There are certain things that seem to run through my mind more than others since David’s death. My glance at the clock on my nightstand that said 1:00am exactly that night, the look on Hayley’s face when I sat her down in David’s room and told her that David had been killed, the darkness outside as we sat alone after the lady from the Coroners office left and the one that seems to be in my mind the most is, the picture of the women from the Coroners office standing at our door as I see her through the glass. Every single time I answer the door, I see her, every time I walk up to the door to turn on the porch lights for the night I see her, when I walk by the door in the morning or any time while in my house I see her. There are more times than I can count that I have woken up in the middle of the night and could not sleep. I would walk around the house to check on things. I would find myself standing at the front door, looking at the exact place she stood, seeing her through the glass. I can see her silhouette, I can see her exact height, the light blue shirt she was wearing, I see it all as I saw it that night, blurred through the led glass. I replay opening the door, the feeling of the warmth from a Las Vegas night hitting my face, my looking at her and my glance at her patch on her shirt that Said CORONER. The night is dead still and her words, Mr. Maples…….I am here because your son David was killed tonight in an accident. The blood runs out of my arms and neck and I feel that falling feeling every time. I do count it as a tender mercy that I can still live in this house have these experiences and continue to feel that we are in the right place. Some how the Lord has tempered my emotions, he has made my burden light and the yoke easy. Given how often this happens to me, it really is a miracle. When the doorbell rings, for just a flash I get a sick lump in my stomach and with lightening speed I look at the door to see who’s silhouette is at the door, especially at night. When Hayley goes out, I worry, I listen, and if the doorbell rings I get crazy sick in my stomach for just a split second. I know that a chance of lightening striking twice is pretty slim. However, it is an auto response I can’t get out of my system. I assume one day this will end, but as for now it doesn’t and maybe there is a part of me that does not want it to ever end. To feel is to remember and remembering is sometimes not a bad thing.
I continue to be the recipient of a tender mercy/miracle every single day. I drive through the intersection where David was killed literally every single day. Most of the time the light turns red and I am left to sit at the light. I know exactly where my boy was laying. I have recreated the scene of that night a thousand times in my head while sitting at the light. I see him hitting his brakes, the bike going down and him hitting the back corner panel of the jeep. I see him lying there stunned by what happened, lifting his head up to a stranger and telling him to call his Dad. I see him feeling the tare in his heart and him quickly sinking down to the asphalt and giving in to the inevitable, his death. Yet, I am calm. I am given perspective beyond my own ability to understand, I am protected from the feelings that would be normal for a Dad who lost his son in a terrible accident. I am more than protected, I feel as if I was given a direct blessing that those feelings would be tempered, that I would be able to move about on a daily basis coming and going where our son was killed and not be affected. It’s hard for me to describe, however, I have no feelings of malice, anger or resentment, only calm. Sure, there is sadness, but it is a different kind of sadness, it is a sadness that is pure, almost heavenly, it feels normal. Given my intense emotions about David and losing him, it is nothing short of a miracle. As you can imagine I have moments of grief that I cannot control and feelings that at times overwhelm me. But usually it’s not long lasting a few days a week maybe. I am being protected, that is the word that comes to my mind over and over. Some will say, it is my coping mechanism kicking in. I will tell you in no uncertain terms that it is the hand of a loving Father in Heaven whom knows me, loves me and lessons and even dulls my pain and emotions so that I can live in my circumstances and be happy and flourish. It is the divine hand of an almighty Father who loves his son. That is what I know for sure. You cannot be me and experience what I have experienced and know it to be anything other than that. When Christ said my yoke is easy and my burden is light, He meant it and I know that is true, I experience this every single day.
