September 8, 2010.
I was eating lunch with some coworkers when my cell phone rang. Justin's work number popped up, but we were having a lively conversation so I hit “ignore”. I knew he was just calling to say hi, so no big deal. The phone rang again almost immediately. Hmm. I answered.
“Bekah? This is Chris. There's been an accident.”
“A tote fell on Justin. He's responsive and we didn't see any blood.”
At this point it is not registering in my mind that a full tote weighs almost two tons. I am thinking that Justin maybe got hurt a little but is going to keep working, like some stupid manly man.
“He needs to go to the hospital!”
“He's in an ambulance right now.”
Ambulance? Shit. This is serious.
“Where are they taking him?”
Double shit. They only take people who are really hurt there.
“I'm on my way.” Click.
My coworkers ask if they can do anything. One later told me that she has never literally seen someone's face turn white until she saw me during that phone call. I run up the stairs calling to my office mate, “I need directions to Miami Valley Hospital! Justin. Hurt. Leaving now.”
The drive to the hospital is at once a blur and also exceedingly clear. First call is to my dad. I need to take care of logistics, since I won't be able to pick up the girls from the babysitter. He calls my grandma and reports back- It's taken care of, don't worry about it. Second call is to the sitter, to let her know what's going on. She kinda freaks out on me, and immediately puts a prayer request out on Facebook. The story is already on the internet.
The rest of my frantic drive is filled with two opposing thoughts: the memory of the first moment I saw Justin, and a desperate prayer. “Please God, let him be paralyzed. Just not dead. Just not dead.”
I arrive at the Emergency department and Ralph, Justin's supervisor, is waiting. I can't see Justin yet, he is getting a CAT scan. I question Ralph over and over. “Are you SURE he was breathing? Could he have stopped breathing on the way up here? Are you SURE he was talking?” A nurse comes out to talk to me. She assures me Justin is alive, but that's all the information she has. Do I want to speak to a member of the clergy? NO. I want to speak to my husband!
My cell phone rings. It is a doctor. He says he is with Justin, who has been asking to talk to me. Then I hear him. He is talking. Breathing. Alive.
What seems like hours later, I am led back to the room where they have been working on him. I see him on a stretcher. I see his shirt on the floor, ripped to shreds. I hold his hand. “I'm here,” I tell him. Tears run down his face. I have never in my life seen someone in so much pain. How can he bear it? No choice. I encourage him to be still, to take deep breaths, to squeeze my hand.
Various doctors and nurses are in and out of the room. The news. He has broken his pelvis in three places, but we don't operate on that. He has broken part of his spine, but there is no damage to the spinal cord. We don't operate on that.
A nurse brings up the news story on the internet. Surreal.
I make phone call after phone call.
He is finally admitted to a room. They tell me I cannot stay. So I go home. More phone calls. Very little sleep.
I have few clear memories of the next few days. Just many trips back and forth to the hospital, which is over 30 miles away. I DO remember being told, “He should be dead, if not paralyzed.” He is not. He will recover, at least enough to walk again. My heart is full, near bursting, with gratitude and wonder. I do not cry until almost two full days after the accident.
Three months later:
I am still amazed. I was not meant to be a widow at age 34. I still have a husband, my children still have a father. His recovery has slowed, and it worries us both. He walks with a limp and a cane. There is still some pain. What if this is as good as it gets?
A friend told me, “I have not once heard you ask 'Why me'. So many people would.” I shrug. If anything, it has brought us closer together. If there was ever any question in my mind (and there wasn't), I have been shown in no uncertain terms that I love this man, I need him, I do not want to live without him.
The “what if” has been very powerful to me, more so than what actually happened. The little irritations of married life fall by the wayside. They are unimportant. I wake every day with a grateful heart. My belief in some version of God has been renewed and strengthened. My marriage and the knowledge that we can do anything has been renewed and strengthened.
Justin has asked me more than once what I want for Christmas this year. I already have it.