Yesterday was four years since I got the call that no mom ever wants to get. It is always such a numbing day. In fact, the next six will be just as hard as we approach the day we finally had to let Jamie go. I’ll give a quick update and then I am going to share Chapter one in my book, Hold Me Long Enough to Fight.
I picked this title for two reasons, one being it is the name of a song Jamie wrote and produced. It is linked in the side column and two it reflects how I feel about any loved one being given TIME to fight if they are in a horrible accident.
I find that hard to believe it is has been four years since I have spoken to my son. He is never far away from my thoughts and yet the pain is not so intense and for that I am thankful. It is just painful as the days approach that he went to our eternal home and left us behind. I know he is fine, and wouldn’t come back IF given the chance but for those who miss him, it is a continual void in our lives every day.
In January, I went out on my own and started Savvy Realty Group. I have a fabulous team of buyer agents and we have had the BEST year in real estate since Jamie’s accident. So career wise life is good. We have had our up’s and down’s as a family as I have walked through numerous challenges with some of my children. I’m not going into details as it is their stories to tell if and when they want to.
I started a Healing Care course, support group that my former ObGyn and his wife teach in Ann Arbor and I am learning to let go of painful things that have happened over the years when Mike and I were in ministry. Although I had forgiven it is a deeper work that God is doing in my life. I desire more than anything to finish my race and accomplish the rest of what He has for me on planet earth.
I hope you enjoy Chapter one.
A Miracle for Jamie
I was humming along to the music on the car radio when the ringing of my cell phone interrupted me. I fumbled in my purse for it. Being a Realtor I was constantly on the phone and knew I’d probably let it ring through to voicemail this time. I glanced at the screen. It was a 615 number—a Nashville number, but not one I recognized. I was on the way to Nashville from Ann Arbor, Michigan to celebrate my granddaughter’s first birthday.
Thinking that my son Matthew, or Sharon, my best friend in Nashville, might be using a borrowed phone to check and see how far along I was, I answered.
A perfunctory female voice at the other end said, “Ma’am this is Vanderbilt Hospital Trauma Unit calling. Are you Jamie Caulk’s mother?”
Immediately, even before I had processed her words with my brain, my heart pounded, and my mouth went dry. “Yes, I’m Jamie’s mother. I’m driving to Nashville. What’s wrong?”
I knew I was speaking too loudly into the phone, but I didn’t care. Something was wrong, very wrong. Thoughts tumbled over each other, vying for my attention as I tried to understand the context of the conversation. Jamie must have given this person my number. Was he in trouble? Why was I talking to this woman and not Jamie?
Why didn’t they put Jamie on the line?
“Ma’am can you pull the car over?”
“Hold on,” I said as I pulled the steering wheel to the right and eased the car onto the shoulder. I sat for a second acutely aware that I was about to hear something unfathomable. I took a deep breath and said, “Okay, I’ve pulled over; please tell me what’s wrong.”
The woman’s voice remained flat and detached. “I am a social worker in the Trauma Unit. Your son,
Jamie was in a car accident early this morning. The accident was near Vanderbilt Hospital, so the EMTs were able to get to him very quickly. He was conversant when he was brought in. The doctors were stabilizing him so they could perform surgery on his neck when he had an episode and had to be intubated. He has not had any feeling below his nipples since he arrived.”
I struggled to take in what was being said. What did she mean stabilizing him for neck surgery and no feeling? Was she telling me my son was paralyzed? Was that what the surgery was for? And it all happened early this morning. Why hadn’t she called hours ago? Hadn’t I checked my phone before I started out? There were no messages. It made no sense. Perhaps it was a huge mistake. I checked the clock.
“It’s 10:00 A.M., why am I just now being called?”
“Your son is 27, he’s an adult. On his admission form, he requested that no one in his family be informed. When he was no longer able to communicate, the medical team deemed his situation critical and were legally able to override his request.” ( Found out when I got the medical records this was not true as in his own handwriting he had written down my name and cell phone number.)
I felt my body start to shake. It was all I could do to hold the phone. No longer able to communicate…deemed critical… neck surgery… paralyzed… Visions of Jamie throwing the football 40 yards down the field to Seth Belinsky flashed in my mind; Jamie skating down the ice with his arms raised when he scored a goal in hockey; Jamie sitting at ESPN in Nashville doing a radio broadcast.
