Monday, August 20, 2012
The shock left us reeling. We were unprepared for the loss of our only son--a grown man with a lovely adoring wife and four children, whom he loved so dearly. Hearts stopped beating. Lives were fractured. As the mom, heart-broken hardly covers the gamut of emotions that assailed me that day. I heard the cries of sorrow from my daughter-in-law as she had to tell me of the tragedy. I heard the anguished cries of my husband, and each of my daughters as one by one I gave them the horrible news that our son had been killed.
The word killed means so many things to so many people and the word died for me seems less traumatic. Killed signifies the life has been taken by someone who lives on earth with us. For me to die means our Father in Heaven called the person home. Died seems easier to accept because Father gave us life and he can take our life. To be killed means the life was snuffed out by someone who has no right to take a life.
In an automobile accident a life may be lost because it was just that--an accident, meaning a misfortune or mishap and perhaps the person was negligent and life was lost as a result of their personal negligence. But when I hear the word killed, I think deprived of life by the negligence of another or by a premeditated planned action. Our son was most definitely deprived of his life through no fault of his own. So he did not just die. He was most definitely killed. I guess I should tell what happened and why I am another heart-broken mom.
Our son was born 14 May 1975 in Huntsville, Alabama. He was our youngest child and joined two older sisters. We named him Walter Garrison Hopkins, IV. It was a legacy we were proud of--a fourth generation of Hopkins men with strong moral values, which included devotion to family. We were absolutely sure this baby would carry this name proudly and he did. I wanted to call our son by his middle name. My husband had been called Gary by his family and that was a short form of the middle name. So we could not repeat that name without having mass confusion. But I thought Garrison was a manly name and had determined to call him that. After all a garrison in the beginning meant a treasure. He certainly was a treasure to his parents. My husband came in the morning after his birth and asked if I would mind if we called him Buddy. I was not in love with the name Buddy, but when he said, "I would like to call him Buddy because he will be my little buddy." He would be his father's comrade, his friend, his chum. Melted my heart and I thought a man should call his only son what he wanted. It is not unusual to give a nickname to kids. After all, we were both "southerners." So Buddy he became. It was years later that we learned that Walter G. Hopkins, Jr, my father-in-law, was called Buddy as a little boy. I knew he had been called Bud by his family, but it did not occur to either of us that he had been Buddy also.
Our son was born with bilaterally club feet. My husband had wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and had planned a career in the army. It was not in his cards to do so as he was born with bilaterally club feet as well. One of the blessings I saw with having a son with club feet was he would never be sent to war. His feet would keep him from serving, except under extreme circumstances and then perhaps he would be in a desk job away from enemy lines. I try to find the blessings in the circumstances of life. There usually are many if we take the time to search for them.
I could write about what we went through to correct his club feet, but it does not fit in well with the story of Buddy's death. But perhaps at some later time, I will go back to his growing up years and tell of all of the obstacles our son overcame. He also had a flexor deformity in his hands which never caused him pain or any particular difficulty. Children born with physical disabilities always find ways to compensate as they have not known anything but what they have at birth. What seems abnormal to us is their normal.
If you had told me a few years ago that Buddy would die jogging, I would have laughed you off the planet. I know how much his feet and ankles hurt him, although he never complained about his pain. You knew he hurt because he had so little flexibility in his ankles and feet and so when he walked he clumped, like he had lead in his shoes. If he went up or down a staircase, you could hear him as there was no way he could walk delicately. He had small feet for such a large man.
But jogging was a way for him to control his weight and he had set a goal to run the Dallas Rock'n Roll Marathon in December of 2012. He had run the half marathon and he was determined to show his children what you can do in life if you persevere and are determined. His normal routine leading up to the tragedy was to get up early and run before work, which is what he was doing the morning he was KILLED! It normally took him about 10 minutes of walking to become limber enough to run. We could do a whole list of "if onlys," but it would not change the outcome. Without that part of his routine, he would never have been still jogging. So there is the only if only I will interject.
He was only a few blocks from home when he was hit from behind by a truck--the victim of a hit and run. The man who was responsible for his death, it appears, was about 40 miles from his home. We will never know why he was driving in the Sendera Ranch neighborhood, a bedroom community in Haslet, Texas, where our son lived with his wife and 4 young children. But the man veered across the two lane road and off the road where our son was jogging the last leg of his workout before turning onto the road that would take him back to his home. Our son was jogging facing traffic and was not actually on the road, but off the road. He seemed to have been doing exactly what he should have been doing and could not have caused the accident. In an instant he was hit from behind and it appears he was killed instantly as he was struck by the truck and our family now lives without our beloved son, brother, husband, and father. A good man deprived of his life by another, who was not in control of his body and his truck. We have been led to believe the man responsible was high on something. There was no apparent reason for him to be in that neighborhood at all.
I am not sure I have the details correct in the next part of the story and perhaps I will need to edit the story as I send it to my daughter-in-law to confirm the details. I was numb with shock when I was told this part and I am still trying to wrap my brain around what occurred at 5:45 am the 21st of June 2012. Our daughter-in-law got up to get ready for work herself. She went to her computer to check her face book before getting into the shower. On the Sendera Ranch face book was a posting that a man had been killed by a hit and run driver that morning while he was jogging. Heather realized Buddy had not kissed her good-bye before leaving for work, which he would have done. She ran to the front of the house and saw his car was still there and she called work and found he had not shown up or called in. Then the wheels of horror begin to spin. She called the police to see if the person had been identified and she felt in her gut it was Buddy. They said he had no identification on him and could give her no information. Indeed his wallet was still had home.
When she called me at about 7:10 Flagstaff, Arizona time I heard in her voice something was terribly wrong. I said, "Heather, what is it?" She said, "Mom, there's been an accident." My response was, "How bad is the accident?" I expected a car crash, a trip to the hospital, a broken leg. The chilling words that followed was not on my radar. "Buddy's been killed." I felt my heart shatter into fragments and I repeated her words aloud and then I heard behind me my husband's heart shattering. Then there was the calling of each daughter to hear their screams of anguish as their hearts broke and shattered. I would like to get the screams to stop in my head. This was the most awful moment of my entire life. I heard the screams of each member of my family as we became fractured one by one. It is hard to heal from a tragedy of this magnitude because as a family we love so deeply.
People ask me how I am doing. My reaction is, "I feel as if I am suffocating at times. I feel as if I have been kicked in the gut--unable to breathe. My heart feels as if it weighs 900 pounds at times." There is no end to the list I could give them. Sometimes I want to lay in the floor and kick my feet and pound my fists. Other times I want to drive my car into a wall as I don't think it could hurt any more, but I know that is not a solution. I would only hurt my family more.