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'Mother's Day heartache' brings closure — and a new friend

By Susie Boyce

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, July 23 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

My grandparents' car crashed into the pillar of the Provo Utah Temple. April 19, 1989.

Provided by Susie Boyce

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I sat alone on the couch in the ICU waiting room, eyes red and swollen, waiting for family members who were still en route from out of town. Several distraught members of another family walked into the room. After realizing who they were, I did the only thing that I, as a 19-year-old Brigham Young University sophomore, could possibly manage in that situation: I curled up on the couch, closed my eyes and pretended to sleep.

Earlier that day, my grandparents had been involved in a devastating car accident in the Provo Utah Temple parking lot resulting in my grandfather’s death and my grandmother’s life hanging in the balance. To make the situation infinitely worse, my grandfather had suffered a stroke, lost control of his vehicle and struck a university student.

That poor girl’s life was also hanging in the balance, and she shared the ICU unit with my grandmother while I shared the waiting room with her family.

A few weeks later, on the second Sunday in May, I held my dear grandmother’s hand as she took her last breath. Mother’s Day will forever be linked to that defining moment for me.

The college student lived, and I heard that she eventually recovered. But I never knew the full details, as contact with her family had long since been lost in the 23 years since the accident. Then, a few days after I published a Mother’s Day column, “My Mother’s Day heartache,” detailing the accident and my feelings about my grandmother, I received an email with the subject line: “I’m that college student.”

More than a little apprehensive, I opened the email and read the following letter (shared with permission):

Susie,

My hands are shaking as I write this. My mom sent me the link to the article you ran about the death of your grandma and the circumstances leading up to it, and I knew I needed to contact you. I enjoyed reading the bits about her life and seeing the pictures. To me they were always "the couple who hit me." So it was nice to see faces and make them real. It was good to read about the other half of the story.

First, I have no hard feelings. We were all where we were supposed to be — the temple.

On the other hand, my life was forever changed after I left the hospital. I have two lives — the one before the accident and the one after. The brain once injured never fully repairs itself. However, I've learned where one part is damaged, another part takes over, and with the miracle of the priesthood and medicine I can live a normal life.

I want to tell you my story, because I feel we are already connected. We have that experience in common.

I was one month shy of my 19th birthday and just finishing my freshman year. I was wearing my favorite (and only) Jessica McClintock dress. My memories of that day were getting ready to go with my roommates to the Provo Temple and later meet one of my best friends for lunch. I remember walking through the parking lot of the temple with my roommates and turning around. I then have a vague memory of a car coming over flowers.

That is it.

The next thing I remember was being in a dark room, seeing a nurse walk out and my mom sitting next to me. All I could think was, "What is she doing here?" She would have had to fly in and I knew she wasn't supposed to be there.

I flew home with a shaved head and a black eye. I spent the summer healing and trying to retrain my brain.

I had to relearn how to read and spell. Math was gone. Writing was gone. Eventually reading comprehension returned, so my doctor encouraged me to go back to school.

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