~ My Grief Journal ~
deep inside, I think I
just didn't know who... and
believe that I probably
even suspected or knew
even that as well.... somewhere
on some level...
The strangers' eyes locked with mine - I could feel his anguish though outwardly he was composed and looked so strong and tall standing there in that official ~State Troopers'~ uniform.... He was calm as he spoke the words we've all read in books & magazines, heard in movies... officially identifying, verifying.... who I was and that I had a son.......
in me exploded then, it seemed that the blood in my
veins had turned to fire and numbness began to make
its' way through my flesh..... I became aware of my
heart.... it felt large and heavy..... then grew
loud as it pounded in my ears and I tore my eyes
from his long enough to look around the room in
desperate attempt to stop the news that was
coming....... frantically, I looked everywhere
around the room but at the two men.... hoping to see
a sign that something was amiss... something out of
place or crazy the way nightmares always are......
Hoping that I was dreaming...... not wanting to hear
the words that would make it a reality.... But
then.... maybe they were just here to take me to
him... he was in a hospital somewhere... I turned
back to him - and I knew by those eyes that the very
worst thing that I could ever imagine happening to
memory of those next moments is sort of like a
jigsaw puzzle dumped into my mind - just pieces of
the picture - not really assembled into a cohesive
memory... The first questions.... As he began to
speak... I interrupted him...
I asked, of course, the when, where, how, why.... of
it... my mind still reeling with the impossibility
of it... I felt very strange, aside from the pain,
as though I were floating or something.... it gets a
bit hazy from there on.... I was watching all of us
and in the center of it all at the same time... I
remember when the first piercing wail came out of me
as I asked, from the depths of the deepest anguish I
have ever known...
I looked at the letter right there on the dining room table close to where we were all standing.... the letter of acceptance which had arrived that day..... from his #2 choice on the list of applications for post-graduate school... The College of William and Mary....... I was so thrilled when I took it from the mailbox earlier that day. I'd called, but he wasn't in his room and had not returned my call before I went to bed.... so he never knew.... I'd thought that he was busy studying or tutoring somewhere...... I picked up the envelope and showed it to them... "But I didn't get to tell him...." and as I began to speak the tragic words... the pain rose up in me and there are no words... no clear memories about' the next hours of my life... I remember screaming, sometimes, writhing and gagging on the floor where I'd somehow gotten under the large table in the center of the room..... I don't know why...... I'm sure it must have been some primitive instinct and need to get away... escape the reality that I could not bear...
The hospital wanted to know if I consented to donation of... I said yes.... What difference would it make? Our bodies are mere vehicles we use - Eric was finished with his... and anyway... he had signed his drivers license to that effect years ago... but they had to get consent from the family.....
Brandi, whose room is right next to the dining room, came sleepily out to inquire what was happening... I remember not wanting her to see me... hating that I was making noise that I could not contain or restrain... and thinking that someone should stop her from coming any further.... "Don't let her come in here..." I sobbed... They (I don't know who) told her what had happened to her beloved Uncle Eric, and she immediately broke away from the arms and hands and crawled toward me there under the table - and her first words were, ......... "Mommy, did the angels come to take Eric to heaven tonight?"
a little child shall lead them........ ~ I thought,
are just little bits and pieces, as I said... I
remember the rescue squads' arrival and I wondered
why they were there.... then I remember the oxygen
they had blowing up into my nose through the
~harnessed~ tubing ... and wondering why that was
there - and the QUESTIONS..... so many, many
questions from everyone and I just wanted to be left
alone - none of their questions mattered... nothing
at all mattered anymore -
My parents arrived. Roger came shortly thereafter.......... Then, there was the trip to the hospital emergency room, and there, the stupid questions... more and more questions.... I just wanted to be left alone..... The doctors asked me if I thought I wanted to die - I told them of course I did.... (wanting to be dead though - does not mean that one will commit suicide!) "What a stupid question!" I thought. ~~~~ I wanted to be with Eric.... wherever he was... and I did NOT want to be left in this world without him...... !
