Live and Die

To my dad,

A year ago today, you had the stroke that would take you away from us in two short weeks.

Shortly before that happened, my favorite band–the Avett Brothers–released a new album. You were always fascinated by what I was listening to. You would always ask me what radio stations I listened to in Durham, what new artists I enjoyed, what my favorite bands were doing.

You and I had different tastes in terms of “new” music, but we shared a love for all things music. I credit you with my love for oldies that most kids now don’t get the same experience with. But, that’s what happens when you grow up with a dad who owns a radio station.

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But, back to the album. After your stroke, I found myself doing the same routine every day. I would wake up early, drive to the station to set that day’s logs, and then make the trek to the hospital. Everything I did up until the point I saw you each morning was filled with a sense of urgency – I HAD to get there and see you. And every day, I listened to Live and Die, because I didn’t know what else to do. Hearing that song reminded me of you, of home, and was something comforting in what was otherwise a time of uncertainty.

By default, that song became the theme to my days. The gel that held me together. It seems a little odd to say that, but to you, it won’t.

I made you a playlist of your own, and I would play it for you each day, along with the radio station. I put your favorites on it. Some Beatles, Roy Orbison, and others. I even put Somewhere in Time on it because that song was special to us. You walked me down the aisle to it.

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You couldn’t talk, and the only time I really saw you awake was the first day I was there. But I hope you could hear it.

I am not the most demonstrative person. I have always been better at expressing myself through writing, but I’m trying to be better about this. I never thought I would have to say goodbye to you so soon, and I don’t think anything I could have said at time–or now–would have been good enough. One thing I have learned is that there is never enough time. Not even if you know what’s coming.

You weren’t perfect. But who this? I’m not even sure what perfection should be. All I want to be is happy and be a good person. You were those things. I say that means you did what you were supposed to do here. You made me and my mom happy – you took care of us.

I am glad that you didn’t have to worry about me when I got hurt, because I know you would been devastated. But I am selfish and want you here anyway. I don’t like that you’re gone and my mom is far away without you (though you should know that Paul and I are trying to get her up here!).

You know that I have never been an overtly religious person. But the oddest thing happened the night I got hurt. My last memory that evening was talking to a rider in my class before I was injured. Then I saw you.

Now, I have gotten to meet with the first responders who helped save my life that night, and I found out I was having some breathing issues and was in and out of consciousness. They wanted to fly me to UNC, but no one could fly that evening, so the ambulance driver got me to UNC in record time. Bet you would have appreciated that…seems my ambulance would have put your Mustang to shame that night.

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Maybe it was my brain playing tricks on me, but I don’t think so. I saw you that night, and we talked without words. The next thing I remember is waking up and seeing Paul. I think you were looking after me. Maybe you’re not here in person with me anymore, but you were definitely there with me.

I am who I am because of you and Mom. As Paul and I say, we’re not perfect, but we were perfect for each other. I miss everything about you, even the things that drove me crazy.

Most of all, thank you. Because of you, I am stubborn enough to keep fighting for this recovery even when I just want to punch the wall or give up. And when I think I can’t do it, I hear your words very clearly in my head – “Yes, you can.”

We miss you here. It’s not fair. But that’s been made clear this year.

What matters is that we loved each other, and we knew it.

I still can’t sing every song right now – my voice is coming back, but it’s still a work in progress. But, you know the first song I could sing again in full? Our favorite.

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Jenni

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4 thoughts on “Live and Die

  1. Jenni-

    Thank you for writing this! It made me cry and really reflect on a lot of things in my own life!!!Your dad I am sure is so proud and is with you every day. Thank you again- and Fred and I both wish that someday soon you will be driving in your car signing all your dad’s favorite songs again- or Fred says he hopes you can ride again and sing( he misses his girlfriend).

    All the best-
    Leigh & Fred

  2. Jenni,
    This is such a great reflection on your relationship with your dad and I have no doubt he was, and still is, with you every step of the way. (And you know I cried reading the part about your favorite song since it’s so special for us, too!) I’m so happy you got to reconnect with the first responders -I’m sure it was rewarding for them to see what an awesome recovery you’ve worked to achieve. See you soon! Cheri 🙂

  3. My son was born cleft lip and palate. He also has verbal apraxia. I have heard so many times that we are one accident away from being a craniofacial patient – something you experienced. Verbal apraxia is a slow process – my son is 10 and we are still in speech therapy. We have been with the same speech therapist since he was 3. We still have a ways to go. I tell his speech therapist that when he gets married she can sit next to me as mother of the groom! It is a difficult neurological issue, but keep working and never give up. The brain is an amazing thing! He is in the 4th grade and on grade level – pretty good for a kid who when he was born I was told he probably wouldn’t be able to function that well in his life. I will share with you that in working closely with other mothers whose children have been touched by apraxia – the one thing we have in common is that all of our children stopped breathing at one point. That seems to be the only common denominator we could all pinpoint. I’m guessing that at some point during your accident that might have happened to you and possibly could have brought about the apraxia. Also, I am sure you saw your dad. He was there to help you come back! God is amazing in that way. He gives us what we need when we need it and at that point you needed your dad. God has put special people in your life to get you through your dad’s passing and also your accident – I consider those people angels. We have been blessed with them during difficult times in my son’s journey. Some are on earth and walk right beside us. They are people who appear in your life for no reason other than to help you through difficult times. Think about it – I am sure certain people come to your mind right now. I also believe that your dad watches over you and your family every day. My father-in-law passed away earlier this year and was having a hard time accepting he was dying. He was scared – not sure what would be next. His family was having a harder time and didn’t talk to him about it. As a result, he talked to me about it. I know for a fact that the people he loved who had passed on were watching over him and were going to be there for him when his time came. Your dad is watching over you and made sure you came back because it wasn’t your time to be with him yet. You have a special reason for surviving what you did. God wants you to use it for good. You are doing that by sharing your story. I will continue to pray for your and your family. God bless you.

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