Guest column: Mother's Day tough for mom who lost son in Spur wreck

May. 13, 2013 @ 06:19 AM

I had always thought that the day my mother died in my lap, with my arms wrapped around her, was the worst day of my life. I was 17, she was 54. That was June 9, 1973.

But on Oct. 14, 2012, one phone call changed my life forever. It became the worst day of my life. A phone call came at 5:50 a.m. telling me that my older son, Joseph, had been in an accident around midnight. Instead of telling me his condition and what hospital he was in, the person on the other side of the call asked for my address, so some park rangers could come to my home to talk to my husband, younger son and me.

Unfortunately, I knew what that meant: He was not in a hospital being treated for injuries. He was no longer alive on this earth.

How can this be? He was 34, a weightlifter and in perfect health; never had spent a night in the hospital since he was born on Dec. 26, 1977. He was our precious first child, our Christmas present that year. After being with me for a long labor and birth, his dad went home and cried after realizing what a precious gift he had been given. And he came looking just like his dad.

He was a joy to raise. Not perfect; no one is. He went through those teen years and into adulthood without drama — never got in trouble with the law, lived a healthy lifestyle, with no vices. He worked for six years at our hometown YMCA as a counselor. He loved working with children and youth. Some commented that he would make a great father someday.

Now, not only have we lost his physical presence, we have lost a future daughter-in-law and future grandchildren. Since we did not have longevity in either side of our families due to heart problems, he assured us at one point that if we did not live to a ripe old age, he would take care of his younger brother. Joseph often teased us that we should treat him well, since he would be the one to decide what nursing home we would be put into.

Thus, we have lost our caregiver in our golden years.

The thought that I will never see his face again on this earth, never hear his voice, never get a kiss on the cheek from him, is too overwhelming; too hard to bear. Thankfully, we raised him in a Christian home and know that he is in heaven with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. That is very comforting, knowing we will in fact see him again.

I go to bed thinking of him, the cute things he said and did; his deep love for me, his dad and his younger brother; his deep love for the girl who became the love of his life. I wake up thinking of him; the things he planned for and hoped for, having a wife and children, a home of his own, a career.

He had recently gone back to college online to finish his degree, hoping to teach history on the college level.

His younger brother wrote a letter to him after this happened: “I don’t know how I can live without you … You were the best brother and my best friend …. I will always love you.” We buried that letter in the casket. The day after Joseph’s home-going services, my younger son wanted to go to the courthouse to legally change his name to include Joseph. Now he has two of Joseph’s names (David, the one we gave him when he was born), and now Joseph, his way of memorializing his brother and keeping his name alive.

My husband and I often talk before falling asleep about our loss and cry in each other’s arms. My husband will miss helping him work on his favorite red truck. Whether changing the oil or brake shoes or checking the oil, all was done for and with his first-born son. Dad will also miss the birthday dinner and a movie that they shared on special occasions or for no occasion at all.

I will miss hearing the three of them laughing heartily while watching old Laurel and Hardy shows, Joseph’s favorite; and Garfield, his brother’s favorite; or any funny show.

I live in a fog sometimes, trying to imagine that this loss is not real, did not really happen; that Joseph will call soon and tell me he is away on a long trip, but he is OK and he will be back soon. That call has not yet come. I fear it never will.

— Carol Madden lives in Sevierville and works in Pigeon Forge. Email to