Record my misery . . . List my tears on your scroll. Psalm 56:8
Today marks a year and a half since Bethany and Katie were killed by the reckless actions of an unlicensed driver (a three-time offender by the age 19).
I wonder if Troy Robins, and the parents who failed to teach him to respect and obey the law, feel any responsibility at all? If Troy Robins feels any remorse for the destruction he’s wrought in our lives? I certainly haven’t received even a cursory apology.
I wonder if he suffers flashbacks from that day? Are his dreams filled with the hysterical sound of my voice as I discovered my daughters? Is he haunted by the image of Bethany’s broken neck, of Katie’s slashed forehead of the sound of Gracen wheezing as she struggled for breath with a collapsed lung? Does the image of the yellow plastic sheeting quickly draped over Bethany’s body remind him, like it does me, of the oversized trash bags my mother-in-law buys from the Boy Scouts annually. Can he imagine the message that image communicates to a Mother?
Do the sounds of sirens and flashing lights make him want to curl up in a ball and cover his ears to block out the sounds and sights? Do they make his heart race?
Does he wake up every morning dreading the day ahead and stay up late every night trying to stave off the dawning of the next day?
Does he find menial tasks, cleaning house, making meals, paying bills overwhelming like I do?
Does he have to respond to polite inquiries as to how he is doing? Does he feel like a bug under a microscope with everyone personally judging his actions based upon their own preconceived ideas?
Does he feel smug because he escaped prosecution for two felonies and paid less than $1,000 in fines while we paid tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills?
Does he feel guilty for stealing Gracen’s last days of independent mobility or prideful for his own lack of personal injuries? Is he still driving illegally today putting other law abiding citizens at risk?
Did the events of December 26, 2013, change him in any way, shape or form? They changed me. They haunt me. They traumatized me. They changed David and Gracen in tangible and intangible ways.
The images flash through my mind – sights and sounds from the roadside. Police, firefighters, paramedics, a neck brace, a backboard, the inside of the ambulance as it pulls away separating me from my sole surviving daughter.
Blue sky, bumpy ride, greeting and condolences from the charge nurse. WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER? IS SHE STILL ALIVE? Nurses, CT scan, chaplain. WHERE IS MY DAUGHTER? IS SHE STILL ALIVE? WHERE IS DAVID? WHERE IS O’RANE? HOW DO I REACH HIS FAMILY? WHERE ARE BETHANY AND KATIE? Doctors, nurses, prayer, stitches. Oversized scrubs.
Hospital waiting room. Bethany’s best friend and family. Our pastor, his wife, church friends, my in-laws. OH, NO, GRACEN IS ALONE! OH, GOD, WILL SHE DIE ALONE? Relief, Gracen is not alone. Family has arrived in Joplin.
Informing in-laws, family, Bethany’s boyfriend overseas . . . and Gracen – twice.
Chauffeured to Joplin cloaked in darkness. Squeezing David’s hand and whispering, “They knew they were loved.” Talking to my Dad. Emailing my three closest friends.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. Gracen still in surgery. The hush of the ICU. Gracen covered in bruises, stitches, staples, a neck collar, attached to a ventilator, an external fixator protruding from her leg, IV pushing fluids, antibiotics, pain killers, blood pressure cuff puffing up, tightening, releasing, chest tube, broken pieces of glass glistening in her hair, her life still in the balance. Beeps and blips, whooshing sounds. Pale skin, cold hands, no movement. David in a wheelchair, dry heaving. Alone with Gracen.
Family and friends coming and going day after day, night after night.
Media reports, pictures on TV, in print, phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts. . .
Pastor, funeral home director, decisions, caskets, flowers, music, Bible verses, pictures.
Following the ambulance to UAMS New Years Eve and into the wee hours of New Years Day. A quick stop at home. Sorting through debris left by the roadside, shattered electronics, cherished stuffed animals hugged close to my chest, inhaling Katie’s individual scent, never used or worn Christmas gifts.
Leaving Gracen behind, family and friends standing in line, hugs and tears, funeral, cemetery, dinner, long, dark drive back to Gracen.
