I opened the storage tub containing the olive green hanging folders, continuing my quest to organize boxes after moving my home office. I knew it contained every scrap of paper pertaining to Justin’s death and the subsequent razor sharp trail of paperwork that follows a death. Each piece of paper cuts your heart and leaves you bleeding, your life energy flows from those unseen wounds.
My hand brushed over the accident report. I had read it when we first received it, but the only word I remember from it was FATAL, printed in all caps in Block #9 of the report. My eyes lingered this time, taking in the time stamp, Justin’s South Dakota address, reading block #15, the victim’s name: Justin Palmer Jackson. You never get over it, never get used to it, it never dulls, your world tilts and you can’t stand straight.
My hand turned the page over and there was the detailed narrative of the accident that I had not read. The details typed out in clipped sentences that the victim was unresponsive, it names the firefighters who dove into the water. It describes Justin’s blood being drawn and who witnessed the blood draw. It shares how he was pronounced dead at the scene by the coroner, a woman. I wonder if she was a mom. I wonder if behind her professional demeanor, did her heart hurt? Was she gentle with my boy even though he was dead?
I read the crash reconstruction report. The officers did not walk the scene to reconstruct the accident until nineteen days had passed. The report stated that the marks had faded and visible evidence was gone. As it was a single fatality it was not of importance. But it is important to me. Everyday I try to reconstruct the accident. I walked the road, I knelt at the pond’s edge, and I still struggle to picture how it happened. I study the spreadsheet with its coordinates, it begins with the edge of pavement and ends with cattails. It has X, Y, and Z coordinates, but no graph, just a simple pencil drawing.
Next in the folder is the coroner’s report. I wonder again if I should have viewed the body. I could call the coroner and request photos. I wonder if she would remember the young man with dark curly hair and eyebrows that punctuated his stories and his laughter. She states he was in the water for hours. The last papers are from the forensic science lab, his toxicology report is clean. Another signature at the bottom of another document.
And I cry both tears of fresh grief and tears of seasoned grief, tears that collect in every cell of my body, grief that colors my every waking moment. Surrounded by pale February sunshine and cold flat papers, I miss the presence of my Micah who would lick the tears from my face and drop his reserve to nuzzle my neck. I can no longer soak his fur with my tears.
Tears splash on the documents and I slide them back into the folder. I wonder if this unexpected trigger will spiral back down into the darkness that covered me for last three months. So dark and unrelenting. The light had only started to return. Death and life, I lie buried with Justin and I summon the strength to rise every day. Like a seed, each dark stretch is a time of waiting, and rooting. Tiny roots put out feelers seeking life, if I can just wait through the darkness. It is a fight.
I feel my interior re-calibrating, I need to focus on a course correction. I allowed too many winds to dictate to my sails. Each moment is precious. I am going to strive to chose love, only love. Today may be my last day with those whom my heart loves, how shall I spend these priceless moments?