and off, to the actual sermon. He took my hand and wrote in black ink: "I love you forever and always."

I had to babysit that day and he had to go to a park with his family. He promised to call me that night before 10pm. I looked back at him through my sideview mirror as I pulled out of the parking lot. Little did I know, it would be the last time I'd see him in that light, who he was at that moment. My weight-lifting, 210 lbs, ROTC Marine hair cut, tall, dark, and handsome Prince...oh, if I'd only made him come with me that day...
9:30pm - I still had not gotten my phone call from him and suddenly had a very aweful, gut-wrenching feeling. I called his house. His younger brother, Steven, answered and told me that Chris was on his way home and that he'd have him call me. The feeling wouldn't subside and my mother thought I was crazy to call all over town trying to find, he didn't have a cell phone.

10:15pm - The phone rang. The caller ID read his home # and there was a breif sigh of relief. I answered, "Well, it's about time!" The voice on the other end: "Just pray, Nicole, just pray!" It was Steven. He told me Chris and Nick (another brother) had been in a bad wreck. Surely he was making some sort of sick joke and Chris was standing next to him! He wasn't joking. He told me that Nick was ok but that Chris was being airlifted somewhere. I lost it. No amount of words can describe what happened to me at that moment. Innocence was lost. The phone went crashing to the floor. I didn't know which way to turn, which direction to go in. I needed to get to him...that's all I knew and all I cared about. My mom drove me to the hospital...a drive that seemed to last about five hours! We were the first ones there. A Chaplain was immediately thrown at us. It's all a blur. One big fuzzy dream. That's what I wanted to believe.

2am - Dr finally came out to give us "news." Not good and happy news...though it rarely is. Chris had sustained massive head, back, shoulder, and rib injuries as his body was thrust from his jacked up Ford Ranger XL, out the Driver's side window. The truck flipped through the air and landed on top of Chris, pinning his shoulder to the ground. The brain damage was extensive and required emergency surgery. Nick had been wearing his seatbelt and had one cut on his elbow and close to his ear, not even requiring stitches...thank God! Chris's family had become my family and with this relationship I had not only gained a fiance` but four brothers. We just thought we were close at that point. We were there for eachother. Lifting one up when one would fall.

3am - It was finally my turn to see Chris before his surgery. I'll never forget those ICU waiting room doors. I walked inot his room, my whole body trembling in fear. I looked up at what was a body full of life and future just a few hours before. He laid there...seemingly lifeless. Machines, tubes, bandages, blood, bruises, beeping, dripping...endless agony. I hated seeing him like that. They couldn't guarantee that he'd even pull through this operation. We weren't even supposed to talk to or touch him. Being a teenager, there was no way I was having that! I walked over to him and picked up his bruised hand. I looked down at mine in his and remembered that morning, his eyes, his love. I saw the slightly smudged black ink on my hand with the words he'd written. Tears began falling with no end.

Fast forward to 10/31 - I cannot keep typing the details right now as I can barley see the computer screen through the tears. Chris came home on Halloween. Not all there, but alive. He didn't remember me and barely remembered his family. Names were a mute point. My Prince was now a mere 160lbs at 6 feet tall. Scars from head to toe. Part of his skull underneath layers of skin in his abdomen. His eyes were very different. I didn't care. He was walking on his own and talking on his own and eating on his own...things the Dr's never thought he'd do again. Prayer is truly a miraculous thing. God does work miracles.

9/10/2007 - It's been a very long and rough road for us. Has been since that day seven years ago. Chris has overcome so much! More than anyone ever gives him credit for. So have I. He has no recolection of any of those events. Never will. That's God's gift to him, that and having his life back. I, on the otherhand, have been put through the mental ringer for years. I still have nightmares no one knows about and I still freak out if I don't hear from him on time. Everyone was affected in their own right. Our road has been made up of pot holes and rocks and yet here we are...barely scathed on the other side. The road isn't at an end and hopefully won't be for a long, long, long lifetime together. It's made me love him even more than before and I never thought that would be possible. Nearly eight years into our relationship and we sincerely have the happiest marriage I know of. My 270lbs of Prince has that look in his eyes again. That same look I saw that Sunday morning seven years ago. I can only hope and pray that by this time next year he'll have another look in his eyes...the look of a very proud father.

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