This May Be The Last Time I Tell Anyone What Happened That Day …
By Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee/@GeeGranny on Twitter
My son, Tommy … his son, Taban … 2008
I don’t know if I can make myself go into darkness again to bring my grief, pain out … again. Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee.
What a beautiful, sunny day to drive. Traffic was moving smoothly as he drove down the interstate. He loved to drive a big truck … handle such a big piece of equipment. Not only that he got to travel all over the country. He had a little son who wanted to be like him! Life was good!
Tommy was a tall, handsome 6′ 3″ guy. He had strawberry-blonde hair, and blue-green eyes depending on what color he was wearing. He had a sunshine smile that if … it ever turned your way … you basked in its rays … warm rays. His smile could compete anyday with the sunshine!
His voice was like soft silk … his laugh even silkier. Tommy had a wonderful sense of humor. He could make his mother laugh when no one else could. He could irritate his mother quicker than anyone … when he would reach down … toussel her head of hair. His mother was very particular about her hair, didn’t want anyone to touch it. He would laugh so big! His mother secretly loved it … she would grin.
Tommy would call his mother almost every day, numerous times to tell her something he thought about … wondered about, or tell a joke he heard. He and his mother … and his step-father were close-knit. They knew no matter what … they had each other.
He called his step-father every day … and at all times of the night… he was his best friend and like his father. His step-father also, drove long-distanced. They called each other often … and at anytime.
Tommy was approaching the Hernando De Soto Bridge that separated Tennessee into Arkansas. There were several lanes of fast-moving traffic. He could see ahead traffic going into other lanes … he couldn’t see what was the cause was.
He began trying to get over into the left lane … just as he knew he was going to get over with no problem … a car came up beside him quickly. He began slowing down … there was a family in the car next to him … he could see children! Before it was too late, he began to try to ‘squeeze’ the truck ‘between’ the family in the car … and what was just ahead of him causing chaos in the middle lane.
Tommy thought he’d missed the car sitting in the middle lane … got safely by the family car … he had, until …
The date is wrong on this photo … Tommy and his little son, Taban.
A man at the last second … opened the driver’s door, stepped out of the car! Tommy’s mind went into shock when he looked into his rear view mirror as his truck passed the man, car.
He saw an explosion of red. He began pulling the truck over to park. He was in pure shock … he knew he was missing the family car, and the car blocking traffic in the middle lane in fast-moving traffic, until … oh my God! He went to pieces as he climbed down from the big truck … his legs became weak as he saw what was behind him.
Tommy walked, tried to run in a state of shock … he saw parts of the man laying … everywhere. He fell to his knees, sobbing … when he came upon the torso of the man … he never saw all the cars passing, gawking at the big guy on his knees in the road, crying. No one stopped to help him … comfort him. Traffic kept moving …
Finally … help came. A gentle hand reached down to help Tommy up. The officer led Tommy to a truck … IMAP truck that assists law enforcement, and such. They comforted Tommy … talked with him. They told him it was an accident … he couldn’t have avoided the man when he stepped out of the car. Tommy would have missed both the car … and car loaded with a family … if only … the man had stayed in his car.
Blood was everywhere … Tommy kept seeing the man laying in pieces. He couldn’t cope with it … he kept breaking down. Tommy was in a bad way. The officers took him to the hospital … his company in Indiana made him come back there as soon as he got back home to North Carolina … he couldn’t go home to cope with his grief … to get better being around his loved ones.
Tommy’s family was very upset … in order for him to keep his job … he had to stay months at the company’s facility … see their psychiatrist to deal with his state of mind. His family cried when they heard his voice on the phone. At that time, he had to keep his job … he had a wife, child at home to take care of.
While he was being comforted by the officers … Tommy called his mother … she knew something was wrong with her child … she knew her only child. “What’s wrong, Tommy?” she asked. He began sobbing … she pieced the words together … when she realized he said he’d killed a man … he’d hit a man with the big truck.
She felt an awful pain in her heart … she felt she was a part of what happened to her son … she felt she was there, and that she also, had hit the man. Mothers are like this about their children. She instantly went into shock, pain as if she was there with her son.
His mother began crying, telling him she was so sorry. She tried to comfort him 600 miles away … he never heard her words. He was in another world … grief, shock. When he ended the call … his mother was in another world of grief, shock for her son. She knew he’d never get over hurting another human being. If only the man had stayed in his car!
This happened on May 17, 2009 … one year later … Tommy died on May 29, 2010. He never got over the accident … he couldn’t bear to see the color red … he would break down.
