‘I opened my mouth to say, ‘No, don’t go,’ but the words never came out. ‘Why don’t you come?’ I took one last look.’: Young widow shares grief journey after losing husband in car accident

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“November 15, 2018 changed my life forever. It was a cold and snowy Thursday in Virginia when my husband and I woke up early in the morning. By 6:30 a.m. we were running around in the yard with our German Shepard who loved the snow. As my husband and I walked back up the steps to go inside the house I said, ‘I can’t wait to get a fire going!’ As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I got the feeling I would be regretting those words for the rest of my life.

Courtesy of Anna McGehee

Once inside the house, I laid down on the couch as my husband paced in the kitchen. Eventually he said, ‘I’m going to the store to get wood for a fire. Need anything?’ I got a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I opened my mouth to say, ‘No, don’t go,’ but the words never came out. Instead, my husband said, ‘Well, why don’t you come with me?’ I pondered this over and eventually nodded my head in agreement.

As he walked out the door to go warm up the car, I thought, ‘He didn’t say bye to Addie (our German Shepard).’ This had never bothered me before, so I wasn’t sure why it did now. As I closed the front door I said to Addie, ‘Bye my love. We’ll be back in a minute,’ like I always did. This time though, I got the feeling we weren’t coming back, and so I turned and took one last look at her.

As I got in the passenger seat, I was distracted by the cold and didn’t mention any of these thoughts to my husband. As we pulled out of the driveway I suddenly said, ‘Be careful! We’re going to hydroplane.’ My husband looked at me like I was crazy, and I shook my head, not really sure where that came from. Looking back, I believe God was trying to prepare me for what was about to happen.

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Living in a rural area, we departed down the back roads to the store, only 2 miles away from the house. Only a minute away from the store, all of a sudden, I heard my husband say, ‘Oh crap.’ I look up and see the car swerving to the right side of the road, inches away from hitting the guardrail. Not realizing what was going on, I said, ‘What are you doing?’ Suddenly, my husband pulls the wheel left, and I realize we were sliding on ice.

With no control of the car, we ended up on the wrong side of the road. To make matters worse, we were right in front of a sharp curve, so oncoming traffic couldn’t see us until it was too late. As my husband tried to get the car back into the correct lane, I see a large SUV come around the corner. I stare at the SUV, watching it come closer and closer. Eventually I closed my eyes as I felt the impact of the crash. The SUV hit straight into my husband’s door. As our car slid from the impact, I kept praying the car would stop moving. What was only seconds felt like a lifetime. But eventually, the car came to a stop, and I opened my eyes.

I remember feeling like my lip was busted, as I crunched the glass between my teeth. I slowly began looking at my body, seeing if anything was out of place or broken. Everything looked fine, until I realized it was silent in the car. My husband wasn’t talking or asking me if I was okay, which was completely unlike him. Scared to look, I took a deep breath and finally turned towards my husband. I screamed like I never had before, a scream so loud it still haunts me today. My husband was leaning towards me, blood pouring out of his ears. I screamed his name over and over and shook his body, but it was limp and lifeless. I put my fingers to his neck, trying to find a pulse but there was none. Shaking, I grabbed his wrist and tried to find a pulse there, still none.

I grabbed my phone and dialed 911. A woman answered right away, and I screamed, ‘He’s dead! I think he’s dead. There was an accident.’ She asked me who was dead, and I screamed, ‘My husband!’ She asked where we were, but I was panicking and couldn’t remember the name of the street. She told me to try to get my husband out of the car and perform CPR. I pushed my door open and ran around to my husband’s door. Yanking on the handle, the door was too badly smashed in and wouldn’t open. I ran back around to my door and jumped in the car. My heart stopped. My husband’s once beautiful green eyes were now open and looking up, lifeless. I screamed and began to panic even more, feeling so helpless. Suddenly, my senses started to kick in, and I could hear our horn blaring, ‘Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep.’ I still hear the sound today, and I remember just needing it to stop, as I looked around, unsure of what to do.

