Monday, March 7, 2011

The Spot

Phil was on his way to this trail head on the day he died. He left home around five thirty on a summer evening in August, and I got a phone call from a witness of the accident that took his life thirty minutes later. Somehow that trip to get to my husband's side is burned into my memory in a way that other moments from that time are not.

Five years later I still travel the route I took that day in August regularly. Initially, I avoided going down the street where I found him lying on the grass unconscious. But doubling the time required to get to locations on that side of town eventually became tiresome, and I forced myself to face that spot; over and over and over. Mostly in the car, occasionally on foot, and one time only on a bicycle. My reactions to passing the exact location where my life turned upside down have varied wildly through the years; vacillating between hyperventilation and mindless driving. The first time I realized that I'd driven by that mark on the sidewalk without thinking about Phil I cried for hours. Since then I have spent a lot of time evaluating my reactions, wondering about how they would change with time, and testing my recall on the details of that fateful day.

Five years later my heart still skips a beat while looking at that sidewalk. Countless passes by this personal landmark have both dulled and amplified my response to a trip down this road. Some days I am proud of the fact that I am able to maneuver my car down a path that so radically changed by life. Other days I drive by in awe of all that has happened in my world since August 2005. Mostly I just touch my heart or blow a kiss as I motor along.

Last week this landmark threw me one of those proverbial grief punches. For some reason instead of seeing the road as it is today, for the first time in a long time I imagined the scene as the drama unfolded that day. I saw Phil, the suburban, the cars, the people, the police, the fire engines, his bike standing upright at the side of the road, and I experienced the tunnel vision of that afternoon. All I could see in that moment was Phil. As soon as I got within fifty feet of the accident location my eyes were scanning the crowd, the cars, the road...where is my husband? Usually when I think of the accident I focus entirely on him, but in this imagining I saw myself in my mind's eye as well. Kneeling in the grass was a vision of the broken-hearted, shocked, frantic me leaning in complete disbelief over the crumpled form of the man with whom the future was supposed to unfold. My heart ached, my pulse raced, my breathing became shallow and I re-lived, just for a moment, the initial rawness of what that girl kneeling over that man experienced.

And I was proud of her, because somehow she survived.


  1. and I am immensely proud of you x

  2. What an awful thing to endure.

    We all have a story of our own now - to replay in our minds. Different video clips that randomly roll around in there, waiting to be viewed, dissected again, and then we move on with life at the moment or sometimes onto the next video clip.

    It's a vicious cycle for me right now. Remembering hurts so very much and trying to pause the memories for a time so I can function, leaves me feeling guilty.

    I know I'll survive. I am already surviving. I'm just dismayed that it's such a long journey. (If I could find a way around widowhood I would. Seems there is no way around it - wading right through it is apparently the only option.)

    Thanks for helping us all survive Michele.

  3. I think it is a sign of healing that you saw yourself in that scene for the first time. Our brain has such strong defense mechanisms that it only feeds us what we can handle when we are able to handle it emotionally. It's a significant step. On a personal note, every day on my way to work I drive down a highway that is filled with hospitals, Dr.'s offices and the Hospice where we spent our final weeks together. I have forced myself many times not to look at that building because it brings back the pain. I remember how hard it was to leave him lying in the bed and walk away. Longest walk of my life. I kissed him, covered him up, and walked out for the last time. Last night I went to visit a friend in the hospital where I had spent many a day and night with him, and it was hard for me to go in, I really had to push myself. I've thought many times about moving away, but I have my house and my job and have lived here a long time. I always think of a saying my husband had when I'd get urges to leave....he'd say "wherever you go, there you are." Wise words. God bless us all.

  4. My husband was found a few feet away from our apartment, on a hillside in the snow.The police came and we met at the hospital. Later that day I HAD to do there, where he was found I was drawn. It was Feb. 12th. On Feb 14th I placed a flower there I can't drive by without looking sometimes I feel numb other times I send thoughts of love to the spot that has forever changed my life. <3 to us all <3 thanks for sharing.. Dawn

  5. I'm proud of her, too. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.