Tommy was forced to stay at the company’s motel … they’d come on certain days to take him to their doctor … they wouldn’t let him come home to be with people who knew, cared, loved him. If he came home … he would lose the job with the trucking company he needed.
A couple months just before Tommy died … he had another breakdown … while trying to drive his big truck. He went to pieces at one of the terminals he had stopped at. They let him drive the big truck home … he was less than 2 hours away from his home.
Tommy holding his newborn son … his only son. He has one daughter, also.
He made it home … his wife had to take him to the hospital. They gave him medicine to calm him down. He went to a doctor in Henderson … was put on several medicines that caused great concern with his mother. The medicines were too powerful … she couldn’t do anything about it.
Tommy stayed home … he wasn’t in any condition to drive a truck. He began to come see his mother … the medicines he took kept him calm. Her heart broke for her son. There wasn’t one thing she could do for her child … her only child … just be there for him.
On May 28th … Tommy showed up at his mother’s and stepfather’s home. He had his professional power washer with him … he was going to powerwash their home … at one time he used to work in that business.
Tommy was in wonderful spirits … his sunshine smile warming his mother’s heart like nobody’s business. How long had it been since she’d seen that wonderful smile that melted her very heart?
His stepfather drove up on his truck … it was unusual for him to come home on his big truck, but … he did that evening. Later … he thanked God he did. He never came home like that … but, he did that evening.
Tommy’s mother made sandwiches with the Boar’s Head cold cuts they’d purchased at Sam’s Club. She knew Tommy would like them. She saw Tommy and Skip sitting at the picnic table.
She took a Mountain Dew (Tommy’s favorite drink) out to Tommy, and a glass of iced tea to Skip (Tommy’s stepdad whom he loved with his very heart). She also, had a glass of iced tea for herself.
This is the book I wrote my grief, pain in … I can’t bear to even open this book … I don’t know what it’d do to me to try to read it. It serves its purpose … I made it possible for Tommy to never be forgotten … I never made money on selling it. I do have copyrights from The Library of Congress on 3 books I’ve written … no matter how good, bad they are. I’m proud of this.
Tommy’s mother went back inside to get the plates of sandwiches she’d made … brought them back to the picnic table. She set them in front of Skip, Tommy … and at her place.
They sat there … it was the most wonderful evening … laughing, talking. The weather was beautiful … sun shining … in competition with Tommy’s smile that evening. His mother didn’t know which was shining the most … the sun … her son’s smile. It’d been so long.
Tommy said, “Mama, these are the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten!” His mother looked up at him, asked him … “really?” “Yes, Mama, they are the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten!” She began laughing, telling Tommy that they were like all other sandwiches.
Tommy said, “Mama, they are the best I’ve ever eaten.” She smiled … was amazed he said that … it must be the type of cold cuts they’d purchased at Sam’s Club. Later … this always stood out in her mind … they were the best sandwiches he’d ever eaten … she knew he meant his mama had made them for him … that’s why they were the best.
His mama and Skip were so happy when he told them he’d changed his mind about going to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with his wife … his little son … two step-children, and mother-in-law. They had reservations at a hotel there. They were going to stay a week at the beach.
Tommy laughed, talked … “Mama, I’m going to play with my own little son at the beach! Play with him for the first time at the beach!” Tommy was excited … his mother looked up into his face, saw such happiness she hadn’t seen for over a year in his face. Oh, how happy her Heart felt for her child. She felt everything was going to be alright.
Tommy told her he was going to ride with a parole officer to learn about being one, go to school. He was going to persue being a parole officer. His mother felt for the first time … Tommy’s going to be alright! She smiled happily at him. She felt hope come alive like when a match is struck … lights a candle. It was burning brightly in her mind.
Just before he left for home … Tommy walked to hug his mother, say goodbye. She hugged him hard. God, she loved her son with her very Heart. He stood, holding the storm door … looking down at his mother, smiling.
His mother looked up at him … looked past him at how light all was around him … the green roof overhead on the deck was so clean … the leaves, dirt was gone on the green roof (fiberglass).
All felt so wonderful, good … her son’s smile was adding to the happy light around him. This stood out to his mother … later in time. Her son was going to be alright … this evening was the beginning! Hope burned in her chest, now.
She watched her beautiful son … a tall, handsome, blonde-headed guy … walked up the sidewalk to leave. She thought how proud she was to have a son like him. Everyone loved him … his gentle way.
This photo was taken exactly one year at a lake in May 2009 … before Tommy died at the ocean one year later on May 29, 2010. I’ve always looked at this photo … thinking about water being there in this photo when he and Taban were at the lake …. and then … water/ocean where he and Taban played when he died.