Suddenly, a man and a woman in military uniforms came running up to me. They pulled me from the car, and the man got inside to check out my husband. He yelled to another man to grab his CPR kit from his car, as the woman pulled me off to the side of the road, away from the car. I paced back and forth, and the woman told me to stay still because I could have injuries myself. All of a sudden, I realized my chest and ribs were hurting.

‘I need to call our family,’ I finally thought. I called my husband’s dad first but no answer, so I called his mom. As she answered the phone, she immediately knew something was wrong as she heard me sobbing. Trying to calm me down so I could talk, I managed to tell her David and I were in a car accident. When she asked if we were alright, I just kept saying, ‘So much blood. There’s so much blood,’ over and over. David and I, living in Virginia, and our family in Florida, his mom said she was looking up plane tickets now and going to fly up. She still didn’t know David’s condition, but we had to hang up because the ambulance had finally arrived.

Courtesy of Anna McGehee

The EMT’s sat me down as they began to check me out. They kept me out of sight from our car, so I couldn’t see what was happening. I kept asking them, ‘How’s my husband? Is he okay? What’s going on with him?’ Everyone just kept telling me, ‘We’re working on him,’ so I assumed they were trying to revive him. I would find out later, this wasn’t the case.

Finally, a second ambulance arrived, and they loaded me up on a stretcher. Taking off to the hospital, the EMT’s began cutting my clothes off my body. I didn’t even care. Tears were streaming down my face, as I kept praying over and over for God to save my husband.

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When we arrived at the hospital, a handful of doctors surrounded me as they each began to examine a different part of my body. With all of this going on, a male chaplain walked up and introduced himself. ‘No, no, no. My husband, is he okay?’ Seeing the chaplain, I knew something was wrong. As I asked him about my husband, he looked confused and shook his head, saying he didn’t know anything. I later realized everyone knew my husband was dead, except for me. I wouldn’t believe it until someone told me for sure.

After tests were run, I sat in a hospital room alone. My sister and my husband’s aunt were an hour away and coming to me as fast as they could. My mother-in-law called me back, asking if I had any news of David. But I told her no one would tell me how he was.

Eventually, two officers showed up to my hospital room. My heart was pounding. I wasn’t ready for the truth. The officers introduced themselves and then asked me for my statement of the accident. When I was done explaining what happened, one of the officers looked at me and said, ‘Due to the injuries your husband sustained during the accident, he didn’t make it.’ I shook my head. ‘He didn’t make it,’ I whispered.

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I began to scream even louder than before, and the tears wouldn’t stop coming. Eventually, I managed to say, ‘Do you need anything else from me?’ The officers said no, but explained they had to stay with me until family arrived. I nodded my head and told them I needed to call our family. They asked me if I wanted them to make the calls for me, but I told them I needed to do it myself.

I called my mom and told her the news. I wasn’t ready to break my in-law’s heart, but my mom told me they needed to know now. I hung up with her and called my mother-in-law. As soon as she answered, she was silent.

I whispered, ‘He didn’t make it.’

I could barely hear her as she asked, ‘He didn’t make it?’

‘No, he didn’t make it.’

I heard her drop the phone, and the call ended. It was the hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make. How do you tell a mother her son has died?

Still waiting for my sister and aunt to arrive, a new female chaplain stood in the room with me and the officers. She held my hand and kept asking me if I wanted her to pray for me, but I rejected her each time. ‘What was there to pray for? My husband was dead. Prayer wasn’t going to bring him back now.’ Then the words, ‘I’m 25 years old and a widow. I’M 25 YEARS OLD, AND I’M A WIDOW,’ resounded in my head.

