Thursday, July 02, 2009

(6) Seventeen Years Ago -- July 2, 1992

(continued from 7/1/09)

I'll begin the entry today, July 2, 2009, with a quote concerning what I was feeling one year after Jay's death (July 2, 1993):

"To continue the last sentence from yesterday . . . Tomorrow will be difficult. Last night I had the hardest time going to bed. I don't really know why. Maybe I thought I'd just lie there and cry, and I really didn't want to do that. I detoured by Jay's room and sat there for a few minutes, just holding the soprano sax and looking around. It was almost as though I could feel his fingers on that instrument. That physical closeness is one of the things that I miss the most because there was hardly a time that Jay came into the room where I was that he didn't stop to give me a hug. Homesickness is one of the worst illnesses in the world. I know because I've been both homesick and physically ill, and in most cases, I'd choose the physical illness over the homesickness. I'm homesick for Jay . . . have been for one year now, and there is no way that the feeling can be eradicated. Someday when I'm 'home' with him again, the feeling may abate. This morning, I called Mrs. Gaines to check on Fred and Jo's progress in moving. During the course of the conversation, I mentioned that today is the anniversary of Jay's death. Once again she told me that it would get easier to bear but that the grief would never go away. I believe her. She knows. I suppose it's been twenty-five years or so since her daughter Nelda died in that tragic accident while she was on the way home from college for Thanksgiving. At the time, I didn't have even an inkling of what the mother was feeling. I couldn't imagine ever losing a child. Nothing like that would ever happen to one of my children."

To continue my narrative . . . Most of you who are reading this don't know the people whom I mention in this entry. Just know that they are all either relatives or very dear friends and that we couldn't have gotten through our ordeal without them.

