Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Wreck (part two of three)

 Almost a month has passed since the fatal crash in front of our farm. That Saturday night will be etched in our minds forever I am sure, but the next week was far less vivid. Following is approximately how the next morning went for us.

The Next Morning
   Handsome and I were outside early Sunday morning, still dazed, only very thinly rested from the few hours of broken sleep the night had divided between us. We were watching the sun press through the gray morning, counting the animals, randomly gripping each other's arms and kissing each other's faces, greeting the day as calmly and gratefully as we could. Church was a few hours away but might as well have been months. Time crawled. I don't think we spoke much except to ask each other for new theories on the man's identity. We wondered who might be missing him this morning, and had they even been contacted yet? I had tried in vain to find reports of the wreck online. Knowing more about this man felt like the most important thing. Grieving him personally was the only thing left to do, and the suspense was painful.

   We kept looking over towards the spot where so much had happened just a few hours ago. In the hazy morning light it looked bizarre. The emergency crews had done a good job clearing the debris, leaving no obvious signs of wreckage or anything. No longer any blanket of shattered glass, no errant tools from the truck's spilled tool box, no clothing. No blood. Nothing was there to let people know what had happened, and this was unsettling. The emptiness of the road compounded my feelings of guilt that we were both home, alive, disconnected from the man and his grieving family members. We had only missed the crash by moments, after all.

   The guineas had descended from their treetop beds. The roosters were waking up with loud crows. The geese were honking and zooming towards the pond. And the buffalo and horses were stretching and pacing towards their breakfast spots. It could have been a normal morning. Eventually, in the muted fog we noticed an unfamliar car parked across the road and a short, slight man walking through the tall grass, head down, shoulders bent, hands in his pockets. We deliberated briefly, then Handsome took a deep breath and walked down the gravel driveway. At that distance I was just watching a silent movie, but one rich with expression. They spoke for several minutes, embraced (this is so rare for my husband), walked the length of the road and together searched for traces of the man's life and death.

   When he returned to the house, my stalwart husband told me that the man was a friend of the deceased, that the family had just received the terrible news and only an aching sliver of information, so he was here at the crash site trying to piece together a fuller story. The timing was such that the police would have just barely completed their overnight report and not yet determined cause, no autopsy yet of course, very few answers for all of the inevitable and desperate questions. The fact that we could have a conversation with this man's friend so early the next morning was a real blessing, for us as well as for him.

   There was some concern that the driver had been drinking, but since Handsome had spent those last minutes so near his body, searching for signs of life, holding his hands and talking to him, he was able to say that he didn't smell any alcohol. This was more than a small comfort we think. And in the course of talking we were able to get an idea of who the man was, be assured that his family was notified, and begin to slow down the build up of anxiety.

   After the man's friend drove away we retreated inside to drink coffee, shower, and dress for church. Putting on makeup felt perfectly ridiculous. Time still crawled and everything felt dull and heavy, but we plugged away at our Sunday morning and afternoon routines. That first day he and I were particularly tender with each other. Unfortunately but naturally, this changed as the week wore on and stress accumulated.

   Later, after church and lunch in the city and then finishing animals chores back at the farm, we learned even more about the man who lost his life. While we hadn't met that first friend before Sunday morning, it turns out that the deceased was a close friend of our neighbor just south and west of here, with whom we are very familiar. Sadly, in that shocking, bittersweet way, they had spent that Saturday evening together and had parted ways just minutes before the crash. Our neighbor was as glad to talk to us as we were to talk to him.  He was able to describe the man to us a little more, indulge us with a general picture of his life and family, and ultimately promise to let us know about services when they were planned. We were so grateful for this.

   The man we wanted to grieve did not live here but was retired and working odd jobs nearby, also spending time with his adult children who are locals. He was a grandfather. He was recently remarried but according to our neighbor (who told the story with lots of affectionate laughter) that sudden marriage was quickly determined to be a mistake. But no worries, he had fallen in love again. He was a fun person, a friend, a good guy. As Handsome and our neighbor traded ideas about the crash, they more or less agreed that the way his truck had flipped, he could very well have been avoiding a deer. It was a really dark, rainy night, remember, and deer are heavy around here lately. We are always telling our friends and family as they  leave, "Watch for deer!" And we mean it. Apparently this was exactly the man's character: he would not hurt a fly and was known to go to great lengths to avoid animals on the road.

   Connecting peripherally with the man's loved ones helped a lot. So, thinking nothing else would come of the traumatic weekend, we continued with our routines and loved each other tenderly and deliberately all of  Sunday evening.


  1. Wow - your words are beautiful. You should submit this story to a newspaper or magazine - it should be told in your eloquent way.

    Isn't it funny how we can hold on so closely when things like this happen, but then as real life creeps in, we forget to do just that.

  2. Just beautifully written, Marie. So heartbreaking and beautiful. I have such a deep appreciation for the fact that you and your husband cared that this was a life lost close to your home. You didn't know him, never met him, but you chose to accept and understand the universal aching that comes from seeing life taken out of time, rather than just viewing the whole thing as a creepy inconvenience. Bless you for that.
    Hold on to each other. xo

  3. This is such an aching story - both just in the story itself and in the way you share it. I hope this man's family is able to read your words and take comfort in the love you showed and feel for them, for him.

    Tears, M. Beautiful tribute.

  4. I love the way humans reach out to make connections and fill in gaps as they grapple with sorting out something like this. I'm so glad they wandered by, and were searching - just as you were.


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