I was across the country in sunny Arizona, in the comforting arms of the man I loved and would soon marry. She was lying in a hospital bed in Cooper Hospital in critical condition. Though I was far away, my thoughts were constantly of her. I prayed for her recovery. I asked others to pray for her recovery. I fasted for her. When I spoke with my dad on the phone, I asked if he might find a way to go to the hospital and offer her a healing priesthood blessing. I felt my faith hinged on whether or not Heavenly Father would heal her. And amongst the other feelings I was wrestling with, I felt peace concerning her.
But I was also dealing with a very real darkness. Even 2000 miles away, I couldn't close my eyes without the awful crash replaying in my mind's eye in slow motion. Over and over again, that terrible impact. The jolt as my body flew back in my seat, the crushing and grating of the metal of our cars, the sight of her van flipping and turning, brakes screeching, her body flying through the windshield. Every night for over a week I awoke from nightmares, my heart racing and my pajamas soaked with sweat. I would sob silently in my bed, alone in the bedroom of my grandmother's house. And I prayed that God would take me instead of her. I was the one who deserved to be suffering. The guilt I felt was overwhelming and shadowed everything.
I called home, and though my mother was positive and encouraging to me, things were not so good. Dad's new business venture was not panning out and there had been no income as expected. The family was without a car. My mom was working my job at the dry cleaners and that money was hardly enough to cover the needs of ten people. Several of my siblings let me know of their anger and resentment toward me. They felt I had added to their "suffering" and yet here I was off in Arizona having a great time. As if things were that easy. They said some horrible things to me, which only compounded my guilt and reinforced my desire to just be gone. To have my lot in life exchanged for Yvonne's. I felt that I had irreversibly screwed life up for everyone.
I give my parents so much credit for their gentleness with me. Never once did they lecture me. Never once did they even tell me about how my "accident" had magnified their worries and stress, financially and otherwise. I knew that their insurance premiums would go through the roof, but never once did they mention it to me. I knew that my dad would have to face his business partner and explain why he was even letting his teenage daughter drive his expensive car, but it wasn't rubbed in my face. To me, they were the perfect parents during that time. They must have known how my soul was already wracked, how I already felt this way and that, how I'd already learned more lessons than I ever wanted to learn. How ashamed I was to face anyone. How deeply, deeply sorry I was.
It's odd now, when I read back in my journal of those weeks. This terrible thing had happened, leaving many questions unanswered, leaving me feeling guilty, and weak, and so unworthy. And yet parallel to that I was on the verge of becoming engaged. I was courting the man who would soon take me to the temple. It literally was the best of times and the worst of times. At the same time. But I never felt the best without the worst glaring down at me, and it was difficult.
I tried. My boyfriend was a great support to me. He let me be a mess, and he helped me to feel strong and of good faith. He gave me priesthood blessings. We spent time with friends, we saw movies, we swam, we enjoyed good food. And we were each praying about whether or not to be married.
One morning I called my mom again for news at home. Things were a little better, looking up for Dad and work. But what I really wanted to know was how the woman was doing in the hospital. Had there been any word? Mom hesitated. She said she wasn't supposed to talk about anything until I got home, but I insisted, and Mom doesn't hide the truth well.
Yvonne had died.
. . .to be continued