Sharing my mourning journey as my family learns to live a new normal after the death of my 19 y.o. son in an auto accident on 10/12/08.

The Need To Know

The back of his skull was crushed, that’s why Edward put his shirt under Jordan’s head not on his forehead like I’ve assumed and imagined he did for two years. The email from Edward that he sent on 8/29/09 told me plain as day, “I put my shirt under Jordan’s head to stop the bleeding.” I came across the email yesterday when I was cleaning up my inbox. Instead of skipping over it as I have for over a year I read it and it was the first time that the events of that evening made their way through my grief.

Jordan was dying when Edward pulled him from the car. The coroner’s report said his brain stem was damaged and that he never had a chance to wake up. My version of the events of that night was tidier. Jordan was asleep during the accident. He hit his head and never regained consciousness. I held that version until I saw the 2009 Winter Olympics and the luge accident where the athlete was killed. There was so much blood around his head. It was the first time I connected a head injury with blood.

My sister commenting on my “Looking Too Soon” post about the luge accident, wrote that her husband cleaned the blood from Jordan’s shoes. Reading her comment brought to my knees, hyperventilating and getting my first true glimpse of how horrific the accident scene must have been. What she knew and how she told me were things I wasn’t prepared to accept so I rejected her comment never allowing it space with the other comments on my blog, as though that would change the truth.

Everything I’ve written about the accident has Edward putting his t-shirt on Jordan’s forehead, a far less serious injury than the one described in the accident report and the coroner’s report. I read both reports and missed the details that gave the accurate depiction. In my version, the fantasy of a mother with a son who died, I wanted Jordan to go to the hospital so I could sit by his bedside and lie next to him and tell him, “Mama and Daddy are here,” until he drew his last breath.

He died on the side of the road and the blood that had to be staved wasn’t from a cut on his forehead but from the base of his crushed skull. It took me a year to realize that the cleaned up body with the bandaged forehead that I viewed at the funeral home wasn’t the body at the accident scene. My heart and mind for some reason are now willing to acknowledge more of  the trauma I blocked out before.

Seeing Edwards’ email yesterday I felt like I was reading it for the first time. It reignited all the questions I had about that night that only he, Christian and Matt can answer. Needing to know has started to overwhelm me. I emailed Edward yesterday unable to wait any longer to ask the questions that keep haunting me:

Did Jordan cry out in pain?

Why didn’t he wake up with all the commotion of you guys screaming when the car went out of control?

Did he wake up?

What did you say to him when you stayed with him while Christian and Matt went up the hill to wait for the ambulance?

Was he unconscious the whole time?

Did he ever say anything?

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the answers or if they’ll ever come, but I couldn’t stop myself from asking. For a while I played a counting game. When Edward, Matt and Christian are 25, no 30, maybe when they’re married or fathers, maybe then they’ll tell me exactly what happened that night. I’ve prevented myself from asking too much so far because the trauma those boys experienced on the side of the road watching their friend die has not escaped me. But it hasn’t changed the fact that trauma happened at home too, when the police came to my door and took safety away from my heart.

Edward is 24 and in my email I tried to explain why I couldn’t wait any longer. I told him: You’re right, Jordan is on my heart and mind everyday. I struggle with the fact that I wasn’t there to hold him, care for him and say goodbye. You did those things for me. But I have all these questions that require your frankness and as much recall as you can muster.

I’m envious of all the parents who got to touch, hold or sing to their children when they knew they were dying. I wonder what kind of person envies another parent who has lost a child? I battle with my shame. Edward is a complex person in my life. He drove the car when the accident occurred but he also carried Jordan from the car, held him and talked to him until the paramedics came. Edward was the driver and Jordan’s last caretaker, facts that are so entangled in my mind I don’t always know if they can be separated. Right now I have so many questions. The trauma of that night retreats at times and then rears up revealing specks of truth that I can no longer ignore. As much as it hurts I have to know what happened to my boy.

Comments on: "The Need To Know" (9)

  1. Terrie Rayburn said:

    As painful as it is, this part of your journey must be traveled as well. Praying for peace in your mind and heart. Knowing that you were very present in Jordan’s heart each and every moment. Breathe….

  2. Jackie, I understand what you mean. Both the being envious of parents who got to tell their children goodbye and the need to know details, even though they are gruesome. I wasn’t with Andy during the wreck that killed him, and I’ve asked some of those same questions- was he in pain? Was he scared? Did he cry out for me? They are horrible questions and there should never be a reason to ask them. I read the police report from the accident not long after Andy’s death. I just had to know. Many hugs and much comfort to you.

  3. I can understand both the need to know, and the not asking for a long time. I hope that whatever you find out serves the need you are expressing. I’m sorry that you feel shame in being envious of parents who have that final time. It seems completely rational to me. I wish so badly that things were different for you. Sending big hugs-

  4. I hope that you give yourself the time and space to digest the answers that you get in a way that won’t cause you additional pain. I don’t find it surprising that your mind has ‘protected’ you all this time and I believe that, since you know it’s time to ask, you’ll be able to handle the answers.


  5. Love the new look on the blog, by the way.

  6. Ask. Ask. Ask. You are ready, or you would not be able to ask. The answers will come. You are one brave woman doing what you must to find peace. You deserve that. I am proud of you.

  7. Dear Jackie,

    The day you posted this was the 32nd birthday of our oldest of four. I was really happy that we would be in the same town for her birthdau for the first time in 14 years. I think of you at least once a day, driving by your house. For some reason, that day I had especially been thinking of you and Jordan and your family. When I stopped to see our daughter Kate at work, I bumped into a mutual friend, Michelle, who goes to your church and owns a local business. Being with Kate and with Michelle, whom I had seen at Jordan’s funeral, brought Jordan’s smile into the room with me.

    I am so sorry that jordan is gone and so sorry that you are in such pain. I wish you comfort and peace.

    Mary Z

  8. Dearest Jackie– As one of those mothers who did get to hold my precious little girl as she died, please let me say that you should feel no shame. You are Jordan’s mother– of course you would want to be there with your boy in any way you could, and the fact that you couldn’t is cruel and unfair. As I often do, I will return the kindest advice you always give to me– please be gentle with yourself.

    I am so very sorry that there are still so many unanswered questions for you to wrestle with– I know how much those questions compound this grief, which is already so unbearable. And, as always, I am just so sorry that Jordan is not here with you now and that your life is so terribly altered from what it should be.

  9. I am still battling with this need to know and the refusal to completely accept what the doctors say… My daughter was in the ICU and one day I might write about how little it helped, I have wished she had died in a quick accident. I had to wait outside when I wanted to lie next to her and hold her and tell her I was there, right next to her. She had tubes and procedures to endure, because there was hope and I never realised how horrible hope could be. How I wish we had let her go in peace. I have so much haunting me, even in my dream she did not deny that she was in pain.

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