Sunday, February 9, 1997
That day was like any other Sunday, except that it was the last Sunday in the house we had built and lived in for ten years. We were moving in five days, on Valentines Day. All the girls (Amy 21, Jamie 20, Miranda 18 and Kathryn 12) were to come home that weekend and help pack their stuff. Amy was a full time student at Southern Tech in Marietta, Jamie lived with her cousin, Kristie, in a new apartment in Lawrenceville and Miranda was a senior at Central High. Kathryn was a seventh grader at Richards Middle School.
I got up and went to church, as usual, taught my Sunday school class and fixed dinner when we got home. Afterwards, Jim and I went down to the basement to start going through things, packing what we wanted to keep and tossing out the junk. Amy arrived about 2:00 and started through her boxes of school memories. Miranda helped until about 3:00 and then announced she was leaving to go over to Heathers house. I asked her to call Jamie to find out where she was and Miranda replied, Oh, she and Kristie took off this weekend with Sarah to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I was furious! How could she be so selfish and not be here when I needed her? And this was a special weekend that we could all be together, as a family, in our home. We may never have a chance to come back into this house. But, I knew Jamie, and she thought she could get back in time to come over and pack her things. And Mom would get over it, just as she always does!
As I took a box off the shelf, I found Jamies cast when she broke her thumb. She is the only child to ever break a bone. She was tall, slender and at times clumsy. She had a heart of gold and the biggest eyes that would fill with tears if someone were hurt or sad. So sensitive and loving. All her friends and cousins had signed the cast. I smiled as I put it in a box for her.
Next, I found a zip lock bag with strands of blonde hair, about eight or nine inches long, with a note inside. In Jamies handwriting was the date of her first real haircut. She was meticulous about dating and recording information. I am so fortunate that she had the foresight to record her special moments in her life!
Going through a lot of storage boxes, I came across Jamies baby blanket that I made her. It wasnt her blankie because that was gone years ago. You see, Jamie sucked her thumb from the time she came home from the hospital. And she rubbed the satin edge of her blankie between her forefinger and thumb. It was a blue, thermal blanket. Everyone fussed at me for not breaking her of the bad habit and warned me it would ruin her teeth. Jamie is the only child I had that did not need braces! She had perfect white teeth. The envy of all her sisters.
In the box went the blanket. As I put the top on the box I wrote Jamies name on it. Instinctually, I patted the top of the box. I felt a moment of silliness and wondered why I would lovingly pat the box. Then, as I stood up, I got a sharp pull on the left side of my neck. Suddenly I was over whelmed with a feeling of exhaustion and a need to go the bathroom. I slowly climbed the stairs and as I sat on the toilet, I rubbed my neck while shifting and turning my head. As I went back to the basement door, I called down to Jim, Honey, lets take a break. Im tired.
Then I sat in my chair with my feet on my ottoman; covered with a throw blanket my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas. As I snuggled into the cushions I turned my head to the right and received a sharp pain. Turning over to the left I fell into a deep, deep sleep. The kind of sleep, which has no dreams and is hard to wake up. I think Amy left to go back home to her dorm then too. It was about 4:00 by then.
After I was fully awake, around 7:00, I gathered my antique clock and Jim took a few oil painting and we walked next door to my twin sisters house. We planned on bringing our prized possessions to the new house in our car. They agreed we could store them there until Friday. My brother-in-law, Mark, was the only one home. I asked where JoAnne was and he said, Kristine called and the car she was riding in broke down somewhere in Mississippi. Jo had to go rescue her and a few of the other kids. I asked why she didnt call me to go with her and he answered, because you were busy packing and Jamie wasnt in the car with Kristie. She left in another car with Sarah and Terry. Kristie is upset because she has been calling their apartment all day and Jamie hasnt come home yet. I didnt think anything of it except that maybe they turned around to go find Kristie or had pulled off the road to wait for them to catch up.
It was dark as Jim and I walked back home and we were holding hands. The air was nippy and I was aware of the warmth of our hands. I had a fleeting thought, If Jamies car broke down, then she would just have to find another way home. She was suppose to be here this weekend and Im not driving all over the world to get her! I knew it was not a valid thought, because I would go to the end of the world to get her! However, later I would remember how heartless the thought was and the regret of just thinking it would tear through to my heart!
I continued to pack up the Kitchen and Laundry room until about 10:00. Then I got ready for bed and watched a little TV [in bed] with Jim. I must have dosed off when I heard the alarm beep that someone had opened a door. Miranda wasnt home yet from Heathers house and I thought it was her. Then I heard a quiet knock on my bedroom door. Come in I said. It was Mark, dressed in his brown robe and slippers. I was surprised to see him. He came over to my side of the bed and sat down at my feet. His hands were in the pockets of his robe.
I have something to tell you his voice began to crack. Jim rolled over and sat up in bed. There was a terrible accident today and Jamie was killed. I started kicking him with my feet and screaming. No. No. No, not my Jamie! Then I saw headlights from a car coming down the driveway. For a moment I thought it was her. Then Mark told me it was the Gwinnett County police and that they have to inform the family when someone dies in an accident. They went to his house by mistake, that is why he knew first. I began pacing between my room and the living room. Kathryn came out of her room and was standing in the upstairs hall that overlooked the living room. I heard the officers steps as he came up the front porch. I flung open the door and screamed, Get off my porch! You have the wrong house! as I began hitting him on his chest, he grabbed my wrists and I collapsed to the floor. My daughter is not dead! Shes not dead! You have the wrong house! Shes not dead!! The officer started to cry too. Mark and Jim brought me back in the house and Kathryn and I grabbed each other. I began to tremble and shake uncontrollably. I couldnt breathe! My heart was pounding as if I had just run a marathon. Kathryn sat beside me with her hands on her mouth crying uncontrollably and shaking her head no. Thirteen is such a young and tender age. How she will miss growing up without her favorite sister!
