Sunday, December 21, 2008


Today is Darrell's birthday. It hasn't been a very difficult day yet its hung in the background of my mind.

There were so many things I thought about writing about, I had a whole list of things sorted out in my mind about what he taught me and how he made me a better person, but instead I sit here in my robe remembering one of his most special birthdays.

Darrell hated his birthday being in December. He said that as a kid he always got combination Christmas and Birthday gifts. He rarely got parties because of its proximity to Christmas. So when we got married I promised myself that I would always make a big deal out of his birthday. One year we were living in Little Rock and we hadn't been away alone together in a very long time. With quite a bit of planning I planned a weekend away to Hot Springs. I found places for the kids to go and made reservations at a bed and breakfast. When Darrell wasn't paying attention I packed a bag for him and myself and hid it in the car. The only thing I told him was that I had a special day planned for us.

We left Saturday morning with me driving; he had no idea where we were even going but about halfway there I told him we were going to Hot Springs. We got there and wandered around the small downtown, eating lunch at a little cafe. About 4:30 I told him there was somewhere special I was taking him for a snack. The bed and breakfast, Lookout Point, served drinks and cookies at 5:00. I drove there and he was completely clueless and confused as to why we were parking outside a bed and breakfast. When we got out of the car I opened the trunk and showed him our suitcase. He was very pleasantly surprised.

It was wonderful weekend, although very short but Darrell loved surprises and he knew how much effort I had made to make it all happen and to keep it a surprise for him. I think he would say it was his best birthday ever. So what does that have to do with my robe?

The bed and breakfast was a very nice place and they had robes and slippers for the guests. The robes had a super soft outside fabric and the inside was French terry cloth, a very soft, fine terry cloth. When I put the robe on and loved it, reveled in it actually. When we got home, I opened the suitcase up to unpack and a robe was in there. I looked at Darrell in surprise and smiling he said "I knew you loved it so much that I bought it for you."

So I sit here tonight, tired but enveloped in love, finding it hard to believe it was only 5 years ago. Its seems like a lifetime.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Segment of Chapter 2

I sat in the waiting room but I was fidgeting and anxious. Darrell was behind those double doors with the small narrow windows, the answers to my questions were behind those double doors and everyone just expected me to sit there patiently waiting. I was about to lose my mind when the doors opened and I looked up with expectation. Two men in flight suits were coming through the door. One of them spoke to the receptionist and she looked at me and pointed. I slowly rose and walked towards them. I wanted answers but now I was afraid to hear them.

“Mrs. Swank?” One of them asked.


“Let’s go in the back and talk in private.” They led the way back through the double doors and I wondered if I was walking through the gates of hell. Was he dead? Had he died and that’s why they had to take me in private so when I flipped out I wouldn’t freak out the entire waiting room? My feet could barely move; I had to will myself to follow them afraid of what they were waiting to tell me.

Finally we entered a small exam room, an empty exam room. I was trying to keep myself in control. Completely losing it wouldn’t do me or anyone else any good. I had to pull it together. The men were on one side of the room and I was on the other. It was like there was a line in the middle, me against them.

“Where’s Darrell?” I asked, apprehensive of the answer. “I want to see my husband.”

“They’ve taken him straight up to the burn unit. It will be better this way. They try to take the burn patients upstairs and skip triage down here in the emergency room.” One the men answered.

I let out my breath; I hadn’t even realized I had been holding my breath in fear. I was momentarily relieved. He was alive. That was a good place to start.

The men introduced themselves. They were flight nurses with the Life Flight team “Your husband’s plane crashed just short of the Murfreesboro airport runway. He made it to Murfreesboro and was just short of the runway when his plane tipped and rolled. It burst into flames. The local emergency personnel found him on an embankment close to the plane.”

I took a moment to register this information.

‘He’s burned?”


“Very badly?”


The bottom seemed to fall out again but I held it together. My need for answers was stronger than my need to collapse. I was standing for this question and answer period and my shaky legs made me long for a chair but I mentally scolded myself. Your husband is upstairs burned and you want a chair. Rethink your priorities here. I found a piece of equipment to lean against.

“Darrell’s back was burnt as well as his arms, his side and his face. He also has a few burns on his legs. He suffered some smoke inhalation as well. As a standard precaution we intubate the patient on the site in case they have some breathing difficulties or their airways begin to close. We heavily sedated him for this so he is unconscious right now.”

I couldn’t bear to think of Darrell suffering in severe pain. “When can I see him?” I wanted to see him, I needed to see him. I needed to talk to him.

“They’ve taken him upstairs to assess him so they will probably take awhile. We’ll take you over to get his admission paperwork going and then you can go upstairs. Do you have any questions?”

My head was swimming with a million questions but I wasn’t sure if either man was capable of answering any of them. “No.”

Little did I know my husband would never speak to me again.