"Frank and I got up rather early and started for home. I have a few impressions of the day . . . nothing really specific until later that evening. Breakfast at The Cracker Barrel on the way out of Nashville, many naps because of the medication that I was still on for vertigo, a quick ice cream just before leaving I-65 (the last 'meal' we would have for almost twenty-four hours), still more dozing, the 'maintenance required' light going on in the van just after we turned on to Wilde Lake Blvd. . . . could that light have been prophetic?
"We arrived at home around 5:20, just about ten minutes after Jay and Todd (the drummer in Velvet Melon) came in. As I was walking up the stairs with my suitcase, I asked Todd where Jay was. He told me that he was asleep, but I didn't think anything strange about that; many times he went straight to bed after getting home from a road gig. How he did love to sleep! Not at the times that I would choose, but he lived on a different clock from mine. I went into our bathroom and did something that I rarely do: I unpacked my suitcase immediately and set it on the ledge just outside my bathtub. I wish I hadn't been so industrious. My laziness might have saved my boy's life, but I doubt it. Then I went downstairs to read mail. Frank had gone outside immediately after we got home, and when he came in, I asked him if he'd be satisfied with Pizza Hut pizza for dinner. Of course. I still wasn't feeling well, and he was concerned about me. Shortly after he came in, Frank heard a thud in our bathroom, went to check -- fearing that I had fallen from my dizziness -- saw my suitcase on the ledge, and assumed that he had heard me drop it after unpacking. These actions don't really coincide, but we were both tired and not thinking very clearly. I don't think I've written things exactly as Frank tells them, but that's not important. Frank then lay down on the couch upstairs to watch the news. We had been out of touch with the world for a few days.
"I called Pizza Hut with our order so that I would be ready when I went to pick it up; then I went upstairs to brush my teeth, forgetting that my overnight bag was still downstairs. Oh well . . . I thought I'd just go to the bathroom while I was there, and that's when I discovered Jay. We don't really know how long he had been there. Was it he that Frank heard fall when he thought it was my suitcase? We'll never really know, but it wouldn't have made any difference anyway. When I cried out Jay's name, Frank ran in and told me to dial 911 and to ask Todd what Jay had had to eat that day. Todd was coming up the stairs at the time. When I asked him, he told us that Jay had had nothing to eat that day but that he had had an awful lot to drink the night before and had been sick all day. As I was giving directions to the 911 operator, Todd began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Jay, to no avail, of course, because he was already dead. Poor Todd. He tried so hard to revive his buddy, all the time crying and begging Jay to respond. An eternity passed, so it seemed, before the paramedics arrived. They hooked up all sorts of mechanical and computerized things to my boy, but he never responded. He was breathing, but only with machinery.
"Frank wouldn't let me go back into the bathroom, but every once in a while, I would walk around just to see for myself what they were doing to my child. I was numb. Actually, the operator stayed on the phone with me for a long time, until the paramedics arrived. It really wasn't very long . . . probably only five minutes or so from the time that I called until the first crew came. To a mother, it seemed like forever. I sat in my recliner most of the time, praying. My immediate prayer was, "Oh, Lord, please don't let him die!" Then I thought about what I had said, and I added, "But please don't let him be a vegetable." Death would be far better for Jay Young than life if he could not live it the way he wanted to. He would not have been a gracious paraplegic. Who knows how long his brain had been without oxygen? But then, who knows what the Lord could have done in the way of miracles? I certainly don't.
"The medics had done all that they could do. I could hear the flap-flap of the helicopter blades. What a shame that Jay couldn't enjoy the ride! I remember thinking that, realizing that he was dead. Frank didn't know that I knew, but I did. He knew, but he was trying to protect me. This is so strange, but as I followed the stretcher down the stairs, I saw mud on the carpet and thought, 'Maybe I should get out the vacuum and get this up before it leaves a terrible stain.' What weird things the subconscious does! The stain is there to this day. It will not come up, but do I wish I had stopped? No. It's just one more reminder of my boy. I don't worry about it. Frank claims that it's a different stain, but I know better. To me, it's a reminder.
"Another strange thing . . . As they were taking Jay across the front lawn to the preacher's yard, where the helicopter was parked, Adrian Webb and someone (I don't remember who) came up to see if something was wrong with Frank. He discovered that it was Jay, disappeared, and never came back. How strange. I don't know. Maybe he couldn't face the death of one so young. I've seen him in the grocery store several times during the past year, but he has never mentioned Jay.
"I remember calling to the last of the paramedics to ask him if Jay was breathing. His reply was, 'Not on his own.' I knew what his answer would be. I remember walking over to the mailboxes and watching the helicopter take off with my boy in it. What an empty feeling. And I hadn't even hugged him as he left the house the night before.
