Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Finding Strength by Shevawn Michelle Blog Tour
Release Date October 15, 2015
My life has never been easy, per se. Sure, I have had some happy times, but more times than not, it seems life was out to get me. To take me down paths no one should ever have to face. From the time I was twenty-nine, life took a turn for the worse and all I wanted was to get off of the ride. I have gone from being on the highest mountain, to being in the deepest, darkest abyss. A place I wish on no one.
If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that life isn’t always fair. It’s what we choose to do with the hand that we have been dealt. How we learn to overcome or not, to move forward or to stay behind. One thing I know for sure, we must learn to overcome, survive, and to live and love. We must find our inner strength and grab onto it, no matter what form it comes in.
But I have also learned, that even then, sometimes it’s just not enough. And no one knows that better than I do. My name is Anna, and this is my story.
April 22, 2002
My friends shout as I round the corner of Amy’s house. My closest friends and their families are all gathered around the pool. There are also a couple of people that I don’t know standing among them. I smile at them with the biggest grin and make my way past the BBQ, containing hamburgers and hot dogs, being manned by Shane. Shane is Amy’s husband and a friend of mine as well. We all went to school together throughout middle and high school.
Amy makes a beeline for me, but it is not me that she is after. My two year old daughter, Lindsey, is attached to my hip. When she sees Amy, her little arms reach out for her and she wiggles until Amy takes her from me. Amy plants kisses on Lindsey’s cheeks while making loud smacking sounds. Lindsey’s brown curls dance around her head as she tries to dodge Amy’s onslaught of kisses.
“Your eyes are like little stars, Linds,” Amy coos to her. And they are. She has so much gold in them that you wouldn’t know, unless you were really up close, that they are a mix of green, gold, and brown.
Amy walks over to me and gives me a one armed hug.
“Happy birthday, Anna.”
“Thanks! You guys didn’t have to do all of this for me,” I tell her, although, I really appreciate it.
“Girl, you only turn twenty-nine once, and it is your last one in your twenties. Next year, you will be considered old!” she laughs as I swat at her free arm.
I mingle with all of my friends that have gathered, catching up with some of them, just shooting the breeze with others. I notice a really nice looking man over by the pool talking to Kolby, Shane’s brother. I have no idea who he is but his baby blues are extremely piercing.
He has short brown hair, almost buzzed at the sides, with it a little longer on top. His arm and leg muscles are well defined and bulge with every movement. He is wearing a pair of swim trunks, so I have a great view, leaving nothing to the imagination of his abs. Mystery man has a nice six pack going on, but it’s the tribal tattoo on his rib cage that catches my attention. I would love to see that up close.
When Shane announces that it is time to eat, I know I have to stop my ogling. Everyone files over to the food. You would have thought none of them had eaten all week as fast as they moved. I fix Lindsey and myself a plate and find an open spot at the end of the table Shane has set up in the yard. Mystery man takes a seat across from me. I am not sure if it’s just me, but I think it just got hotter out here.
“Hi, I’m Jacob Caulder,” he says as he extends his hand toward me.
“Hi, Anna Mitchell. This is my daughter, Lindsey,” I say, placing my hand in his for a friendly shake. Jacob squeezes my hand ever so slightly, or maybe I imagined it, before releasing it.
“Happy birthday,” he tells me.
“Thank you,” I reply with a smile.
Jacob and I talk while we eat. Just some friendly conversation. I learn he is single and I wonder how he hasn’t been snatched up yet. Someone that good looking you wouldn’t think would be single. Must be my lucky day. Jacob works as a correctional officer at one of Alabama’s maximum security prisons in Birmingham. That intrigued me enough to ask him about it.
“Isn’t that a pretty dangerous job?” I inquire.
“It can be. There are a lot of fights that break out. People carrying shanks and other weapons. Mostly, they tend to use them on each other instead of the guards. There are times though it gets out of hand and a guard gets injured,” he explains.
“Wow, that’s pretty intense. I am not sure I could handle that all day, every day.”
We finish eating and carry on our light conversation about things we like and dislike. I am finding that we have a lot in common and conversation comes very easy with Jacob. I think this has been one of the best birthdays I have ever had. So far.
