“Yeees…?” my usual reply.
Only this time I shout, Jeremy! Say it! Say, "Hey Mom?" just one more time. PLEASE.
Only this time the words I shout are in my head and not from my son. Instead, he lies in a coma. Two IV stands tower like sentries by his bed. More machines are hooked up to him than I ever knew existed, and he is swollen far beyond his normal body size. The doctors give him less than a five percent chance of survival.
The date was June 24, 2002. Our church in Dallas had contracted a chartered bus to take our youth group to Louisiana State University for church camp. At 9:10 AM, the bus veered to the right beyond the shoulder of the interstate and crashed into the unforgiving bridge support pillars. The driver and four teenagers died instantly, the scene rivaling any CSI episode.
The impact ripped the bus in two, peeling back the left-side paneling, wrapping around the first pillar like a blanket. Diesel fuel hung thick in the air. Five seats back, Jeremy was hurled through where the left side of the bus used to be, landing inches from the deadly pillars. His twisted and broken body lies motionless in a burning concoction of diesel fuel, battery acid, brake and hydraulic fluids, while emergency crews gave attention to others, believing he was dead. Miraculously, the youth leader finds him clinging to life and he is life-flighted to Tyler, Texas.
When I arrived in the ER, his prognosis is grim: the bones of his left foot are broken in two; his right foot had been turned completely around; his right femur is broken in two; his lungs collapsed; his ribs are broken; his left forearm is broken; his spleen ruptured; he has suffered severe brain trauma to the right frontal lobe; the fourth and fifth discs in his neck are fractured; chemical burns cover forty per cent of his body; over time, he will require 30 units of blood and 34 units of plasma and platelets. Then, I’m given a pager so I can tell him good-bye.
That evening, I am surrounded by people who tell me not to be afraid and another tells me it will be all right—all the things that people say at a time like this. Only it prompts everything I’ve held inside to come rushing out like a dam that has broken. I begin to scream, “I’m not afraid! All I hear is not to be afraid! I’m not! What I am is angry!” I then begin to pace back and forth, getting louder and becoming more outraged. “Why did this happen to Jeremy? Why did this happen to ANY of those kids?”
Then in my most sarcastic voice, with flailing gestures, I yell, “Oh. I’m sorrieee…but I just can’t be calm and ‘Oh, it will be all right!’ Sorry…it ain’t happenin’!”
All anyone can do is politely turn their eyes away and listen. The truth is, I cannot get a grip. Fortunately, a friend is standing nearby and takes my hand telling me, “You need to come with me.” She takes me to a private room and once inside says, “You have too many people around. You need some space and you need to cry.” No problem there.
That day forever changed our lives. Although I somehow knew Jeremy would live and not die, his recovery would be a long, grueling, journey. I also knew that the anger that I felt, left unattended, would produce hate. Standing by his bedside, as I earnestly prayed for his life, I realized my love for him was greater than the anger towards the driver. For Jeremy to fully recover, I had to release my anger because if I didn’t, it would be transferred from mother to son, and I could not allow our lives to be permanently scarred by one man’s fatal choices.
In an act of obedience to God’s Word, I chose to release the anger that had held me hostage: anger towards the driver, who due to drugs and lack of sleep, killed four teenagers; anger towards a man whose actions mangled my son’s body so badly he was left for dead; anger towards a man I’ll never meet–anger towards a dead man.
In return, I received life and healing in every crevice of my wounded heart, setting me free to share our miracle story without sorrow, hatred or anger. Free to help others.
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