Mark brought me back to reality. We need to call the Bishop and the family. Do you want me to do it? I just looked at him. He picked up the phone and called the Bishop. Do you want to use Tim Stewart funeral home? I responded by just shaking my head yes. They are just down the street. That would be convenient, I thought, without really thinking. Im so confused!
Next Mark called Mom and Pop Quillen. Im not sure who answered the phone but when Mark handed it to me it was Pop. I could hear Mom saying, Oh my God, Oh my God in the background. I dont remember anything else that was said. Amy picked up Miranda from Heathers house and brought her home. We all embraced and nuzzled together, blending our tears in unbelief. One by one my sisters, my mother, my only brother and my cousins arrived. I dont remember any one talking, just a lot of crying and silence. I think I went back to bed around 5:00 in the morning.
Jim was so kind to me. He willingly slept on the couch when I told him I wanted Amy, Miranda and Kathryn to sleep with me. I didnt want to let any of them out of my sight! I am their Mother. Its my job to protect them from harm. How could Jamie be dead? How I have failed her!
Monday, February 10, 1997
Slowly during the day, my friends began to come over. Brenda Brown, Melissa Mills and our Relief Society President, Carol Cheesman. I remember Brenda and Carol packing stuff and Melissa, who is my life long friend (since we were three years old) sitting at my feet, holding my hands and telling me how sorry she was. Our Real Estate agent, Jan Edwards came by to offer her condolences and offer any help. My sisters and brother asked me to look through Jamies papers and pictures to give the funeral home. I just threw out so much of Jamies school papers! And the negatives to the pictures, I only kept the pictures! I was so distraught and condemned myself for such a stupid act! The regret began to eat at my stomach and would keep me awake at night for the next six months!
JoAnne had not returned home from picking up Kristie and the other kids. Mark said she called and they went to Mobil Alabama where Willie, the driver of the car was in critical condition. Mike, who was in the car with Kristie, was Willies best friend and wanted to see him. Then they went to Greenville to look for the car. They were able to get pictures and found Jamies purse and wallet still in the car! So was her pillow and tennis shoes. The hatch back area, where Jamie was thrown into during the accident, had so much blood! JoAnne knew it was her blood. I will be forever grateful to my sister for doing this for Jamie and me. Its almost as if Jamie led her to the people who helped her find the car. They said the accident was the talk of the town all day!
Finally at about 10:00 that night, JoAnne and Kristie made it home. JoAnne hugged me and I began trembling and shaking again. She told me all about their trip meeting Willies parents (he is an only child), how they saw the accident site and that Willies parents had put flowers on the tree. She told me how the car tacks went down the embankment and that a large section of tree bark was cut off the tree. She told me how the Mustang had hit the drivers door and wrapped around the tree. She said they took pictures of the tree, too. They looked all around the area for anything that may belong to Jamie and found a lot of Marti Gras beads, parts of the car, glass and that the ground was soaked in gasoline and oil. I was so glad to have Jamies shoes and her pillow. One corner had several large bloodstains on it and I just held it to my face. The smell of her blood made me a little nauseous but it was all I had of Jamie and gave me a small sense of comfort. Kristie gave me Jamies gorilla. She slept with this soft, plump stuffed animal every night. It became my sleeping companion for the next year.
Tuesday, February 11, 1997
My sister Stephanie arrived from Florida. I rode in her car to the funeral home. I could hardly put one foot in front of the other. I Did Not Want To Do This! Its not right! Jamie is not supposed to die before me!
I was taken into a conference room and sat down in the first chair on the right side of the table. Jim sat beside me and my family sat around the rest of the table. Mr. Stewart sat at the top of the table beside me. He asked me about family names to be put in the newspaper, where were we going to bury her and what kind of memorial book I wanted. Fortunately, my family was able to give the correct names and relationships. I had no idea where Jamie would be buried and I just stared at the different books they put before me. Finally, I picked the pink one with roses on the front. Roses are Jamies favorite flower.
Then I was escorted into a room with caskets stacked one over one. They lined the room and went in two isles down the middle. I nearly fainted. I didnt want to look at caskets! I wanted my little girl back! Dont make me look at these! I just wanted to go back in time to force her to come home! Some how, I did my duty. I picked out a silver casket with platinum handles and a satin sunburst fabric interior. Next, to find a cemetery!
We all rode to the Eternal Hills cemetery in Snellville. My two older sisters have plots there and I didnt want Jamie to be alone. When we got there, Amy came over to my car and said, Jamie doesnt want to be here! What are you saying? I replied. She is screaming in my head that she doesnt want to be buried here. Then where are we suppose to bury her? The funeral is tomorrow, Amy. I dont know. But she is really loud!
We went into the office and the salesman was meeting with another family. We filled the room, spilling over the furniture. We waited about 25 minutes. During this time Amy kept going in and out of the building. Finally the salesman came out and we all got back into our cars to look at plots in the back of the cemetery where my sister Carolyn and her husband will be buried.
Amy grabbed me by my arms and shook me hard, Mom! Jamie doesnt want to be put here! She is yelling at me to go back to Lawrenceville. She wants to be buried in the cemetery down the street from Central High School. The one where three crosses at the entrance.
As we pulled into the driveway at Gwinnett Memorial Gardens cemetery, a peace came upon me. I received confirmation that this is indeed where Jamie wanted to be buried. We picked out eight plots in the Good Shepherd Garden. There are a lot of children buried in this section. Jamie will be at home here. And I visit her several times a week, even today after five years. February 9, 2002. I love you my sweet Jamie Ann. Forever adoring, Mom.