The sunshine made his hair sparkle … the light around him was so clear … he was so … real. This was her only child, her son. He meant the world to her. She always thanked God for him. Her son loved her just the same way.
They both had been through Hell no one knew about … in their lives. They appreciated and were grateful to have each other … and were fiercely protective of the other … same way with Skip. They all three were there for the other … when no one else was. They knew this.
He walked to his big, white pickup … got in, started it. He backed up, then began driving slowly down the driveway. She began to wave her hand at him, smiling as … he grinned that big smile everyone loved … at her. He honked the horn as he waved goodbye to her … then, the house blocked her view. How happy she was!
Tommy was leaving the next morning … Saturday, May 29, 2010 … he was going to the beach to play with his only son, Taban. He was very excited now, that he’d changed his mind. He couldn’t wait to get to the ocean, run on the sand … play for his first time with Taban!
They left for the beach the following morning … Tommy called his mother … she heard excitement in his voice. “Oh God, thank you!” Her son was going to be alright!
She hadn’t heard such happiness in so long from him … the accident crushed him that fateful day … took not only the life of a stranger who stepped out of his car … it took Tommy’s life, also. And … his mother’s. She came alive that evening … hope was alive in her heart!
“Mama, we’re only 7 miles away!” Tommy called her just a short time before they arrived at the hotel. He was most excited. “Mama, I’ll call you back in a little while!”
A little while later … her eyes lit up when the phone rang. The caller ID showed it was Tommy calling! She thanked God that Tommy and his family made it to the beach safely … it was Memorial Day holiday weekend … everyone knew how bad the traffic would be … how dangerous. “Thank you, Lord!” she breathed.
Tommy’s mother was smiling as she answered the phone. She couldn’t wait to hear Tommy’s voice tell her about being at the beach!
Her smile played on her lips … her smile didn’t know to stay or go. As she listened to the voice on the other end … her smile disappeared as she became confused … trying to hear the words a stranger spoke … but, not hearing them.
This is the last photo taken of Tommy … on the last day of his life … driving to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. May 29, 2010.
Oh my God! What did that man say? What? She asked him once again … “why do you have my son’s cellphone?” She had ignored his words … not wanting to hear them as if … the stranger would say something different … this time.
Her eyes filled with tears … oh God, help me! I can’t listen to the voice telling me … “what did you say?”
The stranger’s voice said, “Ma’am, I’ve got a man collapsed here on the beach … he isn’t breathing.”
Tommy’s mother tested him to see if … she said, “Is there a little blonde-headed boy with him?”
“Yes, ma’am”. His mother began calling for Skip … her mind had already slipped into darkness … following her happy smile. She died at that very moment. Please help me, Skip! Skip came running to take the phone from her hand.
While Skip talked on the phone … Tommy’s mother was looking out the windows into the forest … the stranger’s words in her mind. The phone … oh my God … the dreaded phone call people talked about! No! No! No! Oh my God! I can’t live with this, I can not live with this! Help me, Skip … I can’t deal with this!
Skip got off the phone, went to her. Skip! I’ve never taken drugs before … you are going to have to get me to the hospital … let them drug me. I can’t live with this, I can’t live with this. Oh my God!
Tommy’s mother wept … time went away … only blurry memories when looking back. She sat in the waiting room of the Emergency Room where she used to work at the same job the girl registered her, did. She slipped back into darkness … she became aware for a moment …
A family sitting across from her … blood, scratches on a woman’s face … someone mentioned dog bite. Tommy’s mother slipped back into darkness until …
She was sitting on a hospital bed … white sheets, all was sterile, cold around her … a doctor was speaking to her … all disappeared. She felt a needle … heard soft voices as she cried, blended into the darkness … she never thought of her smile she followed into darkness until several years later.
She heard Skip’s voice … she couldn’t see him. Are you okay? Can you hear me? She came to the surface of the darkness she was in … like a fish swimming up for a breath of air … said, “yes, I’m here”. She disappeared into darkness again.
Seeing a tiny, white pill in her hand … not knowing how many she’d taken … only that she was awake again … it was time to take another pill. What she knew was bigger than her … she couldn’t escape it … she couldn’t live with such knowledge because … she couldn’t … get away from herself. Oh my God, please help me! Tommy! Oh my God, my son! My son! Help me! I’m dying … my son’s dead!
She swallowed the pill quickly … all the while weeping … until once again … she was no more. She became darkness … she only surfaced to the light when she heard Skip’s voice … when she became aware … of why she stayed in the darkness … she slipped back into it.
