I see that my last post was dated Thursday, July 28. Little did we know that less than 24hrs. later, on Friday, July 29, my greatest fear would come true. The death of a child. My child. My firstborn. It has now been 9 days since learning of Matthew's death. He was on his way to work at Pioneer after having dropped off his dad at work, sharing the silver van as they had done for the past several days.
I received a call from Ginny at Pioneer asking if I knew where Matt was. I said no, he should be there as he just dropped his dad off at work at 7:30am. Ginny then told me that she knew there had been an accident on Hwy 22. I asked her if there was a van involved. She said yes. I asked what color. She said gray/silver.
I knew. Deep in my heart, I knew that it was Matt involved, but I had no idea that he was no longer with us. The phone conversation with Ginny was just before 9am, I think. I called Tim at work and told him what I knew and he was going to call the hospital. Then I called my mom and my best friend Jodi and told them and asked them to pray.
Shortly after that, two State Trooper cars pulled into our driveway. I flew to the door and flung it open. I think they were surprised to see me at the door already. Before they had a chance to say anything I asked, "It's Matt, isn't it?" They asked if I was his mother. I said yes and then they proceeded to tell me that he had wandered into the wrong lane and was in a head-on collision with a semi and that he had been airlifted to St. Mary's in Rochester. They didn't know if he was alive or not. Or if they did, they weren't saying. They suggested my husband and I get someone to drive us to St. Mary's.
I called Tim at work and told him. He had no vehicle, obviously, so one of the troopers graciously offered to go pick him up at work. I numbly started to walk across the yard to head to a neighbors thinking silently that I hoped our neighbor Dick would be available to drive us. At just that moment, as I stepped onto the road, Bonnie, Dick's wife, drove by. I told her what I knew and she immediately went to get Dick. Dick came right away and Tim and I got in the back seat of his car. Jodi arrived to watch the children, and off we went.
From the second that I learned Matt was involved in the accident, I felt nauseous. I kept wondering when and if the nauseated feeling would go away. Just before 11am, we entered Waseca. I realized a few minutes prior to that that my stomach was growling and asked Dick if we could stop at the Kwik Trip there in Waseca. He pulled in and I got out to purchase a doughnut and Dr. Pepper. As I got back in the car, Dick suggested we call ahead to the hospital and see if we could get any information. Dh called. He was sitting in the front seat at that time, having moved while I had gone into the store. I don't recall hearing him ask about Matt, but I do vividly remember hearing him scream, "NO!" at the top of his lungs. And then breathing heavy and scrambling to get out of the vehicle, tossing the phone to Dick.
I numbly got out of the back seat and followed my husband to the grass. He slammed his fist into the metal pole, crying, and then fell prostrate to the ground. I don't think my brain registered anything. I just remember thinking, "My son is dead? Is this what it feels like to hear that kind of news?" My feeling of nausea remained.
We held each other and Dick joined us. Since then I have looked at the time on my Kwik Trip receipt and noted that my purchase in the store was at 10:58a.m. We climbed back into the back seat of the car and drove the rest of the way alternately crying and comforting one another.
Once we arrived at the hospital, we were ushered into a family waiting room. Several people joined us. I remember the hospital Chaplain, a dear elderly woman who simply held me. I vaguely remember several nurses and then the E.R. doctor coming in telling us how sorry he was and that they had done everything they could. Then they proceeded to ask us if we would like to see him, and did we want to donate his organs, and did we want pictures, or his hand prints, or a lock of his hair.
I just kept thinking, "I shouldn't have to make decisions like this!" Tim decided he wanted to go back and see Matthew. I couldn't. Tim didn't want any regrets, and I was glad later that he over-rode my negative decision about hand prints and a lock of hair and we received those before we left the hospital.
After a while, I decided that yes, I didn't want to regret not seeing him either, yet I didn't want that memory of Matt lying there forever stuck in my head, having to push it aside the rest of my life. It did help, however, when they said that he looked good, like he was merely sleeping. It's quite unbelievable, really, and a blessing the Lord gave us, that there was a body to view. Matt had been wearing his seat belt, but had been thrown from the vehicle. He had a scrape on his neck from the seat belt, but that was all we saw. We also discovered later that he had never been conscious and had died shortly after the life flight had taken off.
Tim and I and the nurses slowly walked back to the room where Matt was lying. I got to the entrance of the room and only managed to peek around the curtain, glance quickly at my precious son, and then collapsed. They brought me a wheel chair and wheeled me back to the family waiting room. I think it's rather funny, because I always pictured myself as being really strong if something like this happened. We made it back to the family waiting room and then I began to shake uncontrollably, my limbs weak and trembling, my teeth chattering. They brought me a glass of orange juice and wrapped me in some hot blankets and provided a pillow so that I could lie on the couch there in the room.
After a short while, Tim and I took a restroom break and when we returned., our Pastor was there. Dave prayed with us and graciously volunteered to drive us home. We accepted and they wheeled me out to Dave's car. We climbed in and made the long drive home. Again, we alternately cried and comforted one another. As we drove, I remember thinking that I will never look at a corn field the same again without thinking of my precious son.
That Friday was to be the 10th day straight of his working at Pioneer. It was incredibly hard work and long hours, but he stuck it out. We were very proud of him. He definitely wasn't used to work like that! Prior to the Pioneer job, he spent hours and hours on the couch downstairs with his laptop in his lap, a sight that we often, as parents, had contention over. Matt took his lunch in a cooler every day and we heard from his co-workers later at the memorial that he would lie down in the corn field during lunch break because his feet hurt so bad. He had just purchased some shoe inserts for his tennis shoes the day before and I noted the receipt when we got home that afternoon.
