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That Phone Call No One Could Prepare For

Screen shot 2014-11-17 at 8.34.01 PMEd note: folks, this story is from the bravest of the brave, a woman I am blessed to call my friend, Ella. Her story, heart-breaking as it is, also is heart-inspiring and shows that time can go a long way to maybe not repair what breaks, but help you reconsider that though you’ll never be the same, you’re glad you lived. Here’s Ella. 

On a Friday at 10:20pm, I got that phone call no one could ever prepare for – mentally, physically or otherwise – even if they tried. It was Jane, a friend Dave had stayed close with since high school, who was living out in Western Mass near his family. She was having a small gathering at her parents’ house to celebrate her engagement, and Dave had made a weekend in his hometown out of it – to toast to Jane’s engagement and deliver her some artwork that I had done for her, get fitted for a tux for his sister’s upcoming wedding, and, as I would later find out, to come back home with an engagement ring for me.

The message was delivered to me with vague undertones, from a steady voice: “Dave has been hit by a car – you should come out here. Don’t drive yourself… have someone else drive you. We’re not sure how bad it is.” Expressed urgently enough, I had my parents drive in from Cape Ann to Boston before taking me to Western Mass, she was calm enough that I didn’t realize Dave wouldn’t be responding to the text messages of increasing desperation that I would soon be sending him, pining for some reassurance throughout that long, painful, two-hour drive.

I probed Jane for more details via text and unanswered phone calls, but she clearly wanted to protect me from what I was about to experience first-hand.  I sent one particular text begging for more information on his status, to which she replied: Just get here. With that, I knew it was bad.

Long after midnight, I arrived to face a group of Dave’s closest local friends standing somberly inside the entrance to the ER. Corey, one of Dave’s best friends, approached me and silently escorted me to a private room off the ER where his family was waiting for me in hysterics. My memory gets very hazy around this part, but the first person I saw upon initially entering that small room was a priest in full cloak attire, rosary beads and bible in hand. The shock of that very sight hit me like a ton of bricks, as the news was then delivered to me by Dave’s mom, trying to express his fatal condition to me through her sobs.

I don’t remember the exact way it was communicated to me, but I would soon learn that my boy was unconscious upstairs in the ICU. He had been hit by a pickup truck while standing in Julianne’s driveway. The odds of him surviving the weekend were slim, and if he were going to survive, he’d be a vegetable.

He was not going to need the extra sweatshirt and t-shirt I had packed for him in my haste when I got that call. He was not going to need the jeans and socks or his own favorite blue and grey Nalgene bottle with all of his silly stickers on it. And he sure as hell was not going to need his Jack Vance novel I was still clinging to in my trembling hands.

When we finally reached his room in the ICU, I arrived to my boyfriend completely motionless and plugged into numerous machines, pale, swollen, and unconscious. It was clear he had been bleeding from multiple lacerations on his face and had been cleaned up.

I spent the weekend at his bedside with my parents, all of Dave’s extended family, and eventually 40+ of our closest friends as well throughout the day on Saturday. I’ve never met anyone with more true friends than that guy. We filled the ICU as everyone began to understand that this was their last goodbye with their pal, “Crazy Dave.”

Meetings were called. About organ donation. About Dave’s basic health. About brain death. As was to be expected, but not believed until much later, the brain death tests came out positive. According to Dave’s driver’s license, his organ donation wish was granted – he gave his heart, lungs, kidneys, pancreas, and liver to some folks who would be needing them more than he would, which I came to see as the silver lining.

We lived in his condo together, had just bought a house together, we were happy as hell. He was going to be my dude ’til the end of both of our lives. We were a really, really good pair, with a really healthy dynamic. My world was about to crumble around me.

I kept a blog about the crumbling, and it went with me through all the motions, the stages of loss and grief they try to prepare you for: denial, depression, anger, and I suppose eventually acceptance. The anger component was solely due to his killer’s negligence, upon hearing that this fat fuck was coked up and drunk with his alcoholic buddy when he swerved off the road and hit two mailboxes before he hit Dave, and then, as we later learned in court, spent quite some time deliberating how to handle his mistake in his truck before even checking on Dave’s condition as he lay bleeding out of his head in the road.

I moved back in with my parents for two months. I was suddenly buried in social invitations, as people came to my rescue and tried to take my mind off my new reality. Hundreds, from every direction. It was really awesome and really necessary, but also really overwhelming, and I think I pissed a few people off in telling them that I just don’t have the time for them – not this week, not next week, etc. – my schedule was honestly too damn full, and bless their little hearts for trying to help add to that.

The numerous therapists I saw, the anti-depressants I took, the lovely bouquets of flowers and sympathy cards that came my way, the psychic medium appointments, bottles of booze, sob sessions every day and every night, barely made a dent in my recovery. What I needed was time.

As for me, the light re-entered my life later on when I met James. Interestingly enough, I met him through a friend who I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for Dave, although the two guys never met. I was terrified at the prospect of getting close with someone again, despite knowing it was what I needed to do, despite receiving Dave’s mom’s blessing to go forth and meet someone else and live my life as I should be living it. I resisted so much at first and battled my inner demons every day about opening up to James when we first met, but he knew my situation and was unbelievably patient with me. Being his woman eventually became a no-brainer.

After the tragedy of 2011, I got really, really lucky in life. Two months ago, I married James on a beach in my hometown, and yes, it was the greatest day of my life. We live an incredible life in a cool loft building in the city with the sweetest dog known to man, have a brilliant love between us and have some incredibly awesome friends and family on top of it all. We share the same values and work ethic, same levels of spontaneity, while also complementing each other’s values where necessary. It honestly feels like a different lifetime altogether now. As I said in my wedding toast, there is no one else in this world who could have swayed me into love the way he did, when he did, when he made life easy on me again. The man has stolen my heart forever, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

We’re coming up on four years without our Dave on this planet, but now I smile when I think about him, rather than cry. He made me a lot of who I am today, and that can’t be erased. And even though I don’t believe in anything beyond science, deep down I take a little solace and appreciate the serendipity in knowing Dave’s presence in my life brought me to James.

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