I remember being 12 hours away from the family at college and always wondering if I was going to get one of those terrible phone calls that something has happened. I think everyone has thoughts of that at some point with their own family but we just don’t always talk about it.
I never got that phone call in college but little did I know that it would come a few years later…
I wrote about three weeks before the accident when I went to see Rachel but I also want to tell you something else that I felt exactly one week before I got the phone call. I went to sushi with a group of friends that Friday night and that day I heard about a young boy by the name of Trey passing away from pancreatic cancer in my hometown of Memphis. His story was so inspiring and the way his family carried themselves just hit me hard that week. So hard, that Rachel and I had come up with an idea to raise money for his family to help in some way with the doctor bills. After dinner, my friend Sarah says to me, “Is something wrong and are you okay?” I stood there and thought she was crazy for asking me that but to be honest I was definitely off and it was just this weird gut feeling that I still can’t fully explain. Now I know, and like I said in the last post – I think we might feel things but we just can’t understand because we’re human. So I felt it, I just didn’t know what it was until one week from that night.
July 21st, 2012 – 12:30 am
I had gone to bed at 12 am and I remember hearing my dad calling me and by the time I realized it, I missed his call. I sat there for a second and thought, “Why on earth is he calling me at 12:30 in the morning?” As it hit me that something was wrong, he called a second time. I could feel my heart sinking into my stomach before I even answered the phone. When I answered I immediately said to dad, “What’s wrong?”
He said, “There’s been an accident. Rachel was on a motorcycle and she’s not in great shape.” It took me a second to swallow that sentence and then I replied with, “What motorcycle?” (Yes, we had no clue she had a motorcycle for 3 months). You could tell in dad’s voice that it was really bad and he quietly says, “Mom and I are headed to Tampa, we will let you know what we hear…” After I got off the phone, I literally had that terrible feeling in my stomach and thought to myself, “She’s gone.” It’s like I already knew…
Exactly 10 minutes later, dad calls back and as I answered the phone there was a long pause followed with, “She’s gone.” I sat there and I could hear what he was saying but could not process it and said to him, “What does that mean?” He just repeated it saying “She’s gone.” I was in such shock that I had to tell him I needed to get off the phone to process it.
I dropped the phone and fell to my knees and then I literally felt like I was in the corner of my room watching myself on my knees crying like a baby. In the midst of crying, it hit me and a small ounce of peace came over me knowing exactly where she’s at. It was enough to calm me and realize that I needed/wanted to head to Tampa. I called a friend and they immediately headed over to go with me to the hospital. I got another call from dad and they were there at the hospital and he calmly said, “Ash, you don’t need to come here. We need to call Leah and ya’ll can just meet us at the house.” As hard as that was to swallow, I knew he was right. They called Leah and as she headed down to the house, she called me and my heart broke when I heard her voice as she just cried on the phone. I always can find at least something to say in most situations but I couldn’t even find the words as I still sat there in shock. All I could say to her was, “I just don’t even know…”
I headed down to the house down the quiet road of 41 and just still in disbelief that something like this could happen. I’ve traveled this road everyday but this time it was completely different. I was halfway to the house and I got a text from my Aunt Cindy that said, “I love you so much darlin, are you okay?” And it was another realization that it was real.
As I got to the house, I sat there for a second in the driveway and then saw mom come of out the house. As I got out of my car, (telling myself to be strong for them) I saw mom’s face and it broke my heart as she ran up and grabbed me. We both just sobbed. Dad walked out with a face and walk that I’ve never seen before and walked over to my car, putting his head on the hood and just started sobbing. Again, I felt like I was standing across the way just watching everything go on around us.
Leah and Jordan showed up soon after and I’ll never forget the look on Leah’s face, just another fact that it was real. We all just sat there in disbelief and continued to sob.
We all finally attempted to go to bed. I couldn’t sleep because the room I was in had photos of the three of us that I couldn’t stop staring at. I knew that I had to call people and let them know what happened. I thought about her friends and how I was going to tell them, how was I going to be strong for other family members, what happens next and is this really real?
I started texting people to let them know before they just found out through facebook etc. I fell asleep for about an hour and my cousin Lindsey called me at 7 am and all we could do is cry as she said to me, “We’re getting down there asap, I love you.” I got up and knew I had to make some phone calls. All of us were not talking, we couldn’t sit still and it was as if we were just walking into walls. I walked outside and heard dad on the phone, I called my grandmother and it took everything in her to say 3 words. My heart broke again. I know the Lord gave me some special strength that day because something came over me and I knew I had to step up for mom and dad right now. I started calling Rachel’s friends and I’ll never forget texting one of her best friends Taylor and she didn’t recognize my number so she picked up the phone and called me. As soon as I answered the phone and said, “Hey kiddo,” she just lost it and was packing a bag to catch a flight.
After people started to find out what happened, facebook was blowing up with people reaching out and trying to find out more information. It was overwhelming and as much as I wanted to fill everyone in, the only thing I could do was post this:
I was headed to go get clothes from my place to bring back down to the house and as I walked out of the house, I saw mom and dad’s faces. Once again, my heart broke. I got in my car, called Aunt Cindy and filled her in and she says, “What do I need to do?? Just tell me.” I said, “Get down here as soon as you can, Mom needs you.” I called our family friend Daniel in TN and he answered the phone, “Hey baby girl, tell me what I need to do.”
“I need you to get down here, dad needs you.” They both hopped on a plane and were down there the next day. As I walked into my apartment, I sat on my stairs and just cried to let it out while nobody was around. As I sat there, everything went silent and it felt as if a hand was on my shoulder that was an immediate warm, peaceful and comforting feeling that I can’t fully explain. You know those photos you see of someone sitting and there’s an angel behind them with their hand on their shoulder? That’s what I picture and I wouldn’t doubt it if one was there with me in that moment because I felt it.
I also had to hear her voice. I pulled out my phone and went to all the hey tell (iphone app) messages we had back and forth to each other. The very first one I listened to was this:
All I could do is laugh and cry at the same time. That was how we were with each other, just goofy and always laughing. I needed that even as tough as it was to hear it, I needed that.
So why am I telling you about all of this and how can I talk about it? Through all of this I have realized what a real storm feels like to go through and not just little things we call “storms” these days, this was a real storm. I saw my family’s lives shake to the core and it takes me back to the quote I once heard from someone that said, “Unshakable faith is faith that has been shaken.” I want you to see the raw glimpse of that terrible night into how we got to where we are now, 7 months later. I’ve had numerous people ask me about different things that happened, how I felt and why I am open about everything. It’s simply because I realize that bad things happen all around us and that everyone has something they’re dealing with in their life that can be a storm they are trying to overcome. My goal is help others understand who have yet to go through something like this or comfort those going through it in some way to make them realize that it’s going to be okay. I’ve always believed in being honest and upfront even with the business, so I wanted to do the exact same thing with all of this. I also know Rach would want me to tell her story and like I said before, the things we’ve found of hers over the last months just show you that we’re all here for a reason, period.
I plan on sharing this whole process so stay tuned for more. This was just the beginning of the storm…