The day before Thanksgiving, we crammed our car full of belongings and began our trip down south to visit the family. We were ears deep in holiday traffic when my cell phone rang. I recognized the phone number right away. I briefly contemplated not answering. My daughter was in the car and I have worked hard to protect her from certain conversations I’ve had to have this year. But things have gone on too long. I needed to wrap this up. I was desperate. I answered the phone. It was the detective.
He stated that our son’s eyes had finally been cremated. I asked what day, exactly, had they been done? “Monday,” he answered.
“Monday, OK”, I repeated. I told him I was on my way to my mother’s house. He sounded both surprised and pleased. Apparently he was trying to figure out the best way to get Jay’s eyes to us, and he lives in the same town as my mother. He gave me his pager number and told me to call him the day after Thanksgiving and he would personally deliver them to me.
I couldn’t believe it. This was finally coming to a close. I told my husband we would be getting a package at my mom’s house. He knew what I meant. I spent the rest of the drive down to my mom’s completely engrossed in thought. I thought about what it would be like to actually meet this man who has been holding my son’s eyes for almost 10 months. I replayed what it would be like when we met. What would he say? My husband told me he’d take our daughter to the beach before he came over so she wouldn’t have to know Jay’s eyes were in a box.
Thanksgiving came. We spent the day cooking. I felt tired, but brushed it off. We traveled to my uncle’s house and spent the evening chatting and catching up with the family. It was fun, but I was completely distracted. Some people I hadn’t seen since the Thanksgiving before, the only Thanksgiving my son ever attended. It’s always weird when you are thinking about your child who died, and the person talking to you is thinking about your child that died, and you’re chatting about something completely different. But I can see it on their face. It’s like having a conversation about the weather when you’re in the middle of a house fire. It’s scary and sad, but no one has any water to put it out so we just keep talking about nonsense. I don’t blame them because in situations like this, I can’t go there, either.
By the end of the night I was completely run down, apparently taken over by a horrific cold. I drove home with watery eyes and a cough and collapsed in bed, knowing that the following day I would finally be in possession of my son’s eyes. What a bizarre holiday.
The next day arrived. I was bedridden. I didn’t even know how I would get dressed. For some strange reason, I just didn’t want the detective to see me like this. I waited until the afternoon and paged him anyway. I dragged myself into the shower and put some clothes on.
He didn’t initially call back. I paged him again. Nothing. I waited all day in bed for my phone to ring. I turned up the volume so that I wouldn’t sleep through it. There were no calls. I couldn’t believe it. On Saturday, we drove home from my mother’s house eyeless.
I called Monday and left a message. I was angry. I couldn’t believe that this was still not resolved. I know everybody waits months for an autopsy report (which we still hadn’t received) but this was turning into torture. I was so mad I didn’t even want to write about it. It was like this was going to go on forever and I would never be able to move on from this investigation. They would always have a part of my son.
Finally at work this morning, the detective called. He was mailing them today. He said I should get them by tomorrow or Thursday. God I hope so. He emailed me the autopsy report. Our printer isn’t working at home, so I actually printed it out and read it at work. I don’t know what I expected it to be. It wasn’t as hard to read as I thought it would be. We have had to have so many conversations about our son’s brain and organs, detaching ourselves from the reality of what we’re really talking about in order to be able to convey information to important people. Reading it was a much easier task. I will give it to my husband tonight. He will read it silently and fold it back up. He won’t have any comments. It’s a story that we lived, retold by someone who wasn’t there. I can look up the various medical terminology that I don’t understand, but the end is the same. My son fell, and then he died. No one will ever know exactly why he sustained such a horrible injury from such a short fall. Every doctor I’ve talked to has the same explanation: If you hit your head in just the right place, it can cause a fatal injury. Nobody knows what that exact place is. If you die, that was the spot for you. For my son, it was a posterior, low, occipital, midline contusion.
Tonight we are decorating our Christmas tree. Deciding to not celebrate Christmas wasn’t even an option. Our daughter lost her brother this year. There’s no way she’s losing out on Christmas. She’s excited for Santa and presents. She can’t wait to decorate the tree. We will put up our ornaments that we’ve had for years, including the ones we got last year when our son was still here. We’ll put up the “J” salt dough ornaments we made a few weeks ago. He will always be a part of our Christmas. A part of our everything.