I remember everything about the day President Kennedy was shot.
I can feel the emotions again that flooded me as I watched the Challenger explode.
The images of the twin towers are forever etched in my memory.
And I have very clear recall of the sights, sounds and smells of when my youngest daughter, Rene’, asked, “Am I going to die?”
My daughter, Lyn, had received a skateboard for her 11th birthday, so I gave permission (after much admonishing about being careful) to Lyn and Rene’ to go across the street to the college campus to play … Lyn on her skateboard and Rene’ with her roller skates.
That college was where I had a new job beginning the next day when school opened for the fall term.
The quiet of that Sunday afternoon was shattered with the sound of Lyn’s voice screaming “I killed Rene’. I killed Rene’”. I ran toward the screaming. Lyn was running toward home, saw me coming, turned and ran back to the campus. We rounded the corner to the Student Union Building, and my senses were assaulted with the smell of blood and the crunch of glass underfoot. The plate glass window in the bookstore had been broken by something … my daughter’s body.
I followed Lyn into the Student Union Building and we found Rene’ lying on a bench, being worked on by a stranger. This daughter that passed out at the sight of blood was totally conscious. She looked right at me and asked, “Am I going to die?” With the volume of blood she was losing, I just didn’t know the answer. I looked at the stranger and he raised one eyebrow. He didn’t know either. And so I told her, “I don’t know”.
My children had lived with a lot of lies. They expected the truth from me.
I was doing a good job of being strong until I heard Rene’s next words. “I’m glad it’s me and not someone else. I’m ready to die.”
Do you think I can ever forget that moment?
Students gathered around … the girls crying. The school nurse arrived with medical supplies. She and the man in the white suit worked in tandem and then he picked up my daughter and carried her to a SUV that had been backed up to the door.
The whole time, Lyn was hysterical; shouting to everyone that she had challenged Rene’ to a race, not knowing that Rene’ didn’t know how to stop. It was all her fault.
As a single mother, a part of me was viewing the whole scene and wondering how to survive. The needs of both girls were great and I was only one.
Someone took Lyn and me in their car as we followed the SUV to the hospital. I had to leave a very distraught Lyn in the hall when I went in the examining room with Rene’. Lyn rarely cried, but I could hear her clearly. She needed me. So did Rene’.
Rene’s neck had been sliced open. Her upper arm was open to the bone. But her mouth still worked. More words … that cut to the quick.
“I wish I had a dad.”
In the midst of all the chaos, my new boss entered the room. Someone had called him. He asked about Rene’ and then turned to go.
“You stay here”, I ordered him. When he tried to argue that Rene’ needed me, I repeated my orders. I could tell him later that Rene’ needed a dad. And that would free me to go to Lyn.
The incident I’ve just described happened 35 years ago. But it is just as real today.
It was a “defining moment” in our lives.
I’ve had many other “defining moments.” Opening the door to our bedroom closet in the home I shared with my husband … to find his side of the closet empty … .and he was out of our lives from that moment.
Lying in a hospital bed with the doctors telling me I faced a grave future with medication, surgeries and a shortened life span.
A letter designed to reach me the day before Mother’s Day, with Rene’ telling me she no longer considered me her mother and would have no further contact with me and that I would not see my grandson again. That was 16 years ago … and she meant it.
Defining Moments. We all have them.
But not all “defining moments” are negative. The birth or adoption of a child. Saying “yes” to a marriage proposal. Choosing to travel to Ethiopia to minister to the needy. These are moments that change the direction of our future.
Another wonderfully positive defining moment came a week ago … when I saw that grandson again. I hugged him and held him and told him I loved him. Sixteen years is a long time. There is a huge change from the age of two to the age of eighteen.
And then there is the most important “defining moment” of all, when you chose to become a Christian … or not.
My “defining moments” are not over … and neither are yours. They can make us “bitter” or “better.”
I try to choose “better.”
And that man in the white suit that helped save my daughter’s life. He was a doctor from Colorado who had brought his son to college … just taking a stroll around the campus. Perhaps it was a “defining moment” for him too.