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‘This doesn’t happen to me. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to us.’ I was silent and still until my sister arrived. As she pulled back my curtain, I began sobbing once more. ‘I can’t do this,’ I repeated over and over. She grabbed my hand and said, ‘Yes you can do this. You are so strong and have so many people who love you.’ I cried even harder as David’s aunt walked through the curtain. When I was finally able to stop crying, I handed my phone to my sister. ‘Can you clean this up?’ David’s blood was all over my phone, and I needed my sister to begin to make calls to our jobs and other relatives. As she made the calls, the chaplain asked me if I wanted to talk. I shook my head no.

Once my sister was done, she asked the nurse for a towel so she could wipe the blood off my face and hands. I was hesitant about her wiping the blood off my hands because it was David’s blood, and it felt like it was the last thing I had of him.

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When my test results came back, I found out I had a fractured rib and a bruised lung, but that was it. With this news, I was released from the hospital.

Within only a matter of hours, I had to drive back through the accident site, which was already cleaned up, in order to go back home. As I rode in the car I kept thinking, ‘Why God? Why? Really? You had to kill my husband in order to prove my love for you!? Well, I hope you’re happy. I’m still here, and I still love you, but I’m angry.’ It was hard, but in that moment, I decided I could either use God to get through this, or stay angry at him and stray away. The choice was easy. I knew the only way I had any chance of surviving this was with God’s help.

When I entered the house, Addie ran up to me excited, until she smelled my hands and sensed something was wrong. I broke down at the sight of her reaction; it broke my heart.

That same night my mom and David’s parents and brother flew up to Virginia. I couldn’t look at his parents when I saw them for the first time. I felt guilty and ashamed. I was afraid they would hate me. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I kept saying. But they held me in their arms and told me I had nothing to be sorry for, and they loved me.

That night, I sat in bed with my mom, crying. I told her how guilty I felt, how I was the reason we were going to the store in the first place. She then reminded me of the Bible verse Job 14:5. It talks about how God knows the day we die. God has planned out our lives before we are born. This gave me so much peace, knowing David was going to die whether I was the reason we went to the store or not. I just had to trust God did it in the best way possible for me and David. I think God knew I needed to be with David in his last moments, no matter how painful.

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The day after the accident was a hard one. I hadn’t slept the night before, sobbing every few hours. During the night, I heard my in-laws crying loudly in the room next to me, and it only made me cry even more. I couldn’t imagine the pain they were feeling. As I tried to get out of bed, every bone in my body ached. I felt like I had been hit by a train. I was so weak my mom had to help me bathe and get dressed. Eventually, I decided that was too much, and I went three days without showering or changing my clothes.

Throughout the day, I would try to rest and close my eyes, but the memories were too much. I was taken to the doctor. I couldn’t close my eyes without screaming and seeing my husband’s lifeless eyes. I had PTSD, and I needed help. The doctor prescribed me Xanax. I remember her pulling my mom outside the door and hearing her tell my mom to be careful, because I could overdose if taken with my other medication. I knew they were worried I would try to hurt myself.

As the day passed, I would feel better when the medicine kicked in, but as soon as it wore off, the memories and pain returned. The flashbacks were killing me, and I needed someone to know what happened to me. I needed someone to know what I saw, what I went through, what happened to me — I just didn’t know how to explain it all.

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Two days after the accident, my in-laws were finally able to go see David’s body at the funeral home. I didn’t go. I didn’t think I could handle it. I was afraid of what his body would look like. My mind imagined the worst, and I just pictured him all bruised up and broken.

When my in-laws got back, I asked them if he looked like himself, and they said yes. They then told me what they found out from the officers and funeral home.

Apparently, my husband was never taken to the hospital. He was still stuck in the car when they took me away in the ambulance. It turns out, they were waiting until I was taken away in the ambulance so they could cut my husband out of the car. The damage was so bad, they had to cut him out of the car! I couldn’t believe it. Once out of the car, he had already been dead for so long, they took him straight to the funeral home. The officers then explained the crash further to my in-laws.

