We left off as Catherine/Marissa were brought down from upstairs —
“Where daddy” a sleepily three year old Catherine inquired. Her red curls, ivory perfect skin, emerald green eyes, one could see the Irish in this one.
“Where daddy, mummy” Catherine asks again.
As they look at my tear staid face, red puffy eyes face couldn’t lie of how weary I was already. Both girls now show signs of concern.
“Where daddy” Catherine asks this time more concerned than ever. I look to my parents for some type of sign. I look around the room, for some sign, something, something that would assist me in breaking the news that the man that played with them, called them their pet names, the one that could wrap them up in his strong arms, the one that kissed their bo-bo’s away was never coming home. How do you break this type of news to an innocent three and two year old.
As I kneel down to look them in the eyes, holding them tight I forced myself to say, forcing back tears, forcing back just desiring to curl in a ball myself.
“Baby girls, daddy not coming home, daddy, daddy went to heaven” I silently whimpered to my girls.
“Where heaven mommy?” Catherine questions of me.
I point to the skies (which was just the celling at the time) and suffer through more tears,
“Up there girls, daddy in heaven up there” I could barely get the words out, as I saw the precious faces, trying to cope, trying to understand what their mommy was telling them.
“Can we go,we be good” Catherine asks eagerly.
“No girls”, I look them in the eyes and say, “once we are in heaven there is no coming back” but oh god, I wish there was a way.
Dread. Oblivion. Duty. This became the following hours and weeks. Dread to inform family and friends. Oblivion to the outside world.
I showered, barely remembering how to do this, crying in the shower bracing myself against the walls.
I force myself to wash, dry off, walk down the empty upstairs hallway to what used to be our bedroom to dress. What the hell do I wear. I could not even look at myself in the mirror, I did not want to see myself. The following days I refused to eat.. to sleep. Why should I eat and sleep, how could I betray Travis like that. I pick up a shirt of Travis and just crumbled to the ground. I laid on the floor next to the bed, hugging his shirt that still had his scent, his scent.
Then I heard some sounds coming from below, my mother’s voice, and some ones that I could not recognize.
Soon a congregation was at my home,
Someone mentioned to me that there was a fireman at the front door
I walk to the front door and look down the four cement steps at a man in a firemen’s uniform.
“Hello, my name is Mark”. (god I remember Travis saying his name, he was supposed to be his man of honor). I look him up and down, but too tired to process much of what was being said.
I never meant this man before, but he goes on to say that,
“I feel like I know you and the girls well. Travis always talked about you and the girls, do not worry we are handling things well down at the hall. We have Travis’s uniform out in the front, with his helmet. There is a group of guys down at the hall just talking about Travis”….in my mind I already feel betrayed, why can’t you come here and talk about him, he was my husband, I want in too, but I keep my mouth shut.
Wtf. I want to talk too..about him, to him…to my Travis.
So I dialed his number…which went to his voicemail..what was I expecting, him to pick up or something, so I let it go to voicemale and through tears I say,
“Hi honey, it’s me I just wanted to tell you that I love you (I am starting to break down again)…so I wanted to tell you I love you one more time, have fun up there, we miss you soo so much”……
During the morning the fire hall brought over coffee and doughnuts, I did not want a flippen doughnut, but the gesture was so sweet, of course the girls loved the attention but didn’t understand the solemn faces, evening came, and I get another shock of my life.
By that time his two brothers and sisters along with their children and husbands and arrived. With people scattered around the house and afternoon stretched into the evening before anyone knew it the 6:00p.m news had come on. As I and the family were preparing for what had previously been told to us that the accident may end up on the news this evening. One of the two anchormen announces a somber tone,
“We have solemn news in the community of Cherry Town where a volunteer firefighter was killed in an overnight crash”
By the time “solemn new” was mentioned I flew into the living room and rushed my girls out as I was following them to make sure their eyes would not avert to the television screen eyes found their way to the television screen and there was his red dodge truck ..Crushed like a tin can.
My hands flew to cover my mouth hand I gasped in horror as that image that was being processed by my mind. Front end looked like an accordion and the front driver door looked like it was ripped off by the great hulk himself. But probably more realistically it was looking the Jaws of Life had to be used to pull Travis out of the truck. The roof was caved in and my only thought was that my love was in pain, my husband was in pain and followed by who the fuck did this to him, he….he was in pain.
Not the way out if Travis had his way. God if it was his choice in how he would die it would have been in a fire saving some poor soul from the burning blazes of hell.