"Before we left to go to the hospital, I tried to get in touch with Wendy. No answer. A brief message on the machine telling her and Steve that we had gone to the hospital because of Jay. Got through to Jimmy, though, and he beat us to the hospital. Todd rode with us. Silence. As we parked, Frank turned to me and said, 'Don't get your hopes up.' I wouldn't. I already knew. But every time that the nurse came into the little waiting room where Frank, Jimmy, Todd, and I sat, my 'mother hopes' rose, thinking that I might hear her say something like, 'We were mistaken. He's fine. He sat up, looked around, and said, "What's happenin'?" You may take him home now.' Instead, each time she entered, she said something to the effect of 'The doctors are trying everything . . . They're doing their best . . . .' Then, 'They did everything that they could. I'm sorry.' Would we like to see him? Of course. The room was so cold; no wonder he was blue. No, it was just death on him. Death on my precious little boy. I hope I don't sound maudlin; I don't mean to be. I just remember the awful color, his cold skin, no life. No life here, that is. I knew immediately that my boy wasn't in that cold, blue, hard body. My boy was with Jesus. Jay said, 'I don't mix drugs with rock and roll/I've got Jesus in my heart to save my soul' . . . said it right in 'I'm Not Crazy' . . . right out where everyone could hear him. He was not ashamed of his God.
"The ride home was quiet. Before we left the hospital, I remember clinging to Frank and begging him not to leave me. I really don't know why I did that. Guess I've read one too many stories and articles about families falling apart after the death of a child. On the way home, I recall saying that I didn't want to put the pictures away. Again, too much reading. Frank probably thought I was crazy.
"When we arrived at home, I called JoAnn. Naturally, she was devastated. She agreed to call the relatives for me. We had so many calls to make. I think we called Fran and Bob next, but they weren't at home. Maybe we left a message on the answering machine . . . anyway, they returned our call soon, and Frank told them what had happened. Almost immediately our phone started ringing. Frank called Wendy Bennett, who called Sophia, who called Melrose . . . etc., etc., etc. Anyway, our friends were with us immediately. Frank had called Bob right after he called the Crumptons, and he and Deb were here for us just as soon as they could get themselves together. Others who came immediately were Tim Key, the youth director at church; Bill and Louise Santo; and Jim Wilson. I had called for Carol, but she was at her mother's house in Alabama. Jim came just as soon as he could. What a relief!
"I remember sitting at the dining room table with Bill Santo, discussing arrangements. We had decided on Harper-Morris Funeral Home, with the funeral itself being held there, as well as the visitation. The Fourth of July weekend would pose a problem for us. Even though Jay died on Thursday, we couldn't have the funeral until Monday because of the holiday on Saturday and because no funerals are held on Sunday in Pensacola. Bill and I talked briefly about how it would be all right to have the funeral there instead of at the church because numbers would not be a problem. Wrong! My mother had instilled into me the idea that it's not good to have a funeral at church because you'd always think of it during the services each Sunday. I concur; however, it might have been a good idea to make an exception in this case.
"During the evening, I tried to get myself together enough to call someone in the Singles department at our church; however, I never could muster up whatever it was I needed. Around ten or eleven o'clock, I looked around to see several of them walk in. What relief! My best friends in the whole world were here! They have come to our rescue after a death so many times. Maybe that's why God put us together so many years ago. They have seen us through Grandpa, Mother, and now Jay. I always get the feeling that I've never done anything for them when they come to our rescue. Truly, the only thing we've ever done is to open up our hearts and our home to them. Maybe that was enough for them; it doesn't seem like much to me.
"I vaguely remember calling Mike in Nashville. I didn't handle it well. The words 'Mike, Jay died' just tumbled out . . . no warning . . . just the fact. Just as we feared, they started for home immediately. Terri was pregnant, and the night travel worried me. Sure enough, when they arrived, she didn't look well; she hadn't slept at all. Jay was dead. Who could sleep?
"One of the Singles vacuumed up the paramedic mess for me. I was thankful. That mud really bothered me. Wendy and Rob Bennett went out for survival equipment -- breakfast food and paper goods. What would we have done without them? I don't even want to think about it. The Hinkleys arrived with 'guardian angel' pins in hand. I wore mine gratefully. The Hinkleys, the Bennetts, and Bob and Deb would be our salvation during the weekend. There was hardly a time when at least one of the families wasn't here. Angela handled all calls. Superwoman!
"The biggest problem after we came home from the hospital was finding Wendy. Frank called Patti and told her what had happened. She didn't know where Wendy was either, but she called Joy Waters (Wendy's co-worker in pre-school) to see if she had heard Wendy say anything about where she was going after pre-school. She hadn't. I've always been thankful that Patti made that call because Joy and Bill are the ones who let the Singles know about Jay. We were so worried that Wendy would hear about her brother from someone besides us because word was spreading rapidly. Finally, around nine o'clock, Wendy and Corey came in, wondering what kind of party we were having because of all the cars around the house. I can't even remember how we told her. I'm afraid, though, that I just blurted it out the same way that I had done to Mike. What can I say about Wendy's reaction? It was what any normal sister's reaction would be, a sister who loved her brother unconditionally. She was devastated. Corey just didn't know what to think. She wanted to know where Jay died, and I told her; however, I said, 'Grammy just can't go back up there right now, though.' She wanted to go alone, and she did. When she came back downstairs, she said, 'Look what I found, Grammy.' Opening her hand, she revealed Jay's cross . . . the one that matched Tara's. She wanted to keep it, but I told her that I needed it. No problem. Todd had already attached himself to Jay's watch and bracelets. That was fine. The nurse at the hospital had given me Jay's earring, the one made from Tara's ring. I wanted her to have that.
"Speaking of Tara, Frank made the call to her. I could tell that it wasn't going well. Her dad had died just a year ago, and she was still grieving for him. This wasn't fair to her. Once again, life had been jerked from her grasp. Not fair. I can't remember if Cheryl brought her over on Friday or Saturday."

