August 2, 2000 – We all have dates that changed our lives. This is mine.
My mother, brother, and I were pulling in the driveway from the grocery store, when my grandmother, Aunt, and Uncle came walking up.
Every one of them had a look of pain in their face, and my grandmother’s eyes were red and swollen. I remember my grandmother asking to speak with my mom in private. So my brother and I stayed and put the groceries away. I vividly remember looking at my brother, who was only 7 at the time, and saying this is not good, someone has died. I then proceeded to mention names grandpa, great grandma, and our other grandparents. Never once did it cross my mind my father and uncle would be the victims. After what seemed like forever, but in actuality maybe 10-15 minutes, my mother and grandmother stepped back into the garage and as delicately as they could told my brother and I there had been an accident with dad and they weren’t sure how bad it was, but that we needed to leave now and head to Barstow. My heart sank, and I immediately felt tears stream down my face. I was not expecting to hear “dad” come out of their mouths. My brother and I silently did as we were told and got in our van with my family. For two hours everyone sat silent. My head was racing with thoughts, “Are we going to the hospital? What kind of shape is dad in?” and so many others.
It was dark when we arrived. We were in the middle of the desert, when my aunt met us at the door. She didn’t even wait a minute before she blurted out, “they didn’t make it, they didn’t make it.”
My jaw hit the floor; I was in a complete state of shock. No movement or sound came from the van. When I couldn’t take it anymore I got out and went and lay in the dirt staring at the stars. At 12 years old I remember looking into the sky in the middle of the desert asking God why? Why did you have to do this?
My mother was incapable of making the arrangements so my father’s mother stepped in. She went to O’Connor Mortuary. Being only 12 years old, my mother chose to keep me out of the arrangements. She had no idea how much that exclusion would impact the path of my life.
I sat quietly letting the process take place until I found out that we would not be attending the viewing of my father and uncle. My mother said that she could not bring herself to view, and presumed the same for me without ever asking what I wanted. I knew I needed to see them both in order to process that they would not be coming home. But trying to get my mother to understand my point of view was very hard.
A counselor my mom was seeing helped my mother to change her mind. Although she was still insistent upon not viewing herself, saying that, “the image of my father would forever be engrained in my head.”
But I knew that for myself, viewing was the only way I could start grieving properly.
I saw both my father and uncle, and still maintain that was the best decision for myself. I knew I needed to see the proof, and that hearing they were gone, was not enough. I in no way shape or form regret my decision, and when I close my eyes, I do not see an image of them lying there.
I am able to remember all the great times we had together, and that is what gets me through the difficult days.
I believe fate and a true passion to help grieving families, has circled me back to O’Connor Mortuary. I have said this all along, and still maintain, O’Connor feels like home. I now work here as a Service Assistant, helping families through their viewings & ceremonies. Getting to help people in what I know to be the worst days of their lives is how I honor my dad & uncle. This is where I’m supposed to be. I feel truly blessed to be working here, getting to do what I love everyday.