Monday, December 21, 2009

15 Years Ago Today

15 years ago, my sister, Valerie was killed in a car accident. She, my brother, Cory, their best friends (Julie & Trena), and their best friends' mother (VerDawn) were driving home from school for Christmas break. Just as they entered our little town of Annabella, they were hit by a truck that did not stop at a stop sign. Everyone was hurt, but Valerie and Trena were both critical. Both were transported to the hospital and had emergency life-saving surgeries performed, and both were life-flighted to LDS Hospital within hours of the accident.
I still remember the day. It was December 20th and I was in my apartment in Provo. I had to work until the 22nd, but all my roommates had gone home for the holidays, so I was alone. Out of nowhere, there was a knock on my door. When I opened it, it was my aunt Sara Mae and uncle Kent. I thought my dad must have told them I was there alone, so they were coming to visit. But, I quickly realized that was not the case. They came inside and told me that there had been an accident involving Valerie and Cory and some members of the Wood family (lifelong friends). They quickly told me that Cory was in the hospital, but would be fine. Then they told me that Valerie was seriously injured and it did not look good. I remember I thought that it couldn't be true and this horrible feeling came over me. They asked if I wanted to go with them to their house and wait for news with them. As I walked to the closet to get my coat, my legs literally gave out on me and I collapsed as I thought about my sister.
Valerie was 3 1/2 years younger than me. She was a senior in high school and I was going to BYU. She and her best friend, Julie were planning to attend UVSC the next year, and I was so excited to have her close. The week before the accident, Valerie and my mom had come to Provo and we all spent the day together. We laughed so hard that day. I remember thinking how fun it was going to be to have my sister in Provo the next year. It was such a fun day, and I couldn't wait to finish up with work so I could go home and spend Christmas with my family. That was not to be though.
We waited for about three hours before being notified that Valerie was being transported via LifeFlight to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake. We left my aunt's house in Provo and were at the hospital when Valerie arrived. I just happened to be sitting next to the elevator as it opened and she was rushed past me on a silver stretcher. I still have that picture in my mind. It was just like in the movies. They were practically running with her. I knew things were bad, but I think that moment really put the thought in my mind that she might not make it.
The rest of the night is a blur. Trena Wood was also LifeFlighted to the same hospital, so the Wood family was there too. We all prayed together and hoped together. Sometime early in the morning of December 21st, the doctors told us that all of Valerie's organs had failed and we needed to make a choice. We could allow her to live in a vegetative state, on life support machines, for who knew how long. Or, we could allow her to pass on. The decision seemed too much. My mom, dad, and I prayed together and asked for the Lord's guidance in doing what was best for Valerie. Eventually, we came to the decision that it would be best to allow Valerie to pass on. We informed the doctor and he told us what to expect. He also let each of us have a minute alone with her, to tell her good-bye. The doctor told us that it usually takes a few hours once the machines were turned off, but with Valerie, it was a matter of minutes and she was gone. Her funeral was on Christmas Eve, 1994.
I truly believe that a piece of me died with Valerie, and life has never been the same. It's true that with time, you are able to cope with the loss much better, but you never get over it. I still think about the things our family has lost because Valerie is not here with us. I wish my children knew their aunt. I wish that I had a sister here to do sister things with.
After Valerie died, Christmas just wasn't the same. I remember waking up that Christmas morning. There were presents under the tree to Valerie and from Valerie. I've kept the one she gave me, still wrapped, all these years. It wasn't until Micah came along, that our family regained some excitement for Christmas morning. And now, we have Micah and Abby. They make Christmas exciting and we all get excited watching them.
So, even though this time of year is still painful and the memories of our beloved Valerie come flooding back, we do have the reminder of the Plan of Salvation and that someday, we will all be together again. Thank you Micah and Abby, for always reminding me of how important it is that we never lose sight of that eternal goal.


the coltons said...

we love your family so much. i am still so sorry for the loss of valerie. we know how loved she is and what a great person she was. i'm so glad you can feel the joy that comes with christmas through your kids. you made me cry, carrie :) we think of you guys every year during this holiday season.

love you!

the coltons said...

and this was an amazing tribute - you are such a wonderful writer.

Nathan said...

I can't fathom how I would feel during something like this, especially with the holiday expectations added in.

It is easier with the Plan of Salvation, but that doesn't take the sting of losing them from our daily lives away. I'm glad you've been able to move on and still keep her close.

Katie Lane said...

I've been wanting to comment on this for a long time, but I never knew what to say.
This was so beautiful. I remember it too, although I was little.
What a great comfort it is to know that we'll all be with families again. Love ya.

Christine Auernig said...

I don't know if you remember, but I was with you at the hospital when the elevator door opened. That whole night is etched perfectly in my memory too. I cannot believe it has been 15 years, and I am still so sad she is gone. I know she knows how much you love her.