Pastor Dave gave us wonderful advice on the way home in regards to grieving and what to expect. He came into the house with us to help us prepare the children for the awful news. Unfortunately, when we arrived home, we discovered that the oldest two girls had just left for a friends house. I called the girls' friend's mother and asked that they come back immediately. It was rather strange, I thought, that when we arrived home, Jodi met us, coming out of the front door, and said, "I'm sorry." I remember thinking, "She doesn't know anything. How could she know? We haven't told anyone the news yet."
Little did we know, I think, that the LORD was preparing Jodi for the news, as when she arrived with her boys to watch our children, her 3yo. Ben didn't say anything about Matt the rest of the day after she simply stated that Matt had a really bad owie and that we needed to pray for him. Just 15min. before we arrived back at our house, Ben looked up at our family photo in the living room and uttered just two words to Jodi: "Matt's dead."
The girls arrived home and we sat all the children down and told them the news. Aaron immediately started crying heavily, Megan cried silently, tears rolling down her face, Abby cried quietly, and Tabitha didn't do anything. The little boys, of course, were too young to comprehend what the news meant.
I don't remember much of anything the rest of the evening. I just know that phone calls were being made, and in the space of time from Friday evening until Monday evening, I got a total of about 9hrs. of sleep. Thankfully, a dear friend gave me a few Ambien on Monday and I was finally able to sleep about 6hrs. straight. Each time we wake up, however, both Dh and I are hit with the reality once again that our son is gone. It is a fresh grief every morning.
The children didn't want to sleep in their own beds that night after hearing the news. Seth slept on an air mattress in our room for several days. The other children camped out on the floor in the living room. Thursday, the 4th, was also Abby's 13th birthday. She, Megan, and Aaron were scheduled for FCA camp in Waseca. This was to be Abby's 5th and final year. Matt had also gone for 5yrs. to FCA. It was one of Pastor Dave's recommendations, too, that we keep our routines and scheduled activities. It was good advice, but hard. I got a friend to drive the kids on Wed. and Thurs. Obviously, they missed Tuesday due to the Homegoing service for Matt.
We also decided to rearrange some bedrooms for the sake of the children. Though neither Tim nor I were ready AT ALL to take Matt's bed and stuff down, we knew we had to do what was best for the rest of the children. They needed to get back in their own beds and find a new "normal." Tim's brother Dave helped take down Matt's loft bed and rearrange the bedrooms. We put Abby upstairs by herself and moved the remaining three boys to the bedroom downstairs. Jonathan also learned how to climb out of his crib the day of the accident, so we knew we'd have to do something about that, also. Thankfully, my niece Sarah had an extra CARS toddler bed she gave us this past week. He has adjusted quite well to it.
Abby had a wonderful birthday on Thursday and was quite spoiled with more than the usual gifts since most of our relatives were here! It was so very hard to celebrate and grieve at the same time. It's no wonder Tim and I are exhausted. I called my doctor last week, too, and got some sleeping pills. I used them for about a week, but knowing that I eventually have to learn to do without them, I stopped taking them. I did not do our tradition of a homemade birthday cake this time, either. Abby had really wanted a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, so my mom and I ordered that. It was very delicious and had a gray kitten on the top. She also had a sleepover with three of her friends the next evening.
I'm not sure how all this is going to play out, but I needed to write. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever write again. I look back over the past 12 days and so much of it is a blur. I keep asking Dh if "so and so" was at the visitation or the Homegoing service because I don't remember seeing anyone. I can't believe we even made it through either. The visitation was overwhelming. Simply overwhelming. Neither Tim or I expected that many people. I've been told there were around 400 and the line went out the door with an hour and a half wait. The people at the Mankato Mortuary are truly amazing. I can't say enough about them, especially Shanna. At one point, unfortunately, we were told we needed to speed things up. I'm so sorry I didn't get to see everyone. I feel bad about that, but I know that their thoughts and prayers and hearts are with us.
We chose Matt's uncles and youth pastor to be pallbearers. The Homegoing service was beautiful, but I don't recall seeing anyone. Funny, isn't it? Because you think you're going to remember every single second. I did not look around at all. We heard that the overflow room was full and even had people lined along the walls. We chose three songs for the service that were especially memorable to us: Matt Redman's "You Never Let Go", "It is well with my Soul" by Horatio Spafford, and "Down in the River to Pray" by Alison Krauss. I do remember once they came to take the casket out, I began to cry again. Once outside, I had to turn away. I couldn't bear to see his uncles put him in the hearse. We chose Mt. Olivet for Matt's earthly body to rest. It's just a few blocks down the road from church and we drive by it regularly. The service at the cemetery was short and closed with the song "Amazing Grace".
We went back to the church for lunch where we ate Matt's favorite: Goulash. With plain cake and powdered sugar on top for dessert. I still didn't get much time to visit with others, but it was comforting to see the entire overflow room filled with family and friends.
I know without a doubt that if it weren't for the LORD and His provision, grace, and strength, we would not get through this. It's also been evident through our neighbors, friends, and family as they grieve with us. They are, and have been, the hands and feet of Christ. I refuse to believe that this will always be painful, because if I believe that, then I also have to believe that God does not heal. Yet, He is faithful, and He is who He says He is. He continues to prove that to me over and over. As I sunk to the hospital floor that day, I repeated aloud Job 13:15 "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him." I pray with all my heart that in the coming days and months, as the constant barrage of reminders of Matt's absence hits us, that we would be faithful. That God would be glorified. Little did I know the afternoon before the accident, as I spoke with a friend, my words to her "He (God) is my all in all", would be tested beyond anything I'd ever have imagined in this lifetime. But God is faithful. Amen and Amen.