Thursday, April 15, 2010
My stepson's birthday is today, and later this month is the annual highway worker safety stand down at the state capitol honoring those highway workers who have died in the line of duty. Both events trigger emotions for my entire family. Matt was killed on December 14, 2007, while filling a pot hole on the freeway. He left a wife and three children. His son was a young adult, but his daughters were only 8 and 10 years old at the time.
This single event changed our family forever. It cut us to the core. It was like taking a machete and chopping off an arm of every family member. We are not a perfect family, and like all families we have our struggles. That makes a sudden death in the family even more difficult. Matt was only 35 years old. We all left so many things unsaid. We all thought there would be plenty of tomorrows.
The process of grieving is different for everyone, but there is a process. There is shock, anger, hurt, guilt, loneliness, depression, and a hundred other emotions. Then there is forgiveness and finally peace. We're not all there yet, but we're working on it. Sometimes we think we are there and then there will be a setback, but I guess that's to be expected.
Every day there are reminders. All our cars sport orange and black magnet ribbons--reminders to "Slow for the Cone Zone." The buttons with Matt's picture that we received at the first safety stand down after his death are still displayed; one on the visor of my husband's car, and one in my office cubicle. Family pictures remind us of two things: (1) Matt was a member of our family group, and (2) every family picture taken from this point forward will be missing someone. An orange "Slow for the Cone Zone" wrist band adorns the gear shift in my husband's car. We wore them for a long time, but there is a time to move on.
Moving on means being able to think about Matt's life instead of his death. It means being able to forgive the driver who hit him at 70 mph on the exit. Moving on means being able to laugh at the silly things we remember about Matt. It means remembering the hugs, the smiles, the laughter, the teasing. Moving on is cooking the turkey neck during the holidays and then laughing because Matt was the only one who liked the neck. Moving on is being able to laugh about the Thanksgiving that we tortured Matt all day and worked him to death because he made a stupid remark about women belonging in the kitchen and men belonging in the "football room." Moving on is being able to eat green peas again without tears thinking about Matt's total disdain for peas.
Matt truly loved his family. He was a good husband, father, brother, and son. He wasn't a saint--he had his faults like the rest of us--but he was a kind, decent human being.
Every Friday Matt bought "Lunchables" as a special treat for his little girls. After his death the girls told us that as he packed their Lunchables, their Dad told them that he had a dangerous job. He wanted them to know that if he didn't come home someday, he would love them always.
Readers, please pay attention on the freeway to those men and women who keep our highways maintained, safe, landscaped, and clean. Take a minute to think about their families. Just like the rest of us, they want to go home to their spouses and children at the end of the day. Please, oh please, SLOW FOR THE CONE ZONE.