The shade trees create a nice umbrella, blocking the sun’s rays. Only a few high clouds are floating in the otherwise blue sky. A gentle breeze helps take away the sting from the heat of the sun. For now, we all enjoy the good food, good company, and small talk between friends.
After dinner, everyone mingles around, or swims. A couple of the guys are playing a game of horseshoes. The sound of metal hitting metal, followed by hooting and hollering, echo throughout the yard.
“AA, come join us in the pool,” Shane yells at me. He calls Amy and me, AA, for Amy and Anna. I remind him that we are not quitters, all of the time. I say all of the time because both Amy and I did quit once. Back in college the guys were playing beer pong and Amy and I joined in. Needless to say, the toilet became our best friend halfway through the game. Yes, we quit, and neither of us have touched another drink since.
I take Lindsey inside, change her into her swim suit, and put her floaties on her arms. We stay in the shallow end of the pool. Lindsey loves the water and she is having a good time splashing water in Shane’s face. Shane has always been great with kids, but he and Amy have a special bond with Lindsey. They have been there for me and for Lindsey. Lindsey’s dad and I couldn’t make our relationship work. He still sees her when he can, but his job keeps him traveling, so it’s hard for him to find the time. Shane has pretty much filled that role in Lindsey’s life.
When the sun has almost set, and the light has faded, we head into the house to just hang out and watch a movie. Lindsey and I are staying the night so I don’t have to make the drive home in the dark. I take Lindsey into our room and get her out of her wet swim suit and into her pajamas. Her little eyes are already half closed, wore out from her swimming. I rock her in my arms until she falls asleep. I lay her down on the bed, tuck her in, and kiss her cheek.
“I love you, Lindsey bug,” I leave the lamp by the door on and the door open as I head back into the living room with the others.
When the movie is over, I stand and stretch my arms.
“I’m going to head to bed. Lindsey will be up early and I will need all the energy I can muster to keep up with her. Thank you for a great birthday everyone.” I look around the room at all of my friends, old and new, and think about how lucky I am to have such amazing people in my life. After saying goodnight, I make my way to the bedroom.
When I enter the room, my heart falls to my feet. I rush over to the bed that is now empty.
“Lindsey?” I call, frantically searching everywhere I can. Under the bed, inside the closet, the little cubbies under the stand the TV is sitting on. All empty. No Lindsey. “Lindsey!” I scream.
Amy comes running into the room. “What’s wrong, Anna?”
“She’s gone! She’s not in the bed! Lindsey is gone!” I yell, throwing blankets, pulling clothes out of the drawers, moving anything I can that may contain a hiding spot for Lindsey.
“Shane!” Amy yells.
When Shane enters the room, he looks around at the mess. I am sure I look crazy, but I don’t care. My baby is gone. Tears are streaming down my face, my chest heaving with sobs. Panic has overtaken me and I am running on fear and pure adrenaline.
“Lindsey isn’t in here. We have to find her!” Amy tells Shane.
“We’ll find her. I will check the rest of the house, you girls check the other bedrooms.”
Amy wraps her arm around my shoulder as she leads me into one of the other bedrooms. We check every place a two year old could hide, but still no Lindsey.
“Call 9-1-1!” I hear someone yell from somewhere else in the house. Frantically, I make my way into the living room. I see Heather, Jeff, Gabe, and Kolby rushing outside through the sliding glass door. I follow behind them, my body on auto pilot.
What I see stops me dead in my tracks. Shane is pulling my now lifeless daughter from the swimming pool. Her arms and legs limp and dangling with every movement Shane makes.
“Lindsey!” I scream. “No! No! Lindsey!”
As I try to run to her, two strong arms wrap around me. I try to get out of their hold, but I can’t. I continue to scream for my daughter until the paramedics arrive and take over. When I hear ‘CPR’ and ‘no pulse’, my legs go out from under me. The two arms holding me keep me from crumbling to the ground. I lean into the solid chest behind me and break.
Mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Screaming for my little girl as she is loaded on a gurney and placed in the back of the ambulance, Shane climbing into the back with her.
“I’ll take you to the hospital,” Jacob says. It was him who held me while I watched them work on my daughter. I don’t remember the car ride to the hospital or even making my way into the emergency room, but I will never forget the words spoken to me just moments after I arrived.
