Into the Great Unknown… Part 1

The week following the Retreat flew by so quickly and I was ready for something different. I was feeling optimistic after my  time away, now I wanted Mike to relax enough, that he felt might feel the same. As I packed for our upcoming trip, I realized, just how long it had been since we had ‘just us’ time. It had been a really long time…As many of you know, dealing with an ‘invisible’ illness takes a toll not only on us but our loved ones. It takes a toll on our health, our wealth, and our careers. It takes a toll on our relationships, testing them to their limits. I’ve since learned many relationships don’t survive,  I am just so blessed with my husband. Was he always this way? The simple answer is no, but he was willing to learn. The ‘old’ me had done it all. For all those years. I raised our children, I cooked gourmet meals for the family, I kept the house, paid the bills, I sewed and mended clothes, and I worked (or used to). Are you seeing a little OCD in me? I’ll admit to that, but only because I have given up on most of this philosophy. I realized if I just lowered my some of my OCD standards, I could be happy again. This was my mindset as we took off for some ‘me’ time with my man.

The trip there was uneventful. It was the usual desolate landscape from West Texas into New Mexico, but we enjoyed out music and talked the entire way. It was wonderful for a change! It becomes scenic about an hour outside of Ruidoso and the mountains come into view. It’s also the beginning of the twists and turns to get up into the mountains. I began gripping the armrest as I felt Vertigo hit me. Ugh! “How much longer?” I whined to Mike. “We’re almost there”, he answered with his usual patient voice to me. We arrived just as darkness hit, so he told me to just wait in the car while he got the house turned on, not a problem! It is a 4-hour trip, but with a Time Zone change, I felt it was an 8-hour trip!

We planned only true laziness and I brought meals from home, just reheat and eat type foods. I plopped down on the couch, as Mike put the beef stew on to heat. I turned the TV on and caught a glimpse of headlights pulling up to our place. No way! Only our family knew where we’d be, so I thought maybe the neighbors were in town too. Then I saw a bouncing light coming towards our house, then up the long stairway to the house, then they were on our deck. BAM! BAM! BAM! on our door. To me (and I do admit to being scared of the dark), it sounded just like a Policeman pounding a door prior to a bust! No, I’ve never been busted! I’ve never been arrested, gotten a ticket or anything of the sort, but I do watch ‘Cops’ on TV. I was terrified by the ‘knocking’, but Mike answered immediately.

“Are you Mike Byrne?” a local Police Officer asked. What is going on? Now I get up to see. “Mr. Byrne, your family has been trying to reach you. Are your cell phones working?” he asked. “Uh, yeah I guess they are, there’s no phone reception for about 2-3 hours…Why? Is something wrong?” Mike asked. I check my phone and it was ‘dead’. The officer’s voice tone was giving me a ‘feeling’ I did not like. “Yes sir, our phones are both dead, what’s up?” The officer repeated our families had been trying to reach us for hours as he gave Mike his personal phone to call his dad. He answered with some of the worst words a parent can hear…’Your child has been in an accident’ words…

I watched the color leave Mike’s face as I ran out the door. I clung to Mike as we listened in horror. We heard what he was saying, but it was too difficult to process immediately. It was our daughter in Dallas. She’d been in a head-on collision. I remember crumbling to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably in total disbelief. His dad told us she was ‘airlifted to the Trauma Unit of Parkland Hospital in Dallas, that it was a high-speed collision and her injuries were life threatening’. It was all just echoing in my head and trying to make sense of this. It made NO sense! All I knew was, we had to leave, now! I don’t remember getting up and going inside, but the next thing I was doing, repacking and dumping food and plugging up my damn dead phone. I wanted this to be a bad nightmare, to just wake up and life would be as it was. Seeing’s Mike’s face again, I knew it was real. “They’ve already done surgery on her, but they don’t think they can save her right foot Margaret…” his voice trailing off. We have never packed so fast but we had to wait for the phone to charge, which sounds so stupid now. Who doesn’t have a car charger for their phone? Well, we didn’t. The only reason we had a cell phone back then, was for emergencies (like me stuck somewhere or I’ve broken another bone), unlike today, never going anywhere without one, and always with a charger. Once the phone had a partial charge, we took off, into the darkest night of our lives.

Our first stop was to buy a car charger. It was a cold, black, moonless night in January. We’d just driven 4 hours to Ruidoso, now headed out across the barren back roads to Dallas, 6 hours away. I turned my cell phone on to find 9 missed calls and just as many voicemails. Mike’s dad, Sarah’s new in-laws, her husband, and my parents. I was feeling sick at my stomach, I wanted to faint, I wanted to wake up from this nightmare! I was shaking as I played the first message, it was from her husband. He sounded numb as he told us he ‘didn’t know all the details, but on her way home after work and after dropping him off, a car crossed the median’. The other messages only became more dismal…’Where are you two? Sarah’s in another surgery…’ to ‘She still alive but has bled out’…I couldn’t just listen, I had to call her husband. He still had little information and was likely in shock. I clutched my stomach, I was going to be sick, it was just all too much. Mike gave me an empty cup and said he wasn’t going to stop. It certainly wasn’t the first time I’d be sick in a cup or bag. I stared out the car window into the pitch black sky and began the longest Prayer of my life…




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