7 Years (R.I.P. Todd Pierre Hicks, Jr.)

Today marks nine years. I wrote this two years ago, but the memories feel like yesterday.

January 12, 2003

I sit at the computer desk, browsing the Internet with no purpose at all. Even then I spent way too much time on it. I am weeks away from my birthday, adding another year to what seemed like a long life. Little did I know that the day would bring an end to someone elses life. The unknown is a scary thing.

The phone rings. I pick it up. On the other end I can hear a voice mixed with panic and uncertainty. It is my cousin. He is trying to explain to me that his little brother has just been struck...just feet away from their home, near a dangerous curve.

I yell to my mother, uttering words with little to no clarity. I manage to sneak in a few key pieces of the puzzle. All I remember saying is, "It's Vincent. T.J. was struck. An ambulance is on the way."

And just like that, we headed out the door.

Once in the car, we debated which direction to take. If we went one way, there would be several traffic lights causing a delay in our travels. If we went the other way, we would be stuck behind a long line of cars that lacked the urgency we possessed. No matter what route we chose, the drive would seem long. And it felt that way exactly.

Zooming in and out of traffic, at speeds that would easily warrant a traffic ticket, my heart raced and my mind wandered. I did not know the severity of the accident. I could only imagine how his brothers were feeling. No one can ever prepare for tragedy, especially of this magnitude.

We arrive. Spectators gather feet away from the accident scene. My mom, stepfather and I jump from the car. I remember having on just slippers and my feet colliding with the concrete as I stepped closer to the TJ's body. Those steps were more like sprints as I ducked under the caution taped placed by the policemen.

"Where is he? Is he okay? What happened?"
I'm out of breath, yet I manage to use the energy from all the adrenaline racing through my body.

An officer approaches me head on, building an imaginary wall between me and the accident scene. 
"Ma'am, we need you to stand back."
"Are you the mother?"

That was all I could offer.
I was not his mother, but my heart was as heavy as a parent's would be if prevented from seeing their child.
I stood there helpless. A range of emotions took turns torturing an already broken heart.

Up above, you could hear the sound of a helicopter searching for a place to land. This confirmed what I already knew. The accident was serious, and the family needed much preparation to make it through this day, and the days ahead.

The drive to Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C. was even longer. Not knowing what awaited us when we arrived in the building was a lot to handle. Family and friends begin to flood the waiting room like an army of angels. We were ready to take on this fight with the help of faith and prayer, as we held tightly to any ounce of hope.

There comes a time where we lose our grip and have to let hope slip-away. After hours spent lying on cold hospital floors, eating mediocre cafeteria food and gathering in prayer, TJ lost his life. Before being taken off of life support, each family member was given a chance to say their final goodbyes.

I tip-toed into the room. There, he laid peacefully with a tube breathing life into him. His hands were cold as I held them in mine. Those were the same hands that, as a toddler, I brushed the gravel from after a tiny stumble outdoors while playing.

I could taste salt from my tears as they flowed from my yes, down to my cheek and brushed my lips. As my  heart beat uncontrollably, I tried to make sense of it all.

But, I never questioned God's decision to take him.

TJ was a son.
A brother.
A cousin.
A grandchild.
A friend.
My godbrother.

I never stopped wondering what could have become of him. Who he would be. What would he like. How he would look. Now, I only have imagination to rely on.

There's a constant reminder just minutes away from the family home- a cross placed on a guardrail where his body landed on that fatal day. I am reminded of the chaos of the accident scene, the hopeless in his brothers' eyes and the end of a chapter in such a young life.

I am also reminded that life is not promised to anyone and we should live each day as if it's our last. That goes without saying.

{This week has been a week of tragedy. An "online" friend took her life, an extended family member passed, and today marks 7 years from the day TJ was killed in an accident. I ask that you pray for the friends and family of each of these persons, and continue to love wholeheartedly.}

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