“I’m sorry. We did all we could do.”
Falling to the floor of the emergency room waiting area, I can do nothing more than cry. My heart is gone. My soul turned black with pain and has left me with nothing but a huge gaping hole. I don’t know why this has happened. I don’t understand any of it. Nothing makes sense anymore. She was only two. Her life was just beginning and now it’s over. A candle who’s flame has burned out, never to be re-lit.
My screams and sobs bounce off of the walls, the sounds of a mother’s worse nightmare come true, touching every person around me. I feel arms come around my shoulders, warm breath on my neck.
“Come on, let’s get you up off of the floor,” Jacob says, lifting me effortlessly in his strong arms. I go willingly, not having the strength to fight him. I can’t speak. I feel nothing but a pain so deep and strong that it burns me like a raging fire, leaving no part of me untouched. A bottomless abyss of agony. Time is at a standstill. I am lost in a dark place where there is no beginning and no ending.
The next few days pass by in a blur. Amy and Shane have been my saving grace. When I can’t seem to function, when even breathing becomes too hard, they step in and take control. I know they are hurting too; they love Lindsey just as much as I do. They have lost her as well, yet they do what needs to be done. Amy took care of the funeral arrangements. I couldn’t process losing her, and there was no way I was able to think about putting her in the dark, cold ground. Even though we haven’t said much to each other, our silence is comforting in a way. Just knowing they are here is enough.
The viewing for my Lindsey was held two days later. There were beautiful flowers surrounding her tiny casket. So many people came to see my baby girl. Lindsey looked so small laying there. Her hair framing her little face. No smile, no star like eyes to be seen, no life left in her body. The paleness of her face portraying her as a porcelain doll, beautiful, yet unmoving. I felt lost and abandoned standing over her. Heartbroken and angry, my grief knew no boundaries. Tears were my closest friend that day.
The darkness inside of me left me feeling numb. I went through the motions, but felt nothing aside from pain and heartache. Those two emotions seemed to have paired up with the numbness leaving me helpless to its power. Lindsey was my life. Everything I did revolved around her. Providing for her, taking care of her, and just loving her. Now, part of my life has been snuffed out and I am not sure how to begin to recover from this.
Does anyone ever recover from losing their child?
I’m sitting in the front row on a green felt covered chair. The gray clouds reflecting my mood. There are no rays of sunshine to brighten the day. Just as my ray of sunshine is now laying in the cherry wood box in front of me. It’s so small, the spray of yellow roses covers the entire top of the casket. Tears have filled my eyes, blurring the sight in front of me. One by one, my pain slides down my cheeks. I feel Amy’s hand slide into mine and I squeeze it tight, the only lifeline I have at this moment. Ricky, Lindsey’s dad, sits on my other side. His pain visible on his face. I don’t hear what the minister has said. I can only stare out into the nothingness my life is now surrounded by.
When the service is over, I accept the condolences of those who have come to say goodbye to my baby. It’s like I am a robot and someone is telling my body what to do. I don’t remember who came by, who said what, or if I even thanked them.
“It’s time to go, Anna.”
I look up into Amy’s tear filled eyes. Taking in one deep breath, I stand and walk the few feet to where Lindsey now lays. I place a kiss onto my finger and press it against the casket.
“I love you, Lindsey. Mommy loves you so much,” I choke out.
Ricky walks up to stand beside me. He whispers to Linsdey that he loves her. He places his arm around my shoulder, squeezing lightly, then he turns and walks away. I think this has been too much for him. Knowing he didn’t take the time he should have with his daughter.
Walking away made it real. I was leaving my baby girl alone here. My heart, what was left of it, crumbled into irreparable pieces. Just as we reached the car, the sun peaked out through the clouds, shining a lone ray of light onto Lindsey’s final resting place. I know then this is Lindsey’s way of telling me it’s going to be alright. I’m just not sure I can agree.
Shevawn Michelle lives just south of Atlanta, Georgia. She has been married to her
high school sweetheart for almost 21 years. She has two kids and three fur babies.
When she's not writing, she's blogging or reading. Her hobbies include, campfires,
fishing, and hanging out with friends. You can connect with her on her page by
clicking the link below...
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You can find Shevawn Michelle's other book on Amazon