Now I imagined him laying on a gurney in a room filled with electronic devices, all alone with none of his family there with him.
Thoughts of my youngest daughter Allyssa being in a car accident in 2007 flashed through my mind too. I remembered the roller coaster ride; first the terror of being told she’d been t-boned by a truck then the relief of hearing she was not badly injured, followed by the shock of seeing her the next day and realizing she had a broken pelvis, ruptured bladder and a traumatic brain injury. That had been five years ago. But look at Allyssa now, I told myself, she’s healthy and fit. Jamie is strong and fit and young, he’ll pull through this. I just need to get to him.
“What should I do?” I asked the social worker.
“You need to get to the hospital quickly but safely, ma’am. How far away are you?”
“About seven hours,” I said, “but my son Matt, Jamie’s brother, lives in Nashville. He can be there in
“Fine,” said the voice. “Have him go to the entrance of Vanderbilt Trauma Unit then up to the tenth floor.
“Drive safely,” said the social worker as the phone clicked off. I speed-dialed Matthew’s number, knowing that I was about to change his plans dramatically; his daughter Presley’s first birthday would be taking a back seat now.
“Matt, we don’t have time to waste,” I said, imagining how odd this must sound. “Get over to Vanderbilt Trauma Center, Jamie was in a bad car wreck early this morning.”
“Early this morning? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“I just found out. Apparently he didn’t want any of us to know, but now he’s critical. You have to go now.”
“What’s wrong with him? Did they tell you what’s wrong?”
I took a deep breath, Matthew, my second child, and oldest son, was always the one who needed answers, but now was not the time. “I don’t know Matt. They said something about him being okay when he got there and then some neck surgery and then he crashed. Please, I need to hear you tell me he ‘s going to be okay. Get in your car now, okay?”
“On my way, Mom,” Matthew said, “I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.”
“Thank you,” I replied, “And pray Matt—pray hard.”
“Yes, Mom,” Matt replied softly. And I knew he would. Matthew had a close walk with the Lord. As a family, we had always been there for one another and prayed together during challenging times.
I don’t know how long I sat motionless in my car on the side of the freeway. I wanted to go but was afraid I was too panicked to drive. My mind raced a mile a minute over the conversation with the social worker at the trauma center. Had she said Jamie was still alive just to get us there? Was he already dead and she didn’t want to tell me on the phone? It was something that happened in movies, wasn’t it? I imaged Jamie lying with a sheet pulled over his head. Waves of nausea rolled over me. I wanted to wail, but I forced myself to stay calm. I dialed Matt again.
“I’m almost ready to get off I-65, Mom, only about ten minutes away. Not much traffic. Have you heard anything more?”
“No,” I said. “Matt, find out if Jamie is dead and they are just telling me he is okay until I get there. Promise; make them take you to him. You have to see him. Don’t take no for an answer.”
“Okay, Mom,” said Matt, “I’ll make sure I see him, and I’ll call you as soon as I do. If there’s something…wrong”—he choked up at the word—“I’ll tell you, I promise.”
I took a few deep breaths and remembered my husband. Mike was a social studies teacher at Belleville High School. He’d be in class now. If I called he would pick up the phone since he knew I would only interrupt him in an emergency. But I couldn’t tell him the little I knew over the phone. He’d already had two heart attacks and needed to hear this news as gently as possible. Instead, I called our oldest daughter Christa. As calmly as I could speak, I told her what I knew. I asked her to drive to Belleville and tell her dad in person. I also asked her to call the rest of the family to let them know what was happening.
After I’d flicked the phone shut I turned the car key and eased the Lexus back onto the freeway. I felt numb—empty—useless—a million miles away from my beautiful son who might be dying right that minute.
I gripped the steering wheel as tears flowed down my cheeks. “Keep him, safe Lord,” I prayed, “Keep him safe. Wrap your arms around him and keep him safe. We need a miracle right now, a miracle, please Lord, a miracle for Jamie.”
Thanks for reading Chapter 1.
I love you, James Lindsay Caulk, I miss you so much, but I will see you soon.