next trip was to a psychiatric hospital
I remember at one point, I was being interviewed by the medical staff of Dominion Psychiatric Hospital to decide if it was ~Safe~ for them to allow me to sign myself out..... I simply said, ~ "I have to go home, I have a son to bury." ~
This is the
first that I could actually come here
I was amazed to hear, while we were at Dellingers' - that flowers had already been delivered - not from local people, most of whom would not even know yet... but from afar... from around the world even.... from my dear, dear cyber family members in the chat group (50+ Chat) which I belonged to. The director took me to a small room off of the main parlor, where he opened the door upon an array of beauty and love which those flowers and plants were representing..... In the center of the grouping, sat a large ~Fireside~ type of basket - filled with the most beautiful arrangement of plants and flowers I had ever seen in my life. I reached out to open the card and found that the 50+ group itself had sent it! I cannot describe the incredible feeling that came over me, surrounded me and filled me at that tangible contact with my cyber family! My cyber-room-mates I always called them... In those moments I could really feel the arms, the love and support of REAL people behind that basket of plants and flowers! A strength, from them, to me, began to come into me and I felt so comforted by the reality of what, until that moment in time, - had been only ~cyber~ a distant association with people ~out-there~ in the big world - Now they had come into my own very small one and were surrounding me and holding me right there and then....
strength of support and comfort has stayed with me
throughout that terrible ordeal and on into this
very day - a year
present.... ***Thursday, April 4, 1996***
learning yesterday, that so many were planning to
come from Ferrum - Roger wisely suggested that we go
to check out the possibility of their attending the
farewell service off of old Judge Rye Road at the
outcropping of rock. (What a comforting place for me
to return to part with him - where the Holy Spirit
manifested itself and Gods' will that Eric should be
`saved' from an evil world and Satans' power.... for
truly, now, he has been.... I have come to
believe in these last days, that Eric was in a
mortal danger - drawing ever nearer to the
temptations and power of deceptions of these end
days. All who seek knowledge are! There is
rampant deception and Satan is truly roaming about
as the scriptures say of him, "Like a hungry
Lion, seeking whom he may devour".
Some souls He `gives up to delusion'..... and
some, "the very elect" He promised that
the days would be `shortened' for.
unable to forego the longing for the sound forever
silenced now..... I picked up the phone, and
with as much courage as I have ever had in my
life, I called his room.......
Me..... ` Friday, April 5, 1996
When Jon arrived, he gave Peach and I each a red rose.... I'm unsure about the meaning of it - but Jon knew and that was all that mattered.... The roses spoke of love - love between the four of us (Jon, Eric, Peach and I) for each other - and I needed no further explanation.
eulogy was just wonderful. He even used scriptures
that I have chosen to be read just before we set him
free (yes - I KNOW his spirit is free and it is only
the body that we are dispersing up there - but many
of those gathering have NOT set him free in their
hearts and I so want them to do that as well) up
there at the rock outcropping. He began the service
in a `breaking tradition manner' which would have
brought a grin of approval from my son.... "I
usually have everyone rise at the beginning of the
service - " he said ""but I know that
Eric would not have wanted anyone to do that, so I
won't." He spoke of the love and bonding with
Peach, which was wonderful - because the papers
would not even put her name in as a survivor because
it had to be `NEXT' of kin...... not even aunts,
uncles, nieces or nephews.... (I put her in the paid
was quite cold up on Judge Rye Road and windy as
well - and out on that rock the winds bit like knife
of steel. The first thing we did was set up Erics'
huge boom-box near `the' rock - atop the large ones
just behind it. Enya began to play again in that
sweet, haunting way of hers.....
the last balloons were ready (the 22) - Roger read
from Ecclesiastes 12:7 and said a few words and then
I released the balloons at the end of Erics' chosen
song, "Silent Lucidity". I felt a pain so
acute but also a thrill of the release of him and
found an almost exuberant joy inspired by the words
`A soul set free to fly' ..... there is that longing
within all of us, for that moment of our mortal
release when we know our souls will soar free.....
