The Worst Day of My Life


Not hyperbole, and given some of the truly uncalled-for things that have happened to me over 39 years, that’s saying quite a lot.

(I originally had a list of the top 5 until-this-point occurrences, but damn, that made for some depressing reading. Let’s say that the look of pity in the funeral home employee’s eyes as he clarified, “This check pays off the balance of your father’s funeral, and this one is a deposit on your mother’s?” was only at number 5, and leave it at that.)


I read a lot of personal development books, or self help books, whatever you want to call them. And nearly all of them, while the author recounts their own experience, references a moment on which their whole outlook, their whole life, hinges. A moment that separates your life into before and after.

Rock bottom. Now I can say I’ve been there, done that.

For me that moment came in early September. First I noticed that my oldest son, Jake, was 15 minutes past curfew on a Friday night. Then I was livid at 30 minutes past curfew. I went to get my phone, sitting on the charger in my bedroom.

Several numbers had called earlier in the evening. None that I recognized. None that had left a message. It left me on edge, but I reasoned that if anything was amiss they’d have called back or left messages. If anything, it was probably Jake calling on a friend’s phone, preemptively offering up an excuse for his breaking curfew, reminding me that he needed a new phone as his battery didn’t last very long anymore.

At an hour past curfew I started to panic. I started texting his friends. They didn’t know where he was; they’d been trying to get hold of him themselves. They checked in with other friends, friends I didn’t know.

90 minutes past curfew and I had officially lost my mind with worry.

At 12:45, nearly a full two hours past curfew, I answered a phone call letting me know Jake had been taken to the ER and was put me on hold so that the hospital could officially take my permission for treatment.

Those minutes— it was probably only two or three, but it felt like a lifetime, as I ran to wake my husband up, the fear in my voice jolting him awake and scaring myself even more. Those minutes were the hinge my life swung upon.

Jake prom

Jake is OK. He was in a head on collision going 40mph; his organic chemistry textbook clocked him on the back of the head as the airbag opened. Aside from some bruising, some staples to the back of his head, a car that didn’t make it and a total blank where memories of the accident should be, he is fine.

As we arrived at the hospital, though, we didn’t know that. We didn’t know anything. They had wheeled him away for a CAT scan and again, we waited for what seemed like forever. Plenty of time for worst case scenarios. Lots of time to worry about the state of the other driver, to think about their spouse or child or mother waiting, willing their phone to ring. Too much time to think about our bank account, already shot to hell from months of unemployment and the cost of buying the car in the first place.

I’d already been fighting the slow slide into depression, and the week before this happened was particularly bad. I’d felt like I was waiting for something terrible to happen. I felt like I had somehow willed this into happening.

I cannot explain in words what it felt like to see my baby boy wheeled in, his head wrapped in gauze, a cone around his neck, his ridiculous ripped up sneakers he insists on wearing sticking out from underneath a sheet.

Jeff kept trying to talk to me, and all I could do was stare at him. I don’t deal well with the sounds of the ER anymore, and he was asking me to stop putting my head between my knees, where I could block out the sound; to stop rocking, to stop pacing. I didn’t know how to tell him if I stopped moving I’d start shaking. I didn’t know how to let him know that if I spoke, I’d start crying, and if I started crying, I might start screaming.

I knew how this works, when the panic fully takes hold. I’ve been there before.

But then we got to take my boy, my baby boy, home, at 5am. I wanted him to sleep on the couch on the living room, where I could keep an eye on him. I didn’t want him out of my sight ever again. I couldn’t sleep. I mentally checked out for days, broken by the idea that we could have lost him, and thanked the gods for my husband who took care of our other kids, of all the calls and questions I couldn’t deal with.

And all I can do now is be grateful. Grateful that there hadn’t been another car on the crossroads, that the airbag on a 98 Civic had been in good condition, that the other driver was unhurt, grateful that my son will be home again in a few hours, embarrassed by having to take the bus but oh well.

And my heart goes out to all the parents that don’t receive such an outcome in just a few hours. That have to spend days, weeks, months listening to the beeps of a hospital room, that await diagnoses, that live with uncertainty and anxiety, that struggle to keep their child’s (and their own) spirits optimistic.


This is the part where I ask you a favor

My CrossFit box has been my anchor the last few years whenever the overwhelming sadness and anxiety closes in. Not only as a place where I get those endorphins pumping, but as a place that I feel secure and welcome in, and that has introduced me to many new friends. They are good people.


CrossFit Riverfront is hosting a fundraiser this Saturday to benefit A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital, in the name of the Esmond family. If you’re local, you’ve heard this story: while on vacation in the Virgin Islands, the Esmonds were exposed to a neurotoxin via pesticide spray. Mr. Esmond was an official at Tatnall, the Esmond boys promising lacrosse players.  They were— are— members of our CrossFit family, but Mr. Esmond and the boys are no longer capable of even simple physical functions. Mrs. Esmond received the least exposure and has recovered most fully, and of course spends her days and nights with her boys at A.I.

I’ve spent my fair share of time at A.I. DuPont; again, with Jake, when he was younger. He’s had his time in intensive care, as an inpatient, as an outpatient. He’s had tests and appointments with specialists.

My father-in-law works there, helping to give voices to the deaf. (That’s a huge understatement.)

The staff there is wonderful. So much thought has gone into making the experience bearable, comfortable, less frightening. Every attempt is made to make sure the parents understand what is happening, what their options are. Children are spoken to, not around. We are hugely fortunate to have it nearby.


Oh. Right. That favor

I’d love for you to donate to our #EsmondStrong fundraiser and support A.I. DuPont Hospital, which does so much to support children and their families, and research like my FIL does. If you’ve ever experienced the heartache of seeing your child in a hospital bed, I’d really appreciate if you’d also share the link to the fundraiser with others.

In the name of the Esmonds, with me and Jake in mind.

For the kids, and for the parents sitting by their bedside, ready to hear some good news.

And please, love on your loved ones today and every day; hug them tight. You never know when your life will turn on a hinge.

me and jake


You can donate directly on the fundraiser page (every dollar counts! No donation too small), or you can come check out the event on Saturday from 10-2 at the box. WODs will begin in multiple heats soon after the 10:00 mark so that everyone can get a workout in. Raffle tickets will be sold for $5 a pop for awesome prize baskets sponsored by Hylete, Reebok, Caveman Coffee and lots more; Kettlebell Kitchen will be there cooking up food for everyone.

It’s a opportunity to see what CrossFit is all about: community, and accomplishing so much more than you ever expected.


1 Comment

  1. Wow! What a story. So glad everything worked out ok.


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