Originally published on www.lisabonchekadams.com on March 9, 2010
Now that I have been writing this blog, family and friends sometimes ask me to write something and speak at special occasions. Yet, earlier today in court and at Barbara’s memorial service a few months ago I remained mum.
While my love for her is obvious, my respect, my admiration, my sense of loss, I remained an observer while the truck driver who came into my in-laws’ lane and hit them head-on appeared in court today for his change of plea hearing.
Family members are allowed to read victim impact statements. Spread across the entire back row of the small Western courtroom we sat in wooden pews. Her six children, her husband, one son’s girlfriend, and me.
The nine of us sat as an army.
Wearing somber colors, we sat clutching tissues.
We jiggled our legs with nervousness and anticipation.
We stared at the back of that truck driver’s head.
We stared at the back of his sister’s head.
His mother’s. His father’s.
At some point when the judge was deliberating I couldn’t take it anymore.
And then I did something that’s become routine for me.
I picked a spot on the ceiling and I stared at it.
I’ve come to do this as my coping mechanism for pain,
for feelings of claustrophobia,
for enduring the seemingly unendurable moments
I’ve had so many of the past few years.
When I’ve been in pain,
nauseated from chemo,
embarrassed during procedures,
I pick a spot on the ceiling.
And I don’t let it go.
I don’t let my gaze waver.
In some medical offices I visited repeatedly I used the same spot:
A sticker on the ceiling indicating a light switch,
A brown spot from water damage,
An intersection of metal latticework that if I stared hard enough
seemed to have a dot in the middle.
And so today,
when it seemed the plea bargain
would not, could not, be changed,
I picked my spot.
I picked my spot and did not let it go.
I heard the sniffles,
the exhales of my loved ones realizing the punishment that seems so inadequate would stand.
My brothers and sisters-in-law didn’t need my words today.
Theirs were so poignant,
While the words swirled inside my head,
this was their day to describe their pain.
While I come here and do it weekly,
it was their turn today.
I was so proud of them.
Barbara would have been so proud too.
That’s the irony, of course:
their finest moments,
their displays of character and strength,
have come to the forefront in her absence–
because of her absence.
And everywhere we go people say
that her six children are a testament to the mother she was.
And they are.
A family unit so strong,
so bereft at her loss.
Twice today we drove on the very highway where the car crash happened.
Twice today we crossed the very place where she last lived.
And as we approached the spot both times I sat in the moving car and waited.
I waited for there to be some type of shift,
some type of energy.
Some kind of
But it was just road.
Just a place on a road.
And both times I could not accept it.
It did not seem real.
Our lives changed on that spot.
Her life ended on that spot.
In the middle of the expansive countryside dotted with wind turbines and packs of mule deer
dearest Barbara departed this world.
I can’t write enough words for her.
I can’t capture the ache and sadness I feel.
Not only for myself–never only for myself– but so much for my children…
for all of her grandchildren who missed years of knowing her,
many of whom will never know her.
I’ll never write much of what I want to say.
I won’t put it here where it could be painful for those who miss her and love her.
I can’t write everything I want to about the man who did this.
I don’t want to undermine any future court activity.
Sometimes the hardest thing is knowing when to keep quiet.
I’m working on it.
Tonight I fly thousands of feet in the air
as the plane shakes and trembles
And while I hate to fly
I wouldn’t have been anywhere else today.
So while the plane lurches a bit
I’m going to turn off the computer,
pick my spot somewhere on the ceiling,
and I’m going to stare at it.
And I’m not going to let it go.
Because I can get through this.
I can get through this.