We played Enya at Dellingers' and up there with us at the dispersal site - before and after the song (which Jon brought with him) he had requested be played in the event of his death. (I'm repeating myself - I know....) SILENT LUCIDITY by Queensryche
had agreed to the great task of preparing all the
balloons. Roger managed to bring them out to the
rock to me (which was an incredible accomplishment
amidst all the bare branches of early spring and the
thorny bushes and vines which managed to burst a
few) where I waited with Eric for those last minutes
before he would be freed. Such an incredible
accomplishment really - when looking back on it from
here - it's a wonder that all agreed to carry
through my desires!!! But then - like mother, like
son - and Eric and I were so alike in our
non-traditional mind-set and dreams - that it was
probably very familiar and appropriate to them to be
doing this final thing with him in such an
- I was amazed that so many were inspired to join me
in setting him free to fly!!!!! It was such an
inspired and inspirational unfolding of events.
There were many hands that stepped up to participate
in the releasing! Not a one of us had EVER been in a
cremation experience before - and many - if not
MOST, seemed initially uncomfortable with the whole
idea of it - but when I explained our thinking about
confining rotting flesh inside of one box and then
inside of another box and then inside a hole to be
forever confined and shut away from earth and sky in
the useless form of remains that could never return
to the life cycle in any way..... I could see the
dawn of understanding in the new light of shared
thinking. But to see those same people move past ALL
their traditional thinking and discomfort with the
idea of death - and into the spirit of dispersing
Erics' remains to be taken up and made into various
new forms as his soul was set free.....by taking
those remains into their own hands and scattering
him there..... that was a miracle to see.
ashes are surprisingly dense and heavy - it took
some time to disperse them. The flowers followed and
I felt it, in those brief few moments, to be a
celebration of his release. Oh, would that it could
have remained so in my heart. It did last for a
while - but then the weight of still being here and
earthly-care bound, fell over me in a heavier mantle
than I have ever worn before...
could feel Eric so present in each person here.
6 & 7 1996 - Saturday & Sunday
get so cold! .......Sometimes I tremble of the
cold that seems to come from within instead of
without. I need this to be a
terrible dream. I need to awaken. I need my son!
Sometimes I cry aloud and I hear the agonizing sound
of it haunting as the howling of wolves. As a
result, my voice is barely recognizable even to
myself. My aching throat and neck are swollen and
sounds come forth with great difficulty and low
volume. Suicide does not beckon. I want to die YES!
- but there is no whispering that it is the only way
to escape the pain or that I should bring it about
by my own hand. I know that I must endure, not
escape it. I do not understand it - but I know it.
April 8, 1996
As we passed the site where Eric took his last breath, there was no mistaking it as such. I was trying to say the words and Roger knew and said them for me - "You want to go back?" - more a statement than a question - he already knew..... Such powerful emotions fought for supremacy - all won... It is very hard to sit here and relate this part - for it brings it so clearly into my consciousness that the pain is just unbearable.....
The tree. The spindly barbed-wire fence down upon the ground. The damned insulation material (part of it) laying there ...... glass and parts of that Eric-beloved Firebird strewn all around. I got out of my car almost before Roger brought it to a stop. Then it was a kind of slow motion thing. Looking at this part and that. The field. The glass. A lens from his glasses. The cut high upon the tree. Bits and pieces of soda bottles - some creme-filled scones (Erics' - for sure). Half of a cassette box with Erics' writing on the lines. I bent down to touch .... first the ground itself. "My son died here...." Then picked up pieces of things for some strange reason which I still do not comprehend. Simply reaching out with stretched fingers to only touch others and leave them lay.... I found myself standing aside watching me as I did these strange things... wondering and conjecturing about why I was doing them. I never did come to any answers... or understanding. Not of myself. Not of the reality. Not of the death. Not of the present moments or actions.
I stood up and just felt such a confusion of agony as I tried to relate to what I was seeing in the aftermath of my sons' death... I went up to the tree and put my arms up and lay against the spot where Eric was thrust violently to an instant death and I cried in that terrible and intense wailing that comes of itself and tears at the flesh of my throat and the substance of my very being.... shredding me
The farmer who owned the field was plowing behind his house. He stopped and came to us. The first thing he said was how sorry he was at our loss. The second thing he said was "Right there's what caused the accident..." pointing at the remains of the insulation we had heard about. It was a very long black wire or string and plastic that lay there inviting me to go into a blind rage..... The man went on to say that he thought it had probably even interfered in the steering of the car as well as the other material blocking Erics' view....
