I lost my 19-year-old son Logan to a car crash July 22, 2016. This story is a letter to Logan, telling him about his last hours. It was painful to write. In the pain, I get stronger so I can put one foot in front of the other in the journey called grief.
Your last day
It is a Thursday, July 21, 2016. You spend the day looking for a job and find one at the car wash off Hull Street. That evening, you get ready to go out on a date. You are dressed up in a white crisp short sleeve button-down shirt and washed jeans. Freshly shaved (something you rarely do), with your new high and tight hair cut. A swoop of blonde tousled over your forehead frames your face and broad smile. There is a spot of blood on your collar from cutting yourself shaving. The scent of aftershave is strong.
Turns out you don’t go out, change of plans with your date. Your best buddy Daniel and another friend come over to visit. I go upstairs to bed and say good night to you around 11 pm.
The phone call
A little over an hour later, my cell phone rings. It’s 12:15 am, Friday. A Chesterfield County Police officer tells me you are in a truck crash less than a mile from the house. You are being taken by helicopter to the VCU Medical Center.
I am completely numb. Void of emotion. This is not real. I just saw you a little over an hour ago.
“Is my son alive?,” I ask. The officer replies,”Yes, but I have no other information. I can drive you to the hospital.”
“No. I will drive myself,” thinking I will need my car to drive back and forth between the hospital and home. I will need the car to drive you back home…alive.
At this point, terrifying images flash through my mind of you and Daniel badly hurt. Was Daniel with you? Was anyone with you? Are others hurt? Somehow I feel responsible. The officer has no further information.
I immediately call Daniel and am greatly relieved he answers. I tell him about the accident. He doesn’t understand. He is in disbelief and takes off to the hospital.
I convince myself you will be okay. I make everything okay. That’s my job as a mom.
Reality has not set in. But I realize I may not be able to drive, so I call Catherine across the street and we drive together in her car.
Hope is all we got
We come upon the crash site. The road is blocked. Off to the side of the road, I see the front end of your truck sticking through a mass of trees and bushes. You were out briefly in your truck. As you were headed back home, you took the curve too fast and crashed into a tree at over 66 miles per hour.
An officer in charge of protecting the crash scene comes to Catherine’s car. I ask again, “Is my son alive?.” No hope is in is eyes. Shaking his head, he says your heart was beating and you were breathing when emergency crews extracted you from the truck.
I’ll take that. You are alive. You are strong. If anyone can beat this, if anyone can survive this, it is YOU. Maybe it is not that bad. I try to get myself mentally prepared for seeing you at the hospital, to face the possibility of you being seriously injured. Will you be paralyzed? Will you be able to run again? What will the recovery be like? No time or use for tears and panic. I got to think. What’s the next move? I know this day will be the mother of all game changers for our family. You will thrive. No doubt about that. I will kick pending death squarely in the ass. You will live.
Is my son alive?!!
Catherine drops me off at the hospital while she parks the car. I search for the emergency room, frustrated with the stupid signs directing me to the wrong place. I find the waiting room. It is around 1 am. Daniel and his family are already there – his Mom and Dad – Miss Melanie and Winn and his sister – Tricia-Ann. I am so thankful they are there and I am not alone.
I announce to the empty waiting room, “I am Logan’s mom, where is he?” The intake staff pick up their phones and refuse to say anything to me. Their faces also have the mark of no hope. The hospital chaplain comes down to greet me. Why the chaplain? Can’t it be a nurse or someone else? Chaplains read last rites and are called in for the dying or comfort mothers who are about to lose their children.
“Is my son alive?!!!”
The chaplain says you are in surgery. That is all I need to know for the moment. If you are in surgery, then there is hope. I later learn the entire trauma staff was frantically working to save your life. At one point your heart stopped completely, and the team got you going again.
So we wait down in the lobby area of the VCU Medical Center. All of us going through the events of the night, trying to figure out how you crashed. What happened? But that doesn’t matter. We are anxious to hear how you are doing. And we are optimistic.
A half-hour goes by, and the chaplain takes us up to the trauma unit on the fifth floor. I think a half-hour is too quick. You should have been in surgery longer. What’s going on? The chaplain says you are alive. I remain hopeful. I have nothing else but hope.
We proceed to two more waiting areas, each room getting smaller and more private. The officer who called me earlier is waiting with us. He has been outside your room the entire time. He knows how bad the injuries are. The young man is visibly shaken, his head down and says nothing.
Our last hours together
The surgeon comes in the room and asks for me. Thankfully I am surrounded by our good friends who have always been there for us.
The surgeon says you are a very ill boy and probably won’t make it through the night. I am silent. The news does not sink in. Daniel asks a million questions it seems – is there a chance you will live and if you do, how bad will it be? Will you be conscious? Will you have any quality of life? The surgeon does not mince words. She does not give any hope because there is none. She says your injuries are so dire that the team can not get you stabilized. She will try one more operation to stop the bleeding. She says the impact of the crash broke every bone in your body. The blood loss can’t be stopped. And if you did live, the brain damage would be very severe.