For 3 years … and more … she didn’t live … she didn’t die … but, what was the difference? She didn’t know anything … when she became aware … the only thing she knew was … her only child whom she loved with her very heart … was … dead.
How could she know anything more than that? The knowledge always sat there when she began to become aware of the world … an obstacle like a huge boulder blocking the road … she wasn’t going anywhere excepting back to where she came from … the darkness.
She tried to come back to the light … her life. When she tried to see, find herself … she only looked blankly at the image in the mirror. She didn’t recognize it … back into darkness … nothing to hold onto here.
Many times after looking into the mirror at the stranger that stood before her … one day … the stranger smiled a little smile at her. She smiled back … the stranger seemed familiar at that very moment. She disappeared back into the darkness.
This went on and on … on and on … on and on ‘forever’. She never realized she was writing her pain, grief … she sat at her computer not thinking … only doing.
Tommy’s mother … Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee
How did she publish a book? How did she go through all the steps of self-publishing without remembering? How did she write over a thousand pages of grief, pain for her son … not remember one word she wrote? Today … she can’t bear to open the book … read even one page.
How did the house get cleaned? How did the clothes get washed? How did? How did? How did? How did? How did? And she not remember? How did she live … not remember? How? She never did get her questions answered as to ‘how?’ Somehow … she … did.
On May 29, 2010 on Saturday evening … at Myrtle Beach … there was a tall, blonde-headed guy running, playing with a little 3 year old boy … who looked just like him … two peas in a pod. “Daddy! Daddy! let’s play!”
The sea gulls sang … the ocean waves washed in on their feet … they squealed with delight. The sunshine was competing with the big guy’s smile of happiness doing the very thing he wanted to do most … why he’d just told his mother what he looked forward most to doing …. he was playing with his precious little son on the beach!
He felt the warm, ocean breeze caress his face with love. He looked up into the beautiful sky … he heard the seagulls call his name … Tommy, Tommy … come home! He looked down at his son knowing he had to leave … angels gently guided his body to the sand.
Angels nearby … came to protect the little boy until someone came. One of the angels picked up a cellphone that fell out of the big guy’s hand … pressed the last number dialed. “Ma’am, I have a man collapsed here on the sand … he isn’t breathing.”
Two hundred miles away … Tommy’s mother found out her son was dead before anyone else knew. Two hundred miles away … her son, only child … lay on the soft, ocean sand as the waves washed in from the sea … seagulls were singing in the air … the warm wind was caressing his body with love as his soul lifted into Heaven. “Come home, Tommy” … the seagulls sang.
Two hundred miles away … Tommy’s mother slipped into darkness as her son lay on the sand to be taken away … the next time she saw him was some time later after … an autopsy was done.
She stood at the wooden box … looking down on a familiar face. Her precious son! Oh my God! My son! Oh, oh, oh! Tears streamed out of her eyes as she wept … tears more than a storm … pain, grief more than any thunder, lightening. A wound deeper than any ocean in her very Heart.
Tommy’s mother reached out to touch her son’s hand. It was so cold … she patted it gently. She walked to the head of the wooden box … she patted her son’s wavy, strawberry-blonde hair … her tears fell onto his hair. She could feel the coldness of her tears on her hand as she touched her son’s head with such love … as if he were a baby.
Her hand felt something … what is that? Her fingers traced a line on his head … rough. A thought came into her mind … oh my God! Oh my God! That’s from the autopsy … she couldn’t take anymore.
Over the next days … in and out of the darkness when she was forced to become aware … memories … and more memories of floating like a leaf … blowing in the wind … stopping here, there … when the wind stopped blowing.
Light over the wooden box … silky lining inside … she peered closer … no! no! no! Her son lay there … she knew that face. Her baby, her child …
How do I know all of this … how would I know what a grieving mother would think, feel … describe true grief, pain?
I’m Tommy’s mother … this is only a small fraction of what I’ve shared here to let you for a moment … try to understand a mother’s grief when she loses a child.
I reached into the darkness where I know my grief, pain lives … brought it out just long enough for you to feel … see … understand so, that’s all you’ll do … and I pray you never-ever outlive your child to know it firsthand.
At this moment … in doing that … I am sobbing my Heart out. I miss my son so much. I wish he were here. It does hurt so badly. At this moment … I am still in the darkness I reached into to pull out my grief, pain … to share with you. I want to get out …. now.
I didn’t think I would be able to live with such knowledge in my mind. How did I find the strength to keep on living … when I was already dead in my mind?