The reporter went on discussing some of the know details of the accident. I was like stone, just limp from the image forever engrained in my memory. Shock. Disbelief. Family was saying something to me or was it to each other. I don’t know. I could not process.
The siblings soon left, with condolences and if you need anything just call. The look I must have given to them, they all looked away for they understood, what I needed was obvious but it could not be bought from the store and could not be taken care like an errand.
More phone calls had to be made after everyone left. Its only Thursday not even 48 hours had passed. Insurance was being handled, taken care off. Friends were called, his friends not mine, for at that point in my life, I was consumed by being a new single mother, by school, by being a supportive wife, and taking care of the household and all the duties that surrounded taking care of a house.
That night, my mom helped feed the girls some supper, bathed them, and helped put them to bed. Around 11, she was tired, don’t blame her, she told me
“Daughter. go an get some rest, you need it, you have the planning you need to do tomorrow”,
God damn it I know, 25 and I am planning a funeral for my husband, I know I was not the only soul that was doing this, but I felt like I was treading on a path that no-one had trend on before.
I showered, get pj’s on, and looked dazed around the bedroom. Scanner was off. I looked at the bed we once shared, the comforter he had bought us with matching pillow shams for Christmas that year. They were king sized even though we had a queen bed for I guess I always stole the blanket. I looked above the bed at his piles of tee-shirts, and jeans. He had endless neon orange and green shirts for when he worked at the road construction company.
I looked at his night table that had is oak charging table, empty except where his portable scanner sat and his charger for his phone. Oh no, all those pictures of him and the girls are on his phone, how are the girls going to remember such a remarkable man. I walked over to the dresser and glanced up at the mirror still in a daze, I looked at my reflection and asked myself, “what the fuck am I gonna do now”.
My life has been centered around him,why Travis, why, why did you have to leave, I collapsed to the floor and just cried, balled my eyes out, ..just repeating why….why….what did we do wrong.
Morning came soon enough, I showered and went to Facebook to see if anyone had updated or perhaps there had been an update, or was it to just keep myself busy even though I so didn’t need help in that area
I penned the words to a man that I loved and still love, even though I know he would never see them, part of me still believed this was not happening, so I went to Travis’s timeline and typed;
To my love of life,
We have been through a lot together, both the “that was freaking awesome moments” and “the wtf moments.” We met under the warm sun and had our first kiss in the rain. At that moment I know that I loved you and you loved me. We shared our souls/heart/mind with one another. When life kicked our ass we fought back together. We were invincible together Travis. I miss you my love. July 28-2011
Friday, Mark made the remark that he was going to the scene of the accident. I wanted to see this. I wanted to see the last place he was before his soul left. Perhaps, just perhaps, I could see him again; I wanted to see him, just one more time. After leaving my mom in charge of the girls Mark and I left. The ride felt like it took forever, and then I saw it. The road was so similar but the ride felt so awkward, like these roads were somehow new. Mark pulled off to the side of the road, pointed to two trees. We both solemnly get out, walked over the grass and rocks. AS I was walking the image of the truck on the news the previous evening and even in the morning flashed back in my head, I started to get choked up. There were shards of glass, red and black plastic remnants of where the accident took place. I felt so sick, sick to the pit of my stomach, perhaps it wasn’t the fact that I haven’t eaten in over 48 hours, the lack of sleep or just all the trauma my sprit had been under but once again tears from somewhere came back, I felt lightheaded as I bent down to pick up a nut from the grass. I thought that his toolbox must have been forced open through the impact of the other vehicle.
Forcing my feet to walk the accident scene I see yellow caution tape, deep tire marks in the grass, all I could picture what possibly could have been Travis’s last minute of life.
“Smith and I were out here last night, we got a small baggy of nuts and bolts together. Sweetie he was such a great driver, but this is what we think get him” Mark said. He pointed over to the ditch that appeared to look like a normal ditch but poking out of the hill where the water would go was a small silver of metal. The dirt that covered the ditch drain pipe and worn away and was visible were we were standing. “You can’t see that pipe poking up out of the ditch from the road” Mark goes on to say.
I force myself to look at the road, and there were black tire marks on the road I turn away and face a large solid tree about twenty feet away from the front of the house we were standing in from of. There was a scuff mark on a branch of the tree. No, not a scuff mark the tree had been engraved where the roof of Travis’s vehicle hit it. There were remnants of tools nuts and bolts that fell out of his tool box from the back end.
His siblings had already been there too, for there where two small white crosses with fake flowers, standing upright next to the tree. His soul must be around here somewhere I thought with hope.