So here I am at the end of my writing from June 27, 1992 - July 2, 1992. I actually have lots more in my "One Year Journal," and I may post what I wrote about other days someday. I'll let you know if I do.

Thank you so much, dear friends, for joining me in my "Jay Week" reminiscences. And thanks for all of the beautiful responses that you wrote on Facebook and as comments on my blog. I'd have a difficult time telling you just how much you lifted my heart. Just trust that you did!

Frank, Jackson, and I were in Santa Fe today, and as we were eating lunch, Frank said, "It's so nice that Jackson's with us today." I heartily agreed and replied, "Little did we know at this time on July 2, 1992, what was in store for us later that day; and little did we know how much God would bless us thirteen years later by giving all of us Jackson." He's named for Frank and Jay, you know, and reminds me so much of my boy from time to time.


Jack Canavan said...

Thanks again for filling in the details for me Sandy. I heard second, third and further out accounts of the events of July 2, 1992, but this is my first time seeing it through your eyes. I only really knew Jay for a short time, but in that brief period, he brought me to your home and treated me like family. You couldn't ask for much more from someone.

Nancy said...

Sandy, it's early in the morning here at the beach. I just finished reading and had a good cry. I could hear your voice so clearly in your account. Aren't you glad that you can keep Jay alive at least this way--through his story. Think of all the others you have to tell, the ones with happy endings.

Love ya, cuz.

Webbmaw said...

I have lost my comments twice. Maybe I should just use the telepnone and forget the Intenet. Thank you for sharing your memories. You caused me to remember, also. We had just arrived from the student trip to Europe when Fran called. Many things about this life we will not understand until we have passed to the other side. Until then, we grieve while knowing that someday we will understand.

Cheryl Miller Thurston said...

I sit here with tears in my eyes, but at the same time gratitude that you have made Jay seem so real to me in all of your writing. You keep his memory alive. Truly

db dennis waltrip said...

dear grammy sandy, wendy told me when you posted these journal entries, but i have not had what was required of me to read them until just now. thank you for sharing and making him so real right now. i can not refer to the measure of time since mom "passed" ( i hate that word) as "years", which add up to 4, so i call that time 4 "yesterdays" because that truly is how it feels. same with jay. it feels like 17 yesterdays ago that he was here. so then, that must mean that only a few tomorrows til we see him again... "He has put eternity in our hearts"

i love you


Anonymous said...

Hi Sandy,

Donna (Doyle) McCutchen here… WOW! I stumbled on this post by accident (God Knew I needed to read it)… I have so many regrets in my life, one not being able to attend Jay’s funeral. He was such an important part of my past and remains in my heart forever. I have often thought of you and your family…how it felt the day he died, how you were able to manage getting through life without your son. This post was very healing for me and answered so many questions that I had. As hard as it was to read, I am thankful that you were able to write it. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you to remember this day. I think of Jay all the time…Ironically , just a few days ago I was helping my son with fractions…Funny really, since I had such a difficult time in math….the stories I could tell you about Jay and I in Ms. Cantrell’s Math classes…. Anyway… I doubt you would remember this, but one afternoon Jay and I were at your home, attempting to study for a Math test. You shared a story with me about Jay and his difficulties with learning fractions. You told me that you used to call him “Fraction Jackson” to motivate him…I always got such a kick out of that and after hearing that story I would always address him as “Mr. Fraction Jackson” right before a math test. I don’t know if it motivated him, but it would definitely make him laugh. I told my son that story and he laughed too. Gosh, I miss Jay! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts in this blog. I will continue to read. God bless…

Hetty said...

Hi Sandy and Frank, Wendy and Corey....
I will now pray for all of you every July 2nd. The grief seeps through so deeply and I cannot forget that day when we found out that Jay died. We miss him and we love your family like our own.
A big hug from Hetty

teri said...

Sandy, I just found this blog and have been reading all your Jay memories. I never was sure what the truth was about how Jay died but what I've heard is pretty much the truth. I'm just learning that now. 20 years later. Thank you so much for posting everything.