November is Children’s Grief Awareness Month. So in honor of this month I have decided to share my story. I know it’s something I’ve mentioned in previous posts but here’s the whole thing.
On July 28th 2000 my twin sister (we’ll call her M) and I went over to our best friend, Jazzy’s, place. Our parents had all agreed it was okay for us to ride the 4-wheeler in one of the fields with Jazzy’s mom haying in the next field over. I don’t remember the beginning of the day but I remember being on the 4-wheeler.
Jazzy was driving and I sat between her and M. There was a small dip in the field and Jazzy drove down it backwards; it was obviously something she’d done before. But I never had. I’d only ever ridden a 4-wheeler a couple times and my aunts were always driving.
So when she drove backwards down that dip I yelled at her to stop because it scared me. She either ignored me or couldn’t hear me because she turned around and went backwards down the dip to the other side. That time I actually thought it was fun since I’d gotten over my fear the first time.
M remembers Jazzy saying, “Next time I’m going to do it better.” She started to turn back around to go back down. I remember feeling the 4-wheeler start to tip. There was a split second of fear and I remember thinking something horrible was about to happen then I blacked out.
When I woke up I was under the 4-wheeler. I tried to pull myself out from under it but couldn’t move. I remember hearing my jean shorts rip and when I turned around the shorts were caught on the undercarriage and a tire was on my leg. That was when I saw Jazzy. She was laying beside me on her back with her legs crushed against her abdomen by the 4-wheeler.
By that time M was up and walking around and wondering what was going on. I told her to go get Jazzy’s mom and she went off running to the next field. While she was gone Jazzy was groaning. I kept saying her name, hoping she’d respond but she didn’t even open her eyes. I wanted to reach out and hold her hand but was too afraid. At that point I assumed she was already dead (about a year ago I found out she was alive for 10 minutes before her injuries killed her).
Not taking her hand will always be my biggest regret.
After that I remember seeing M and Jazzy’s mom coming towards us on the tractor. Her mom flipped the 4-wheeler off of us and I scrambled out of the way while she started CPR on her daughter.
The rest is a blur of running to the house and calling relatives and parents who then called 911. Following the ambulance to the hospital. Being convinced my best friend would be okay because these things only happen to other people, right? Then parading through the hospital room and saying goodbye to her.
What always strikes me as odd are the moments that are most clear in my memory when everything else is just a story I tell myself. Before we even got on the 4-wheeler I took off my Minnesota Twins baseball cap and sat on it while we rode so it didn’t blow off. I even remember wondering if I should grab it while Jazzy’s mom performed CPR then decided against it (I never did get it back). Then there’s the feeling of the 4-wheeler tipping and the sound of my shorts ripping when I tried to crawl out from under it. And wondering if I should hold her hand.
Child grief is important to me because it is so personal. On the day Jazzy died so did a million different possible futures. And 16 years later I still have no idea how to properly grieve her or the loss of those possibilities because immediately following the accident, everyone asked if we were okay, but as time went on people stopped asking and without that I didn’t know how to tell anyone that I needed help.