Apparently, when the SUV saw our car, they tried to brake and ended up sliding on ice, changing their course and accelerating their car straight into my husband. Initially, the SUV was only supposed to clip the back end of our car, like I thought was happening, but the ice changed its direction.

My in-laws then explained the medical staff told them my husband had almost broken every bone in his body and was very fragile. I was in disbelief. How did my husband break, essentially, every bone in his body and all I ended up with was a fractured rib? My mom told me she thinks I was surrounded by angels protecting me. As I thought about it more, I began to think she was right. When the car was sliding on ice and I saw the SUV coming towards us, I was unexplainably calm. I remember not being scared because I trusted David could handle the situation, but I also trusted God would protect me.

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Monday, four days after my accident, my family flew me back home to Florida, where David’s funeral would be held. I thought being at home would bring me some comfort, but it only made me feel worse. It reminded me of all the memories David and I had made there. I was depressed and couldn’t stop the thoughts from coming. ‘I don’t want to be here. I can’t do this.’ I hadn’t prayed since the accident because I didn’t have words, but my depression was so bad I finally said, ‘Lord, please know my heart and give me what I need,’ as I laid in bed Monday night, crying.

Tuesday morning came and the depression hit me as soon as I opened my eyes. The same thoughts flooded my mind as I sat on the couch. ‘Please God, I can’t do this. Please take me, too.’ As these thoughts raced through my mind, I suddenly heard a voice. The voice said, ‘Give it one more day.’ I immediately knew it was the Lord speaking to me. ‘But I can’t do this,’ I responded back. Again he spoke to me, ‘Try saying, ‘I can do this.’’ Nothing to lose. I said, ‘I can do this,’ but it didn’t feel right. I didn’t believe it yet. Instead I changed it to, ‘Maybe I can do this.’ All of a sudden I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I didn’t realize it, but by saying, ‘I can’t do this,’ I was dooming myself to fail.

The next morning, I awoke and sat up in bed. ‘Okay God,’ I said, ‘Today is one more day. Let’s see what you’ve got.’ I went through the to do list for the day: going to the flower shop to pick out an arrangement for my husband’s casket (the same flower shop that made my wedding bouquet), and then going to the funeral home to pick out my husband’s casket and make the arrangements. I thought, ‘Good luck God. I don’t see how any of this is supposed to make me feel better.’ I couldn’t see how this ‘one more day’ was going to change my mind, but I set out on my way anyway.

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The flower shop was hard, but the funeral home was even harder. As I sat in the office with my in-laws and David’s grandparents, I thought, ‘I’m only 25. How am I supposed to plan my 27 year-old husband’s funeral?’ After picking out the wood we wanted for his casket and the writing we wanted on his headstone, the funeral director left the room to finalize the paperwork. As we sat there in silence, finally David’s grandmother turned to me and said, ‘You know, I realized the other day that David was, and always has been a child of God. God didn’t take him away from us, but he simply brought David home.’ This really hit my heart and began to change my perspective.

The rest of the day was spent walking my dog and spending time with David’s family. By the end of the day, I was surprised. I actually felt better. As I went to bed that night, I said, ‘Okay God, I’ll give it one more day.’ Each day from then on, I woke up in the morning with the mindset of taking it one day at a time. I couldn’t think of tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year. I had to take it minute by minute. Over time, God began to heal me through therapy (A LOT of therapy), love from family, and support from friends. God surprised me with little signs from David that reminded me he would always be with me. Each day I get stronger, even though I don’t feel it sometimes.

It’s now been one year and six months since David died. In two more months, I’ll have been a widow longer than I had been married. David and I married in March of 2017. Even though our marriage was short, our love for each other was great. I can’t change what happened to us, and no matter how much I want him back, I know that won’t change. But, I keep pushing forward knowing I’ll see David again one day.”

Courtesy of Elli Jane Photography
Courtesy of Anna McGehee

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Anna McGehee of Orlando, FL. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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