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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Talking about "what-ifs"

DISCLAIMER: Over the last several months, I have been encouraged to write regularly about the accident from 2004. I am working my way through writing a book about the incident. So, every Tuesday, I've taken the opportunity to write, remember and share snapshots of that tragic event.

A part of our story that many people don't know is the months leading up to our accident in April. I had lived a fairly charmed life until November of 2003. The only deaths I had experienced in my life had been older grandparents who I was very close to but also knew that they were approaching the end of their life. In high school, I had a close friend die from a horrendous car accident. This death shook me because of the senseless nature of it but by the time I reached that November, it had become a carefully placed memory in the back of my mind.

November changed that. We got word one day that Sarah's niece, an eleven year old who lived outside of Birmingham, had gotten severely ill. She was in the hospital and not doing well. Sarah and I placed our kids with family and raced the five hours to Birmingham to see her. Within a few hours of our arrival, Taylor would be gone, dead from a perforated appendix that doctors were unable to diagnose in time. The trip home was long and hard that week. As we rode, Sarah and I talked about death and funerals and God's will for our lives. It was a great talk but slightly uncomfortable. All the way home I kept thinking that I was preparing my wife for the "what-ifs." It was a conversation that I hoped would never have to come up again.

It did...just three months later. My 74 year old father passed away in February of 2004 after a long bout with complications from strokes, diabetes and congestive heart problems. We had been at his bedside most of the morning. My sisters and I decided to leave for a few minutes to take my mom home and let her rest and clean up. Sarah was standing by his bed when he died. The ride home the night of his funeral was equally long, equally unnerving. I remember talking with Sarah about insurance, funeral services, getting married again--all the important things that no one likes to talk about but are so necessary. While I thought I was preparing her for my death, God was preparing me for what would happen just eight weeks later.

The interesting thing, as I look back, is how much those talks prepared me for the "big things" but not for day-to-day life. I knew what Sarah's wishes were for her funeral. I didn't know where she kept the sugar. I knew what she desired for her kids. I didn't know how to put a bow in Abby's hair or how to get the stains out of Harrison's blue jeans. We managed. God and friends and family pulled us through. But the transition would have been better if I had known what the kids liked in their lunch or how I was supposed to be involved in their classes at school.

I don't know why I felt the need to write this today other than to say...talk. Talk with your spouse about these things. Talk with your family about the possibilities, the big dreams, the big things that make moving on easier and the little things that make the day-to-day possible. It's not a conversation that anyone looks forward to but I have thanked God many times that He forced us to have them...before my world was shattered.

2 comments:

roland said...

Ridley,

This some great advice for all married couples and for kids to have with their parents...even if it is uncomfortable...thanks for sharing

Ivyruth said...

I actually google searched your name. I watched your video on your tragic loss. I am a healthcare provider and was actually looking for that video so I could put it on my facebook. I am not a parent yet, but I almost imagined your pain. I remember a couple months ago a pharmacist who was sent to jail for a medication error that resulted in death, however after listening to your painful recount of the story you made me strive to be a better pharmacist. May God bless you and and may God rest your son and wife in eternal peace. I will be following your story closely.