by Lindsay S.
It was a dreary afternoon, hardly a rarity for Good Friday in Ohio. My family and I were driving to my great-grandparents home for Easter weekend, all the while listening to the soft pitter-pat of rainfall on the car windows. When my family arrived at my great-grandparents home, my sister and I were terribly upset to learn that our two cousins from Alabama, 11 year old book-loving, off-the-wall enthusiastic Garrett, and 7 year old fun-loving, goofy, wild child Logan, had left with their parents just minutes before our arrival to head back south. Little did anyone in my family know that this day, Good Friday of 2002, would become the day most of us would say is the worst of our lives.
I remember I was sitting in the living room with my parents, great grandparents Nita and Gus, my mamma, and various other extended relatives when the phone rang. It rang with shrilling urgency, breaking the air of calm that had been surrounding the room. The news my Aunt Judy delivered to Nita over the phone was unexpected, horrific, and devastating. My great-grandmother’s gaunt face fell and her lips gave way to a heart-wrenching quiver. Upon my great-grandmother recounting that our cousins had gotten into a terrible car accident, I could feel fear and panic pervade the room. Aunt Judy had made it to the site of the accident, and choking back boisterous sobs told Nita to prepare herself for the things to come.
The seconds that passed before anyone in the room spoke seemed like hours. I sat there, staring at my father’s blank face, just hoping he would know what to do…he always knew what to do. My adolescent mind began to wander: I feared pain, and sorrow, and death. I vividly remembered my grandfather passing away two years before, and my eyes gave way to hot-tears as I contemplated the gravity of the situation.
Before I knew it, I was stumbling to keep up with my parents as they lead my sister and I down a corridor of an unfamiliar building. I didn’t remember us driving to this strange place, but after a couple glances around, I recalled a place I had been that looked similar. Cold white walls, soft cries, people wearing masks and carrying odd silver instruments running about...painful memories of rushing to the hospital after my granddaddy’s heart attack swept through my mind. I dreaded spending time in hospitals because from an early age, I knew what they meant: death, decay, and loss.
In a short time, I was able to visit my cousin Logan in his hospital room. He had been wearing his seatbelt, a measure that had protected him when their truck had rolled after hitting the tail end of a compact passenger car, so he was already up and talking. Workers in the hospital were busy trying to set up a video game system for him when my parents pulled my sister and I out of his room. They had just spoken with the doctors. I tried to be brave and strong, just like my dad, but I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking with anxiety. My father then bent down to look me and my older sister in the eyes, and told us that Garrett and his father Mike had been ejected from the truck because they hadn’t been wearing their seat belts. Mike was undergoing extensive surgery and would then be moved to the critical care section of the hospital. My father then took a deep breath. The slight edge in his voice frightened me. I nervously continued to stare into his pale gray eyes and for the first time, saw my father on the verge of tears. It was with a shaky voice that he told us that our cousin Garrett hadn’t made it. The lord has sent an Angel to take him up to Heaven.
My father tried to soothe us, but my mind had slipped into an eternal abyss of emptiness. Each breath I took became caught in my throat…I felt like my entire world had been shattered. After a few moments of what felt like floating, I became aware of the family all around me. Most had succumbed to somber tears, but a few had become statue-like, staring out into space and showing no emotion at all. I wanted to be a big-girl. I didn’t want to cry, I didn’t want to show how scared and confused I was, I didn’t want to breakdown, but the gravity of the situation was too much for my nine year-old mind to cope with.
In time, my uncle Mike was released from the hospital. My Aunt Lisa and cousin Logan has both only sustained minor injuries from the car accident. However, we all knew that life as we had known it had fundamentally changed. Garrett was only an eleven-year-old child when he passed away. He never got to go to high school or college, he never got to drive a car, and he never had the chance to fall in love, get married, or have children. In his eleven years of life, however, Garrett had touched the heart of everyone he had come into contact with. His radiant energy will never be forgotten. This devastating loss is the most catastrophic event that has befallen my family. However, we all thank God everyday for the time we had with Garrett. We all learned that life is precious, and should never be taken for granted. I wrote this in remembrance of Garrett, my sweet, fun-loving, energetic, and red-headed cousin, whose spirit lives on in the hearts of all the people whose lives he touched.