Today was Thursday, or was it Friday. All I know what was going on was I had to start planning a funeral. How the hell am I gonna do this, or where am I gonna find the money. Who or what am I supposed to do. I call the number one of the firemen had given me, a number for the funeral hall that had taken care of another fire officer.
Of course, the funeral director apologized and what have you, I still had no idea how to handle an apology. Like seriously, I bit my tongue, granted, maybe it, maybe they just had no idea what to say and in today’s era, saying I’m sorry had become so easy to say at times. After setting up an appointment with the director I pondered my next moves.
Still dazed and confused, I acted like I know what I was doing when I entered the funeral hall. His sister Suzy came, her husband, and Mark came too. We were ushered into a spare room. God this place was hideous. Death seeped through the walls, interior was like from some Victorian Age, Travis would hate being seen in a building like this.
Oh, he talking to me, what is he saying…
“of course there are ways to reduce the price of a funeral” the director went on saying.
“What” … I was being handed a pamphlet of prices and services that the funeral hall did.
Are you fucking kidding me, close to a thousand dollars for a casket I thought as I was looking over the prices of caskets, cards, and the book to sign. Holy hell, it dawned on me then, the process and everything that needed to be done for a funeral.
“Now, do you know whether or not you want the remains to be cremated afterwards?” the director asked of me.
Everything was happening to quickly, not even 72 hours have past, and now I have to plan a funeral,that I had no flippen idea how I was going to pay for. Not even fifteen minutes earlier I had just seen my husband’s turn out gear outside the fire hall. I wanted to somehow escape, to feel safe and not so exposed.
“No, I remember, for we have had that talk, he would want to be cremated, he felt as though the bugs, he did not want to be eaten away by bugs, it would freak him out” I managed to say it..but then again, I have always been socially awkward. I had no idea how to act here.
I don’t remember much of the meeting, just somehow, I started to plan a funeral, a funeral for a man that I loved, and never would see again.
After being dropped off at home, my mom commented that the neighbors had brought over some food.
“Oh how thoughtful”, I said wearily. I went into the kitchen to see, there were cakes and cookies, a couple of cards. Really, how sweet, but so unhealthy I thought. My daughter’s need a meal with substance. I tried to cook, but I cannot remember even how to cook. My mom comes in the kitchen and takes the spatula out of my hands and finishes making scrambled eggs and toast for the girls and helped put them to bed.
God, I need a drink. So I grabbed my bottle black velvet went to what used to be our bedroom and drank, and cried myself to a disturbed slumber which didn’t last long.
The next couple of days, firemen stopped by, siblings called, aunts and uncles called, but always the same, apologizes were given and the words “IF you need anything, call”. Even a few journalists came out to interview me, but my step dad would say that I was in no condition to talk and that all the apologies and well wishes were deeply appreciated. However, I was outside when a female journalist had come by for one last attempt and I was able to talk about Travis so that the paper could understand what a loss the community he was.
The day of the wake, Suzy and her family stopped by to follow us up to the Fire hall, in the next town over, for they had offered their building for the wake. As we pulled into the parking lot,
Lizzy commented by saying “Look, they even put Travis’s name in the sign near the road”.
As we pulled into the driveway and slowing pulled to the side of the building near the side door’s, I saw the Hurst, and I gasped my tears back. I saw the funeral director quickly walk toward Lizzy’s car.
“You ready” Lizzy said as she glanced towards me inside the car.
“No, but I want to see him, I want to see Travis” I said anxiously, but I wanted to shout no scream fuck no, you ready to see him. A portion of me still believed that he was still alive.
I opened the door, got out of the car, and straightened my only pair of black slacks and black blazer that barley fit me anymore. I had already dropped ten pounds since all this had started.
The funeral directors looks at me, I can see the hint of remorse in his eyes “Ready”
“Yea” I found myself saying.
“It is still okay that we came right” for I had asked that if it was okay for the kids, family and myself to see him before he was gawked at my others the day before when the assistant director had stopped by to give me Travis’s wallet that was in his jeans when the body had been sent over from the morgue.
“Yes, Mrs. Silver Travis is inside right now”.
I wanted to see him, his face, his skin, and eyes.
As I walked forward, I was eager, hesitant, anxious, and mortified. My daughter’s next to me followed by my step-dad and mom.
My breath was taken away and my body frozen as I stared across the large rec room in the firehouse. There, there he was, the black casket with gold trim, pots of flowers, a couple of pots with the white peace lilies displaced accordingly around his casket. I forced myself to take a step, and another, and with each step I took I could start to see his body emerging over the sides. As I stepped closer and closer I could see Travis’s hands placed carefully on his stomach one hand over the other.