I don’t have many words for this post (it almost leaves me speechless) other than this Mommy being an amazing inspiration. She is strong, she is caring, she is determined, she is brave, and she’s an amazing mother to two beautiful little girls. I think once you read Sara’s story you will realize why it leaves me in total awe and that we should never take a day on this Earth forgranted. Thank you Sara for showing us what true love means, even if our loved ones are no longer here with us physically.
Can you share briefly with our readers about yours and Adam’s love story?
It always makes me smile when someone asks this question. Such warm memories. Adam’s Mom used to call it “puppy love” back when we were 14. Adam was my first boyfriend in 8th grade. He used to pick at me in English class, steal my pencils, doodle on my papers, and tease me. Some might say, “typical boy crush”. We dated for several months. Funny story about our first kiss; it was my first kiss and I was nervous. He bugged and bugged me to kiss him. I was too shy. Finally he said, “I am going to jump off these stairs if you don’t kiss me right now.” Even though I knew he wouldn’t, that did it. After a few months I ended things because I felt like it was too much. Too intense. Ironically, I ended up dating a few of his friends in high school. We were always in the same circle of friends and he would always give me digs later in life about doing so. Again, he bugged me, teased me all the time until I finally gave in . That was Junior year. We had been together ever since. Always complete opposites with almost everything. He was my ying. He was always there to say ridiculous things like when I had a bad day at work he would say “Go tell them to eff off!”. He was outrageous, unapologetic, and said things like they were. Me.. not so much. I found I really missed his perspective, it was refreshing to have a thought process and opinion so different from mine. But in the most important things we were aligned – Love, Family, and Values.
The accident…Can you share a little about what happened to Adam and how your life forever changed that day?
Adam worked construction. The kind of construction where when roads are dug up, deep down they placed huge pipes to handle water utilities. I never really realized how dangerous it was or I probably would have been pushing him to get out. He is probably the hardest worker I have every known. Pushes himself to be the best at whatever he was doing. This got him “promoted’ at work from being a guy street level, to being the guy in the “hole”. (Again, I never thought about the dangers, or subconsciously my mind ignored it). The hole was the deep trench dug by the operate of an excavating machine. (Think big digger). The accident occurred on a job he had told me was rushed and explicitly told me it was dangerous. Odd, because he never really said that before. He was in a 17ft deep trench, and the operator did not see him. He was pinned between a large concrete pipe and the shovel of the excavator. (My neck is burning up as I write this..). He was taken to the hospital. I worked 40 minutes away and the drive seemed to last a life time. When I arrived, they told me his pelvis was crushed. That they were going into surgery to stop the bleeding. I remember asking, saying these words, “what does that mean? are you saying he might not make it?”. Then I texted my best friends and parents to let them know.
Adam made it through the surgery and I got to see him as they wheeled him to ICU. I touched his hand, and they kept wheeling. They told me surgery went well, they were able to stop the bleeders. A few relatives had met me and Adam’s parents in the ICU waiting room. We were talking, keeping it light hearted, when I heard the page – Code Blue. My heart sank. It was Adam. Typical of him, he started waking from the sedative and trying to pull out the treach. They took it out and he crashed. It wasn’t until days later that I would learn his heart was not beating for over 20 minutes. The Dr did not advise of that and told us he was stabilized. So I kept positive, joking with friends about when he came out of this. The next 12 days were the worst rollercoaster nightmares one could imagine. He wasn’t going to make it through the night, then he did, then things looked better, then he wasn’t waking up. I made the grueling decision to end life support. What was said to take a few hours, took a week for him to finally be at peace with our Lord.
I know it goes without saying that this was a life altering experience. At this time we had a 6 month old infant and 3.5 year old. I was still nursing. As a person who has always been very independent, a characteristic Adam frequently pointed out “Why are you so damn independent” (I would do things like go buy a new car on my own, put up shelves, fix the lawn mower.) I relied on friends, family, neighbors – I had no choice. Sometimes I wonder if God was prepping me for this chapter my whole life. The fact that I had a loving relationship for 15 years at such a young age. Adam worked out of town quite often so I was on my own quite a bit – spending time alone in the house, or as a “single” parent wasn’t new to me.
