Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Death of My Daddy

The information I'd originally given was vague, and for many reasons. At first, we were working with limited information. On June 1, 2016 at around 9am I received a phone call from my step mom that there had been an accident in Kentucky and my daddy was dead. I kept screaming "you're lying. No he's not. I just talked to him three days ago. You're f*cking lying." And then I began to hyperventilate and collapsed on the kitchen floor. My first call was to my husband who rushed home from work. Then my mom, who called first my little sister, then my big brother on three way to break the news.

The only thing I could find online was a tractor trailer driver fell asleep at the wheel, hit a tree, and the truck caught on fire. Imagine the images that floated through my mind. But we knew better. My daddy didn't fall asleep behind the wheel. He'd been in a truck since he was 18, driving since he was 21. He knew when to pull over, when to sleep, when to rest. We knew he'd had his third heart attack and died behind the wheel.

And then more information began to come out:
This was found on Twitter. Later, they would post a story containing my daddy's name, Jack Howard, Jr, as well as the name of the passenger.

But, we still had to drive the five hours to Kentucky to see my daddy's body before he was cremated because there would be no funeral (per his wishes). My sister, brother, and I made the drive to Louisville, KY. My brother had to hold me up when we walked into the hallway to see that my worst fears had been confirmed. I had tried so hard to convince myself that it wasn't my daddy, just a mere case of mistaken identity.

We've finally learned the full details of that day. I've talked to the passenger, who is thankfully going to be okay in about six months. He'd been sleeping and felt the bump strip along the side of the road. He looked up to find my daddy slumped over the wheel. He jumped up to grab the wheel, but was too late. The semi crashed into a tree, the limbs going through the windshield. The passenger was unable to get out of his door or climb over my daddy, so he climbed through the broken windshield, rolled off the hood, and ran to the road in nothing but shorts and socks to try to get help. He said dozens of cars drove past before finally a truck driver and a pastor stopped. The truck at this point was smoking. They were able to pull my daddy from the truck, but he was already gone. The coroner confirmed that he was gone before the truck hit the tree. It was a massive heart attack. His third.

There are details I don't wish to share, mainly because I can't bring myself to type them, but I will share a few pictures. I do warn you, though, a couple may be disturbing.

My brother in law built this cross, my husband painted it, my sister and I attached the flowers, and my brother nailed it into the ground. This is something I feared would someday happen as I begged him to come off the road, even offering to let him live with us. But the stubborn ass refused to stop working.

The next few pics are of my daddy's truck. The first is what it looked like, and yes, that's a dead owl in the grill. He was always sending me strange pics and texts. He had a silly and strange sense of humor (gee, wonder where I get it):
When the truck began to smoke, they pulled my daddy at least five hundred feet away, so he wasn't inside the truck when this happened:

My brother, sister, and I dug through the dirt, the burned ground, the gas soaked mud in hopes of finding anything that we could connect to my daddy, something that he'd touched. I'm currently wearing a washer on a necklace that was part of the truck. I would give anything to have something that smelled like him, but the contents of the truck were burned.

We held a memorial for my daddy on June 12. My sister made a video for the memorial, a tribute to my daddy's life:
I still can't watch this video without bawling. I'm having a hard time believing he's gone. I keep telling myself he's just on the road, he just hasn't called back yet. But he won't. He'll never call back again. There will be no more silly text messages, no silly calls.

During this time, I felt more alone than I ever have. In the "older" days, people would gather around the bereaved, bring them food, etc. Instead, I received a few texts the day of, had two friends who checked on me regularly, but that was it. There were so many times I wanted to call someone and ask them to bring food, or even just vacuum the floor for me. I couldn't seem to make myself get up. My chest ached, my body felt full of lead. But I was too proud to reach out for help. When I needed my friends the most, there was no one there. If it weren't for my sister, brother, husband, mom, and best friend, I don't know if I could've made it through this with my sanity intact.

The next time someone close to you loses someone, don't offer condolences and remind them they can call you if they need you. Go to their house, show up with food, offer to straighten up, feed their pets, whatever. Send a cheap bouquet of flowers or a card to remind them they're not alone. I'll never again send a vague text, I'll never again tell someone to call me if they need me. I'm just going to show up at your house with a couple days worth of food and I might even wash your damn dishes!