Yesterday was Lucas' first day at his new preschool, Bethany Preschool in Long Beach. The whole week leading up to the big day, I tried to prepare Lucas and get him excited for this new chapter in his life. His responses to me were apprehensive at best. The morning went smoothly. He woke up at his usual 7AM and came into my room to wake me up. He got dressed, brushed his teeth, and had breakfast. I quickly got myself ready and made his lunch. When we got to the school it was reception/free play time. I stayed with him from 8 to 8:30AM. He was very shy about playing with the other kids and stayed close to me. I could sense that he was nervous, but he was also interested in playing on the playground. At 8:30 I introduced him to one of his teachers, Ms. Maggie, and told him that I had to leave. He clung on to me nervously and didn't want me to leave. But after reassuring him that I would pick him up later and that he would have a fun day, he gave me a hug and said, "OK. Bye, Daddy." No tears. No meltdown. I am so proud of him!!! Tears started to well up for me as I left the school. I was feeling so much love for Lucas that I couldn't control my emotions. And I was feeling sad that he had to start this new journey without his brother.
Lucas had a great first day. The director watched him for a while and was impressed with how well he adjusted and with how much he knew. He got along with the other kids and followed directions. I arrived to pick him up at about 2PM. When I went in to his room, he was laying down on his cot, waking up from his nap. He ran over, gave me a big hug and said, "I need to go shi (pee)." After talking briefly with his teacher, Ms. Sue, Lucas said goodbye and we walked out. On the way home, I peppered him with questions. Though he wasn't oozing with enthusiasm, I could tell that he felt comfortable at Bethany. Thank God.
Today was Lucas' second day of school. He had another great day. But my day was difficult. I had scheduled to go with a Deputy to see the van. I wanted to retrieve some personal items: Lucas & Nathan's backpacks with their names embroidered on them, their jackets, some toys, and the garage door opener. I expected to have a hard time and to break down. My friend/brother Clayton went with me. The van was being kept in a warehouse/lot that was full of wrecked cars in downtown L.A.. As we parked and started walking to the lot, I started to feel very uneasy. I was scared of seeing the van. After the deputy signed some papers, the man at the lot escorted us to the van. When I first saw the van, I couldn't believe how mangled it was. (Though I was conscious after the accident, I recall very little. At some point I think I went into shock. Visually, I only remember seeing Lucas sitting in his carseat behind me, conscious. I also remember crying to an officer, "Please tell me this is a nightmare." Beyond that, my next memory is being in the hospital.) ***Note: The following is a detailed account of what I saw. The images may be painful to read about. Please skip to the last paragraph if you do not want to know details of what I saw.*** The passenger side of the van was completely caved in. The passenger seat in the front had been pushed all the way into the driver seat. The top of the passenger seat was collapsed like an accordion. About a week ago, I discovered that when the emergency help arrived on scene, Midi was laying across my lap. When I saw how the passenger seat was crushed up against the driver's seat, I could visualize Midi laying across my lap. I wept. I am weeping even now as I am remembering. My wife, partner, and best friend died in my lap.
Then I looked in the back. The seat behind the passenger seat, where Nathan sat in his carseat, was also pushed through the middle and into the seat behind the driver's seat, where Lucas was sitting. Though the entire seat was pressed in at an angle, the carseat was remarkably intact. But I saw a large bloodstain on the seat. My sweet son Nathan must have been bleeding from the left side of his head. I sobbed. I am sobbing now. Nathan suffered a fatal injury. At around 7AM the morning after the crash, I held him as he died in my lap.
When I went to the van today, I knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that I would relive the pain of losing Midi and Nathan. And I knew that I would see things that would give my brain more images to recall the horror of that night and its lasting painful effect on my life. But I am not into avoidance. I do not want to avoid pain if it means superficial healing. And I believe in the hope of the resurrection, of new bodies on the new earth thanks to Jesus' victory over death. And so even though I was afraid of seeing the wrecked van, I was not afraid of it sending me into a downward spiral of despair. And besides, I was very determined to get the personal items, especially the name embroidered backpacks and the jackets. I wanted to have Nathan's backpack and his blue hooded jacket to keep for his memory box. On a final note, it was very difficult to get them, but after about 15 minutes I was able to retrieve everything that I hoped to get.