Having said all of that, I will say that there are days, weeks and moments where I simply seem to be surviving. I had one of those days and weeks recently. The Thursday after my experience with the death of the man on the freeway in Utah was one of those days and weeks. Wednesday night as I went to bed with a very heavy heart. I had a horrible nights sleep. I had horrible dreams and felt heavy, weighed down and just almost overwhelmingly sad. I woke up at 5:00am and couldn’t sleep another minute. I hit my knees for my morning prayers like I do everyday. I felt like I couldn’t communicate, like my prayers were hitting the ceiling and bouncing back down. I was so heavy and sad. As the day started my mind started creating stories that simply had know factual base at all. On the drive into work, I put some nice music on and tried to concentrate on being positive, uplifted and centered. I was having none of that. I started to think that when I got to work a load of problems were going to unravel and fall on me like never before. I had created scenarios where in my mind I should just quit my job, leave and do something else. I began to analyze everything anyone on my staff had said and I became paranoid. This is not like me at all. I am typically an upbeat. optimistic and a go gettem kind of guy, people know that about me. I try to live so that anything I do can be spoken from the rooftops and I would not be ashamed or sorry in any way. While driving into work the overwhelming attack on me was almost more than I could take. I yelled out loud in my car “I choose Christ, over and over. I just had to get some relief. As the day progressed it became increasingly hard to function. I left the office for a short while to get something cold to drink and clear my head. As I drove horrible thoughts were thrust in my head. Things like “You didn’t do all you could for that man”, “You were sent there to save him not hold his hand”, “All that effort to get you to that spot and you choked, I should have known I couldn’t count on you”, ”Your son died and you didn’t do anything you were supposed to, he needed you and you weren’t there, your a fraud, your not worth the Lords time”. These were real tangible thoughts that had deep feeling attached to them. They were personal and intimate, they felt as if they were coming from someone who knew me and knew exactly what to say to me. They knew my inadequate feelings about if I had done all I could as a Father to prepare my son to cross over the veil and into eternity. They knew my desperate feelings of wanting to save that man and yet being subdued at the moment. These feelings were very personal and stung deep in my soul.
During the experience of the First Vision, Joseph speaks about his experience as he began to pray. He said, “When immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.”
In a much much smaller way of course I was feeling something similar. I felt weak for not being able to clear these thoughts, which in turn started to make me question if I was even worthy to cast these things out of my mind. The cycle was endless. This lasted all day. It was all I could do to get through the day. I went to bed a little early because I needed this day to just be over. I woke up Friday and felt somewhat better. As I drove to work, I prayed out loud that I needed help and that I needed some kind of intervention and help. It did not come all at once, it was not a moment of change it was a gradual change, it took several days however; it was as if light was slowly through out the days coming back to me. By the end of the day week I was slowly getting back to normal, I have realized that my new normal is not what it used to be. When I arrived home I clearly recognized the change and hit my knees and thanked the Lord for helping me. The direct impression was that, there are times that we will walk through dark days and maybe even the shadow of death. We may not get immediate relief or be pulled from our experience. However, we will make it, we will be given sufficient light to help us make it through any situation and in the end we will be ok.
Elder Jeffrey R Holland said, “Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead”
I do not look forward to having those kinds of days or weeks again. I do know when they come and they will and do come, I can make it, I am not alone and that all things are working for my good. It has been said that it is better that we pass through these kinds of things that we will learn the good from the bad. I have learned that there is no lasting joy in anything that is bad. I recognize there are forces that wish me no good thing. I also know that those that are with me are greater than those that stand against me.
I am looking forward to a time of peace a little rest for a season. I feel like I could sleep for a month. However, if it doesn’t come, I will understand and I will like so many others march on and do my best with all that is laid out in front of me. To be completely honest I do long for a season of peace, for a time of no more pain. I am sure it will come, It will come I know it.
President Uchtdorf said, “The question is not whether we will experience seasons of adversity but how we will weather the storms.” I am not doing great but I am doing my best and that will have to do for now.
Elder Holland also said, “whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise……. Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are “like a broken vessel,” as the Psalmist says, we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.” Were sweeter words ever written? Not for me.
Life is good, I am good and I know I have family and friends who love me, who pray and look out for me. The clarion call to keep moving forward, don’t give up, march on, hope on, that brighter days are ahead, for now that call is what will keep me moving forward.
I am a very blessed man.