I must see you. I still don’t believe this, when just hours ago you were getting ready to go out on a date. I am afraid of what I may see. I ask the medical staff to prepare me, to describe what I am about to see. The male nurse assigned to you warns of a bad situation. A lot of blood and trauma to the body. Even your facial bones are shattered.
I still have hope you will get through this. My mind races, “God, we need a miracle, desperately. LIKE NOW WOULD BE GOOD.” I have learned God does not work that way.
Brave Daniel takes my hand and we walk down the ICU hallway passing rooms of other patients. They are alive and seem to be doing okay. Maybe you will be okay like they are. We peer into your room. You are surrounded by a trauma team of about eight people. They are working on you fast and furious and trying everything they know from their combined decades of education and experience to save you.
Daniel catches a glimpse of your head on the pillow through the window. He tells me it is okay. I get myself together and the fear goes away. It’s time to get you back to the living, to shake you out of this.
Daniel and I walk in your room, and the team lets us join the sacred circle around you.
You are encapsulated in bubble blankets made of plastic and air so their is no pressure on your body. One of the nurses guides my hand to yours, but very carefully and gently, because it is broken.
Your head is swollen, your eyes are black. You are bleeding from your eyes, ears, nose and mouth. The best of medical technology can’t stop the bleeding.
You are completely unconscious. The nurse believes you can hear me.
I get close to your ear, “Momma is here and we are going to get through this together. I am not going anywhere. I am right here, right next to you and so is your family. We are here, Logan. We love you and you are going to beat this.”
A respirator breaths for you. Wires and tubes hooked up every where. The equipment beeping and pulsing, monitoring your vital signs, which are quickly fading.
I stroke your blonde hair, stained red and hardened from the blood. No response except your heart beat.
I sense God is here ready to welcome you, as us mortals – in our feeble understanding of life and death – try to make sense of what is going on.
Your assigned nurse beats his fist against the wall, frustrated he is losing his young patient.
Daniel asks for a cloth to wipe the blood and keep you clean.
I invite the others – Miss Melanie, Winn, Tricia-Ann and Catherine to come in the room. Your step-dad Jack calls from the road, trying to get to the hospital in time. He talks to you on the phone, giving you encouragement. Your step-sister Amanda arrives. She is in your room too. We are all around you.
Your blood pressure is plummeting. Your heart still beats. You always had a strong heart.
The surgeon says it is time. How I hate time.
I whisper in your ear, “It’s okay to go…to the other side. So many people are there who love you. You will see Dad, Nan, Auntie, Aunt Eva and Aunt Mae. You missed Dad so. Now all of you can be together and eventually I will join you. What a deep and profound honor it is to be your mom. I was here in your beginning when you were born and here as you leave this life. I will never leave you.”
The machines and monitors chirp and slow down. The attending physician checks your pulse.
“Is he dead?” I ask. Emotionless, he responds, “Yes.”
“Time?” I ask.
5:45 am – July 22, 2016.
You cross the finish line and enter the other dimension. Just like that.
The chaplain comes to give final blessings. I can’t remember what he said. But I am glad he is here to bring us in prayer.
You are surrounded by love. The trauma team, lined up, stands at attention outside your room. They are not even checking on other patients.
It hasn’t hit me yet.
I leave for a few minutes while your nurse cleans you up, takes you off the breathing tube and disconnects the equipment.
I come back into your room. Just you and me. I hold you and kiss your forehead and hands. I stroke your hair and sit for a long while next to you. This is it. I take one last look at your sweet face. There is your fat lower lip – the first feature I noticed in the very first picture I have of you – your ultrasound.
The hot tears flood.
Who am I?
I am Logan’s mom. When asked if I have children, I say I have a son. Logan. The love of my life always and forever. In his death (in this life), he is transforming me.
I think and know Logan is very much alive like God is in all of us. More on that later….
11 thoughts on “Last hours”
This is heart-rending and incredibly beautiful- your testament as Logan’s mother. I am honored to know him through you.
I am learning from you Karla. You have gotten me through so much.
It was so hard reading this. Being there that night was almost surreal. You can’t imagine this is happening especially to someone you love, both Logan and you. I was trying to be hopeful in those first hours, but in reality in shock. In reading this, reliving it, I have been in tears. You are so brave and have continued to allow God to use his life and the positive force of his best self to minister to you and to others. I can’t imagine having to walk in your shoes, but I will always pray for you and am there to help in any way you would find helpful.
All we have is God. Much love.
That was beautiful ,although it must have been so difficult
for you ,his special mother, to remember each heart wrenching moment of that night- continued prayer-
Remembering a special little boy, -later a young man-
Thank you. Sometimes I have to jump into the eye of the grief storm.
Just like that. That’s how it happens. In an instant your life has changed forever. You never ever see anything through the same lens again. Grief becomes your burden and then your friend that is with you for life. Because when you lose a child, the path to healing is different because it was out of order and that child was part of you. Thanks for sharing Tamara.
And you know. You have been a great comfort and inspiration to me.
Your words bring home the unspeakable reality of such a moment — the fear of every parent. I remember the moment I first met you dear boy and what a gentle soul he was. Intentions for the repose of his soul remain in my prayers as do prayers that in time your grief will be assuaged…
Logan loved you dearly and had the greatest respect for you.