It’s been almost 3 years since you lost Adam, what has been your coping mechanism and how long did it take you to feel a sense of normalcy again?
I always felt like I had no choice but to keep moving forward. And honestly as I reflect, I didn’t even have a chance to think about not wanting to get out of bed. There was a baby who needed to be fed and a toddler who wanted my attention. I went back to work fairly quickly. Life was moving at such a fast pace for me I never really got a chance to grieve as one might think. For a long time after, I would look at my phone after work expecting a call from him. I dreamt of him constantly, and I often still do. I love when he visits me in my dreams. I’m not sure I feel like our life is normal. What is normal anyway? I have several neighbor “husbands” who help me with things I can’t do myself. My parents spend a lot of time here to help as much as they can. I struggled for a long time with being a “single” Mom because there are many negative connotations with that. I am not a single Mom. My kids do not have a dead beat Dad, we didn’t have a failed relationship. Sometimes I feel like I have to qualify that I am by myself because of tragedy. I still often reference “my husband”, then realize people are confused who don’t know me. I still say we quite often.
One thing I did was sign up for my first half marathon. I always wanted to do one, and felt like it would help me focus on something. Btw, I have never been a “runner”. I was encouraged by some lovely ladies/friends from my home town. Many runs I would cry as songs came up on my playlist that reminded me of him. I wondered what people thought of me at the gym, but eventually those same songs that made me cry became my power songs (listen to This is what it feels like by Armin van Burren). I ran that half, I didn’t get a spectacular time or anything, but I ran the whole thing – which was my goal. It showed me that I can accomplish anything. That I can do this “on my own” thing. I would be O.K. Grieving is a unique process to each person. I guess I dealt with it the way I needed to, to keep going – to keep from imploding. To survive.
How do you manage to still be an amazing Mother to your beautiful daughters when you are having down days?
That’s a nice compliment! I am not even close to being amazing, but I do try like everyone else. My girls see that I have to work hard, that there are things I have to ask for help with. They see me cry. They see me struggle. They see me so frustrated I scream, but in the end they know I love them with all my heart and soul. I tell them. I show them. We get it done together. They are my motivation in all things.
How do you find time for yourself and is that an important piece of healing?
I am beyond lucky to have wonderful close friends and family who really make sure I am ok. From watching the girls so I can go to dinner with my friends, to neighborhood Bunco. I also treasure my gym time where there is a kids club. I think it is important for any parent to find time for themselves.
How do you and the girls celebrate and honor Adam’s spirit?
One thing that is very important to me is keeping his memory alive. We talk about Adam all the time. I share memories and help Ella keep the memories she has of him. So much so, that when the girls are asked of their family, they talk about Mom, DAD, Sister and Rexy (the cat). That shows me I am doing this right. They have a Dad, he just isn’t here with them in our physical world. Their Dad loves them more than anything in the world. He was the proudest Dad you could imagine and I remind them of that. Randomly they will point out a start that they think is Daddy’s star. Or they will say, Mom do you think Daddy can see me? You bet he can. How lucky we are to have a guardian angel. We celebrate his birthday, not his death day. We celebrate Father’s day. We celebrate everything he was to us.
Were you able to find support group’s or are there any resources that you recommend for anyone else who may be facing a similar situation?
I did not seek out a support group. It wasn’t for lack of interest, but really lack of time. I found my support in other areas. My neighbors – we had just bought a brand new house and lived here for 6 months when Adam passed. I feel we were put here for a reason. I couldn’t ask for a more caring group of people who took us all under their wing. For that we are blessed. My friends and family, nothing but support. My running friends – talk about therapy. When I think back, with out that – I’m not sure how I would have coped. They pushed me, therefor I pushed myself. They encouraged me, they included me – even though we lived in different cities. Really they opened a door to a new community that is so inclusive and supportive. I recently joined a local running group. Check out your local Mom’s Run This Town chapter for an awesome running group – even for the non runner like me!
Written By: Sara Tilkens