A disclaimer before you read, due to some reader comments: Yes, Seth is alive and well.
1: bad dream: a frightening or upsetting dream
2. traumatic experience: a traumatic, very upsetting, or extremely difficult and troublesome experience or situation
3. dreaded event: a situation or event that somebody dreads
I’ve played out the scene in my head.
Having to pick up the phone, and press Jim’s speed dial, and force the words “It’s Seth…” from my lips. I can’t bring myself to actually articulate the complete thought, hoping that somehow, if I don’t say it aloud, it won’t be true. Trusting him to infer the horrible meaning from the tone of my voice. Believing that somehow, he can undo what has happened.
I’ve never imagined the exact circumstances of this phone call; would it be a fall, a car accident, a kidnapping? But the fear of having to tell my husband that his son is gone has been very real, at times.
Nothing has actually ever happened to Seth that would even foreshadow this phone call; it’s just a fear I’m sure every mother faces at some time.
I never, ever in a million years had thought to prepare myself for being on the receiving end of this phone call.
But Sunday, January 24, 2010, at 7:24 pm, while driving down a dark country road, I somehow heard the melody of Jim’s pre-programmed ringtone over the Jeremy Camp ballad coming from the truck speakers.
It was one of the briefest conversations we’ve ever had, and in hindsight, I appreciate Jim’s wisdom in sparing me details in that moment. All he said was “Are you on your way,” and I replied “yes,” and he said “get here as soon as you can, please” and hung up.
I placed my phone back on the passenger seat, and pressed my foot to the gas pedal. I imagined the scenario that waited for me at home:
Poor Jim, who had been struck with a stomach bug late Saturday night, must still be vomiting, and I could only imagine that Seth, in all his tw0-year-old curiosity would be getting a bit too close to the bathroom goings-on.
I sighed, and thought to myself, if I get pulled over for speeding, I wonder if my excuse is good enough for a police escort?
I drove the last 2 miles in record time, thankful that I managed to avoid hitting any wildlife on the final stretch of farmland we have to drive past. I swung into the drive, tossed a variety of belongings on the coffee table, and headed up the stairs to our second-story family room.
As I climbed, I heard choking sobs, somewhat muffled, coming from Jim’s lips, drifting over the banister. I fully expected to round the corner to see him doubled over the guest bathroom toilet, but instead found him on his knees next to the ottoman.
Forgive the insensitive thought of, I hope he didn’t puke on the carpet that sprang to mind.
“Honey….?” I said, approaching him timidly.
He raised his bloodshot, teary eyes to mine, his cell phone pressed to his ear, and pointed across the room.
My eyes fell to the couch, where Seth’s Chuck the Truck fire station and toy trucks rested on the cushions. Confused, I turned back to Jim, and it was only then that I realized Jim’s body was bent, not in the throes of sickness, but over the lifeless form of my precious baby boy.
The blood drained from my head.
My heart stopped – I’m sure of it – for at least a beat or two.
I immediately spun away, and then back toward Jim. I was lost. Confused. Terrified.
I didn’t know what had happened, what was happening…..Jim was speaking to the 911 dispatcher, so he couldn’t give me any details, so I just fell to my knees on the other side of the ottoman, and laid my hands on Seth’s face.
The heat radiating from his body was enough to make me pull my hand away. I couldn’t imagine a child’s temperature could rise so high. I turned Seth’s head toward me, careful to not twist his airway; his breathing was already so raspy and labored I was afraid to deprive him of even a hint of breath.
His eyes were open, but unblinking, unfocused, and unresponsive. It was obvious that he didn’t recognize me. As I crooned to him – Hi, pun’kin. Momma’s here. Yeah, I’m here now – I gently removed his socks and pants, and unsnapped his onesie at both the legs and the neck. He never flinched. Never moved a muscle. Never made a sound.
My eyes met Jim’s over Seth’s unmoving form, and I asked if the ambulance was on its way. He nodded yes, and I forced myself to leave their sides to unlock the front door for the EMS workers. Even as I flung the door open, I could hear the distant sirens.
With limbs gone stiff, I stepped off the porch and walked to the sidewalk, willing the ambulance to drive faster. Almost instantly, a red glow seeped around the corner house five doors up, and the beautiful sight of the rescue squad rounded the corner.
Helplessly, I shouted to the first worker that I knew nothing, that I’d just come home. I begged them to forego the stretcher – that Seth would need to be carried – and to please just head upstairs. Two paramedics strode past me, and I was left standing in my yard, clutching my stomach, begging the Lord to please spare the life of my son. In response, Baby Girl shifted inside me, and I offered up a prayer for her, too. No amount of Procardia was going to be able to protect her from the trauma I was feeling.
Click here for Part II ….