How did I end up coping with such an awful knowledge … being able to live with something bigger than I am … inside me? Something so heavy … so very painful more than any pain you can feel … inside me … something you can’t even see to know it’s there?
How did I learn that everything was going to be alright … no matter what? How did I know I could live … knowing my own child died … have you stopped to think …. how in the world can a mother live … knowing her child has …. DIED? How? How? How? Have you any idea … how awful that is? How devastating that is? How … so END of the World that is?
How did I somehow know … no matter how bad … something good comes from it? Everything will be okay again. I have learned now … just those things. No matter what … somehow, everything is going to be alright again. I’m living proof.
Oh my God … my child died. It’s so hard to imagine, I know. I don’t want you to ever have to know the reality of losing a child … no parent should ever outlive their children.
I have made many new friends on my social media/Facebook/Twitter, etc. … my blogs. People ask all the time … what happened to your son?
Unknowing to all of us … and to Tommy … he had 3 blockages to his heart. He was only 40 years old.
No one knew the grief, survivor’s guilt, heartache, pain Tommy suffered exactly for one year … before he died.
Tommy lived with a stranger in his heart for one year … he saw the man’s life … story, face online … we all did. Grief, pain, survivor’s guilt … ‘killed’ Tommy. Once he told me, “Mama, that man must have been a better person than I.” He began sobbing after he said it. He couldn’t live with the knowledge he had been the cause of the man’s death. I couldn’t live with watching my son suffer so much.
Can you imagine my happiness that evening before he died … when he came to say he was looking forward to going on the family vacation to play with his little son for the first time … never knowing he’d make it there ‘just in time’ … to play with his little son for the first time at the beach … and it be … his last time? Leave on another journey … die?
Tommy and the stranger’s life collided that day when the man stepped out of his car into the oncoming traffic. We heard he may have been committing suicide … doesn’t matter what the stranger was doing … when he stepped out in front of Tommy’s truck … that was the beginning of the end of my son’s life.
I lived Tommy’s pain, grief with him … he called me every day to stay connected with his mama. I knew I was important to him … I knew he needed me no matter how many times he called each day. He didn’t have to say so … I knew.
When he died … I lived with the grief of losing my son … almost ending my life. I never knew I was living after he died … somehow I lived without realizing it.
It’s all a blank … I tell myself … I must have been doing something. I lived … amazing … after the worst storm of my life. I’ve battled cancer, survived many terrible things … losing my son was the worst thing to ever happen to me.
This may be the last time I tell anyone what happened … one would have to ‘dig through’ my blogs, Facebook to know.
As I have been writing this whole time … I have went from the light … deep into the darkness to pull my grief, pain … out for you to see, to learn what happened … as I come to this point in my story … I have completely come back out of that darkness. I am okay again … I wrote the grief away. I’m back outside … in the light again.
This may be the last time I tell anyone what happened that day … I can’t bear the pain of entering the darkness anymore.
My Tommy Dragonfly Tattoo in memory of my son, Tommy Mitchell Sidden. Born November 20, 1969 … Died May 29, 2010 … playing on the beach with his little son, Taban in the beautiful sunshine, wind blowing … waves washing ashore on their feet … wind blowing in their hair. The seagulls were singing as Tommy’s soul was lifted by the angels … to Heaven.
Note by this Author:
I think at some point in life we find out that it’s time to let go … put things where they have to be … in order to go on living. When you can’t change a thing … you waste time hitting your head against a wall.
Instead … when you are me … it’s better to stay positive … live the life I have before me … out to the fullest. The knowledge that I have to live with … knowing my son died … doesn’t destroy me, now. I made it … I can live with it now. I’m going to be alright … it’s okay, I’m okay.
There are those times I will become sad, cry … but, they are far and between. Those times don’t last … forever … now. I can grieve, go on with my life … I can even smile now. It’s okay for me to live now. It wasn’t ‘before’ … I mean in my mind … how could … I … live … when my son died? Now … I can.
Before I forget … I had a Tommy Dragonfly Tattoo done on my right shoulder in memory of my son, Tommy.
Jason Wilkins is the creator of this special tattoo … his shop is Dystink’d Tattoos … soon to be … Revelation Ink Tattoo & Piercings when he moves his shop to Raleigh (Wakefield) in March.
I’ll always be grateful to Jason for caring and making this one tattoo I’ll ever have probably … most special knowing it was in memory of Tommy. Now … I can touch this … dragonfly … for comfort, when I think of Tommy. He loved dragonflies. I loved my son. He loved his Mama.
Photos/true story owned, written by me … Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee.