My mother was my best friend. After I was out of high school and married we were next door neighbors. We would wake up every Saturday morning and be gone to yard sales at 6AM. She was the one that gave me my love for yard sales. Which in turn gave me the love for all things used. I am now the proud owner of a thriving resale shop.
On April 20, 1999 at 8pm my mom, my son and I were traveling from North Carolina to New Mexico to take care of some of her father’s estate business. We were in my “new to me” navy Mazda MPV. She was driving and the van got a flat tire. We pulled over to a rest area and called her roadside service. By the time roadside service arrived and put on the spare tire it was dark. My Mom always had bad eyesight (which I know have) and she hated driving in the dark so she asked me to drive. The plan was to go back towards Jackson, TN since it was a bigger city, stay in a hotel and get a new tire in the morning. I continued down the interstate so we could get off on the next exit to turn around. My Mom saw there was some el cheapo motel on that exit and said we could just stay there. I told her I’d pay the difference if we could just stay in a nice motel in Jackson. I wanted some luxury.
I got off on that exit and went to head back notrhbound as I saw a tractor trailer getting onto the exit behind me. It’s weird when I think about it because something made me look at that tractor trailer and that is the tractor trailer that brought my mother’s demise.
Now heading northbound I was driving almost 70 mph. I had totally forgotten we were riding on a spare tire. My Mom said” Leila SLOW DOWN!”. With an attitude I yelled “How fast do you want me to drive!?”. At this time I had slowed down to 45mph. She said “This is good.”. We were in the right hand lane and had our flashers on becuase we were going rather slow even for a bare interstate.
My son, then one day from being 9 months old, had thrown his sippy cup on the floor yet once again. My Mom reached for it but could not pick it up. I told her “Just lean the seat all the way back and unbuckle, that’s what I’ve been doing.”. Today I wish I could take back those words. She unbuckled…leaned the seat all the way back…stretched for the sippy cup…
…Suddenly I feel our car accelerating but know I’m not doing it. I’m pressing the brake almost through the floor but we’re not slowing down…In a split second the car is now in the left lane…it hits the yellow line as I scream “God, Please let my baby be okay!!!”. We’re in the median and flipping. I wake up upside down and spit dirt and glass out of my mouth as I hear my son screaming and crying. I’m saying “It’s okay baby, it’s okay.”. I try to get out of the seatbelt but realize one of my arms is just not functioning. I use my right hand to try and unbuckle my seatbelt while the whole time I’m saying “It’s okay baby, momma’s going to get you, it’s alright.”. My seatbelt is jammed and I cannot get out of it. Then someone appears and I hear them saying “Get her out of there”…They reach for me and I scream “Get my baby out he’s in the backseat” simoultaneously I hear a man say “There’s a baby in a carseat back here. Anyone have a knife I’m going to have to cut it”. I hear a few voices that say “It’s on fire.”, “Don’t get her out, she can sue you.”. I’m yelling “Just get my baby out of the car.”….Someone helps me get out of the seatbelt and a man has cut my son out of his carseat. I am hurting so bad and my arm won’t work so I ask a lady to please hold my baby for me as I’m still saying “It’s okay, Sigmond. You’re okay baby.”. I am sat in the median on the ground as I hear someone yell “Does anyone know CPR!?”. I automactically think “My Mom does!”….as I look to where the voice is coming from and see them roll my Mom from her back to her stomach. I remember seeing her belly jiggle back and forth…to this day that is what I remember so vividly. I ask everyone around me for a phone so I can call my husband and Dad. I call my Dad and my husband happened to be there with him. I tell them we’ve been in a wreck and where we are. I think I talked to my husband, I honestly don’t remember.
They load my Mom in an ambulance and strap me down and put me in an ambulance as an EMT holds my son.
We got onto the interstate and I hear one of the EMTs in the front say “No, you’re going the wrong way, turn around”. I’m thinking good thing my life isn’t on the line being they don’t even know which direction the hospital is in.”
I arrive at the hospital and immediately ask “Where is my Mom, is she ALIVE?”. They say she is in the other ambulance. They bring me in and clean the gash in my left forearm as well as the road rash I have on my left arm. They don’t even check my son in the ER, they just say he is fine. Although he is still crying! Everytime I ask about my Mom they say they will check on her. I finally scream “If she’s dead, just TELL ME! I can take it. Just tell me!”. The nurse says “Just relax and once you are stabilized the doctor will come in and speak to you.” A man comes in that I realized was the truck driver’s insurance company’s employee. He talks to me about settling etc. Talk about moving fast.
I demanded that they check out my son. They said he is fine etc although they never did a catscan or anything else that I thought should be done.
I can’t remember who told me, male or female, black or white. I can’t remember how I was told or when I was told or even where I was at, other than in the hospital….but my Mom was DOA…Dead On Arrival.
I can’t remember the order in which these next few things happened, I just know they happened.
I spoke to my Dad on the phone and he said he and my husband were on the way and would be there by morning. He asked me if my Mom was okay and I told him or my hudband (I can’t remember) to pull over. I remember him saying “Don’t you lie to me”. And I told him Mom was dead.
I asked the nurses to see my Mom’s body. With reluctancy they obliged. They wheeled me in the hospital wheelchair into a room to which her body lay on a cold steel table. They shut a curtain or door behind them. I saw her there, so swollen, so bruised and battered, so motionless….so LIFELESS. I said “I love you, Mom”. Then I was scared like the little girl I was. I tried to roll to the door but my arm hurt so much I could do it. I was yelling “Someone come get me out of here!”.
I am released from the hospital. But I have no money, no credit cards, no car, my shoes were even cut off of me, I have nothing. The little bit of money I had drifted away in the wind on the interstate. The nurses talked amongst themselves. They told me that they would put me and my son in a back room to rest while I wait on my Dad. It was against hospital policy but they didn’t want to put me in the waiting room after what just happened.
There I lay in the hospital bed trying to console my child, trying to feed him but I could not. My arm wouldn’t allow me to hold him and I had to call and ask a nurse if she would feed him for me. I told her how to mix the formula and she fed him for me.
The phone rings ######. I answer it and hear my mother’s voice “Leila?”. “This is Leanne.”. It was not my mother but my older sister who sounded and looks just like her. I told her what happened.
My Dad and then husband made it later that night which by all calculations means they drove WELLLLL over the speed limit if not double of it.
My mother had been ejected from the car due to not having a seatbelt on….and died on impact. My son, now 13, had not a bruise or scratch on him. It is believed that when she turned around she saw the hood of the tractor trailer and gripped onto both sides of his carseat. Through the 6 or 7 flips the car made her body braced his which resulted in abxolutely no injuries for him. But that is how my mother was. She would never think of herself, always other.
I miss her so much each and every day. At 32, I still blame myslef as I was driving, I was the one that told her to unbuckle her seatbelt to get my son’s sippy cup, I was the one that had just yelled at her…I had always been disrespectful to her. But she was a great mother, a great woman.
I REGRET that I did not treat her with the kindness and respect as I should have. And I secretly strive everyday for my mother’s forgiveness.