As we stood talking, another man came to join us. He had been working on his truck in the driveway of his home and saw us there. He had with him a bag which contained three more of Erics' personally dubbed tapes and - the three necklaces from the rear-view mirror which Gene and Jon had tried so valiantly to find for me when they came up to get his things. Oh - how I had wanted that one necklace that Eric had said, again and again, he loved so! I had given it to him the first Christmas that he had the car! He often reached up and held it in a little mini-carress when he spoke those words! It was thought that they were lost. Now, this stranger had brought them here to us and it lay in my hand. I gave one immediately to his sister, Jeanne, the other, I gave later to Gene at the chapel during the candle-lighting service
The farmer told us the car was a short way back from that spot, covered in a blue tarp. I knew as soon as he spoke it - that I must make the journey there too before I could be `done with it'. I'm glad that I did. Although it was a horror, to be sure - and as terrible a vehicle I have EVER seen anywhere.... It left no doubt as to the merciful suddenness of death .....
I saw the T-shirt they cut off of Eric at the scene. I cannot describe with what nauseating fear and dread I reached into the car from the passenger side (there simply was NO drivers' side!) and picked it up from the floor - knowing at once that it was Erics'. Slowly - oh - so, so slowly, I opened the material up and held it out. There were the scissors marks. There were other cuts and tears from who knows what source. But there was not one drop of blood. Not one. My heart then knew a final peace of assurance that the death was absolutely instantaneous. The only blood was on the head rest and seat belt - and that, not a large amount. His head had been cut. I knew that. But the bleeding had stopped so quickly that it was of a certainty that the impact stopped everything at once. My son had suffered enough pain in his short lifetime - he had not exited in its grip!
My eyes scanned every inch of the interior to drink in the atmosphere of the last of my sons' life. There were snackies and foods that he loved so dearly and I found myself smiling and imagining the feast the three guys were about to prepare when they arrived back at the dorms.... There on the floor, I saw an 8 pack of his favorite `Cheese on Wheats' and on the seat lay a box of four Cadbury cream-filled Easter eggs that I ALWAYS bought for him because he so enjoyed them..... (and I so enjoyed him enjoying anything that I took delight in getting them).... Later - at the service, when I mentioned them - Noel said that it was the last thing Eric had picked up as they got the food - saying to them that his Mom always bought them for him every Easter. "Got to have these" he'd said......
It began to rain. I have always thought it a poignant thing when rains fall at a funeral as though God and the angels were shedding their tears with you.... At the memorial service in the chapel on campus - many friends and faculty spoke and it was so good for me to hear the reality of Eric that they had received in themselves and would carry in memory and perhaps, in their lives and characters.
was given the framed award certificate he would
have received at the dinner on the 12th. They also
said that the English award he had been chosen to
receive would be given to us later and that his name
was to be engraved on a bronze plaque and put up in
Roberts' Hall and that the award would forevermore
be given in Erics' name. What joy that would have
given him! What a tragedy that most such decisions
are made posthumously! It is nice for the friends
and family - to be sure - but it is a bittersweet
kind of thing in that death is the initiator of this
knew the whereabouts of the lake Eric had so often
spoken of. I had brought a small portion of the
remains to be scattered there because Eric had said
he'd spent so many many hours there.... done so many
things there... felt such inspiration there... It
seemed that a bit of him should remain in that
As ever - I find his poetry work difficult at times to understand - but always, always, profound and moving..... As I went through the pages - unable to read with much concentration - I found so much mention of pain..... To the world and to many critical spirits... he might have seemed negative, critical and cynical - but his poetry reflects the sensitivity, tenderness, vulnerability and agony..... That is the part of him that God knew beyond the coping mechanisms and the outer pretense of indifference or disdain... The task was an emotionally enormous one to face - and I kept feeling almost as though I were going to faint. My vision began to blur and `slide' in an odd sleepiness that I could not fight - so I lay down and slept.
April 7, 1996
seems "beside the point" right now.
Journal of Nina Roberta Baker