Doctors, nurses, low lights, bright lights, anger, fear, pain, hallucinations. Latex allergy, surgery, more surgery, x-rays, oxygen, chest tube out, chest tube in, lost weight, bedpans, stitches and staples removed, leg immobilizer, wrist splint. Traumatic Brain Injury?
Meals, motel rooms, sharing daylight hours, trading nights between hospital and motel.
Bright blue sky, ambulance tail lights. Home. Gutted doorways, exposed foundation, hospital bed, belly shots, sponge baths, care aides, home health nurses, OT/PT, pressure sores and debridement.
Gracen passed out, incoherent, 911, firefighter, paramedics, ambulance, ER again.
Attorney calls, no charges filed, accident report, reconstruction report. No charges filed. Prosecutor’s re-election campaign. Legal research, uncommunicative, ineffective prosecutor. No charges filed. Coroner’s Inquest. Misdemeanor charges filed.
Hospital bills, doctors bills, bills from the radiologist, the ambulance companies, the life flight service – oh my word, $35,000 for the helicopter. Bills, bills, bills. Late notices. Calls from creditors, collection threats. Collection letters, collection calls. What happened to our once stellar credit rating? I don’t even want to know – to try restore our good name.
Crosses on the roadside, markers on graves. Court room. There he is, the man-child who killed our daughters. He, and his mother, immediately turn away. Why am I not surprised? A shocking not guilty plea. We have to come back to court again. A defiant guilty plea. A slap on the wrist days after Christmas a full year after the collision.
Constantly churning thoughts, injustice, politics. Beliefs and faith challenged, relationships stretched, strained, damaged. Hard truths, platitudes, admonitions. Lack of forgiveness? Vengeance or justice demanded? Pity party? Choose joy. Praise God. It will be OK. God is in control. Was not God in control that day? Am I supposed to feel that what happened was OK? Is the measure of my faith dependent upon my ability to embrace my daughter’s deaths? Is worship and counting this trial joy for the spiritual maturity it will develop suppose to blunt or even erase the pain?
Tension, anxiety, restlessness, pharmaceuticals. Relief?
Round and round and round we go – fear and fatigue, shock and resignation. Sorrow. Lost hopes, lost dreams, unfulfilled expectations. No graduations, engagements or weddings for Bethany and Katie. Lost grandchildren. Lost identity. Lost purpose. Lost future.
How are you? Fine (Freakin’ Insane Needing Extraction). How are things? Good (Going On Only Downward). Oh, yes, I’m fine, things are good. We have new floors, new doorways, new paint – empty bedrooms. How could we be anything but grateful?
What has Troy Robins lost? We’ve paid the price for his sins. Did it cost him anything other than a few measly dollars pulled from his parents pockets?
On and on the questions race as the images flash. So very tired. So very disappointed. So very broken. So very lost. Head pounding, heart flayed open longing to be validated instead of feeling criticized and being placated. Simultaneously thankful for God’s provision, for eyes unveiled to see His care amidst the destruction. Does anyone realize sorrow and gratitude are not mutually exclusive?
When I long to flee His presence (because His will supersedes my dreams and plans), the Psalmist reminds me there is no place I can go where He is not – a highly frustrating consolation. When I feel forsaken, red letters remind me of the comforter who quietly resides within – forever present – never alone. When Satan taunts and condemns, I feebly try to strap on the full armor of God.
Faith built in the past is the foundation upon which I huddle in a fetal position as the storm continues to rage upon me. I may be beaten and battered, broken, lost and even despairing, but there is a firm foundation beneath. While I no longer believe I will not suffer more hurt and loss in this life, I remain fully confident of the only hope I am truly promised – my eternal future with the Savior who paid for my sins.
While some may accuse me of throwing a first class pity party, I choose to believe that in sharing Christ’s sufferings I am glorying in Him (see Romans 8:17).
Do we not rehearse Christ’s sufferings every spring? Do you think Christ’s spiritual and emotional sufferings paled in comparison to His physical sufferings? Do we downplay or elevate the fact that Christ endured betrayal and abandonment by His friends and disciples for the joy set before Him? That He took our sin and shame upon Himself for our eternal good? Does your heart not break as you picture Him crying out in desperation and despair from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Is not Good Friday about counting the cost? Is it wrong for this broken mother to do the same?
(Facebook Post 6/26/15)