Today’s My 500 Words challenge is a little different. The assignment is to describe a day in your life you will never forget.
Foe those just joining in on the journey, I am participating in Jeff Goins’ My 500 Words challenge. The premise is easy – I write at least 500 words every single day. I’m not editing what I write, and I’m hoping this challenge gives me the courage to write parts of my story for an unknown audience.
Today’s lesson is for any and every write out there, including me. No matter how much we have to say, we eventually get to a point where we don’t know what to write. Goins says when you don’t know what to write about, write what you know. And even if you know nothing, you at least know your own story.
The day I will never forget is Saturday, April 12, 2014.
Bucky was an ultralight pilot. The weather was beautiful. It was a perfect day for flying. Mom and I decided to hit some yard sales and insisted my new stepdad, or as I preferred, Dad, spend some time in the sky.
It was 6:11 a.m. I looked at the clock on the stove as my mom opened my front door and yelled, “Hey Felicia! Dad’s getting ready to leave. You better hurry if you want to say bye!”
I dropped the spatula into the skillet and took off running. he was walking across the front yard to get into his truck when I tackled him from behind.
“I know you weren’t about to leave without telling me bye,” I asked with a smile.
He hugged me with an answer, “of course not. Never!”
He jumped into his truck. Mom and I got into her Altima. We all pulled out of our condominium complex at the same time.
As the afternoon approached, Mom and I headed closer to the hangar and airfield he shared with his friend, Todd. We were planning to meet him and look at land to build a house and farm on. We stopped for a yard sale I will never forget.
Mom was paying for a bike rack, a steam cleaner and some other odds and ends when my phone rang. It was 12:27.
“Felicia? This is Todd.”
“Hey Todd. What’s going on?”
“Where are you guys?”
“Mount Juliet. Headed your way.”
“Is your mom with you?”
“Are you outside?”
“I want you to hand the phone to your mom, hold her hand and look to the sky.”
I did as he asked. At this point, I assumed my Dad and Todd had orchestrated some type of flyover and were going to surprise us. I was in no way prepared for what happened next.
After a mere few seconds on the phone, my mom’s hand dropped from mine. Her face turned to panic. Her voice cracked with shock.
“Oh, but he’s okay. Right, Todd?”
“This isn’t funny Todd. This isn’t something to joke about.”
By this point, I knew something was wrong. I took my Mom’s newly purchased items and threw them in the car. She handed me the phone and Todd was on the other end.
“What’s wrong, Todd?”
“Felicia, Bucky crashed his plane. And he didn’t make it.”
I’ll never forget that moment for the rest of my life. Those words pierced me deeper than any pain I could ever imagine. I looked up and saw a stop sign we were approaching. In this moment, I was supposed to get Todd’s address from him and plug it into the GPS system.
The next few minutes were a blur. Our minds went from disbelief to shock to anger to sadness and eventually stopped spiraling at disbelief. I punched the window at one point as we were getting on the interstate out of Mount Juliet, headed for Lebanon.
It wasn’t until we pulled up and saw the wreckage that I started to process that my Dad was gone. Just like that.
I had just met him seven months before. He and my mom had just been married for 57 days. He was the only Dad I ever knew. And now, he was gone.
My mom fell out of the car and collapsed onto the ground, yelling out “No, no, no, no, no, no.” We were surrounded by a few people we had met once and vaguely knew. In an instant, my mom took off running into a huge open field. I chased after her, trying to catch her.
In an instant, a jeep swerved in front of her and cut her off from the press she hadn’t realized was recording her. Todd, his daughter and her husband all jumped out of the vehicle. We all hit the ground. Todd reached to comfort my mom. I looked into his face.
That was the moment it all became real and I felt my first moment of the most indescribable pain I have ever felt. My heart sunk to my stomach and the ability to breathe became nearly impossible. That pain last almost a year.
The Wilson County sheriff and the FAA investigators came over to ask my mom some questions. I couldn’t handle it. I sat down in front of the jeep with my feet under the jeep. I sat there and cried in Todd’s daughter’s arms. I texted my best friend. The FAA investigator came over and sat down next to me.
He spent the next few minutes trying to validate my feelings of shock, anger and sadness. He told me he lost his dad when he was 23 years old too. He talked about the hole in my heart and promised it would heal.
“Hang in there, kid,.”
I remember asking myself, “hang in there? Really? My life is over. I don’t even care about life anymore.”
Bucky wasn’t just the Dad I had begged for my whole life. And the answer to my prayers. He was my best friend.
After a few minutes of sitting in the field, we went back to Todd’s house and started making phone calls. We had not even met most of Bucky’s family as we had only know him seven months. We had to call his family, friends, coworkers and everyone else he knew, which was basically half of Nashville. We also called our family and friends. My second phone call was my optometrist. My mom called her boss. Everything was surreal.
I laid in the middle of Todd’s living room floor and bawled my eyes out. In that moment, I felt my heart was irreparable.
Different people stopped by. A few news reporters reached out. Some of my dad’s pilot friends came to visit. Mom and I were there for about four hours before our good friends of eight years met us to help drive my dad’s truck home. We all sat in Todd’s house and I asked a very honest question nobody could answer.
I couldn’t, and still can’t, figure out why the greatest guy to ever walk the planet had to die when all the other not-so-great guys who had been candidates to be my dad were still alive.
My mom lost the love of her life. I lost my Dad and best friend. Todd lost his best friend.
It was a horrible day.
By the time we got home, my cousin was there. The neighbors could tell something was wrong. Most of our friends and family all knew and were in action. Almost my entire family came in that night. I don’t remember much of anything that actually happened except I talked to a lot of people and answered a lot of questions.
I remember my campus pastor, Chris, called and talked with me for a few minutes despite I was pretty sure he had no clue who I was before that night. I remember my best friend from high school, Sallie, called to talk to me and I barely recognized her. I remember a stranger who knew my dad called to assure me of how much my dad loved me and was proud of me.
The story hit every news channel that evening. We all sat down as a family and watched them all. I posted the tragedy on social media.
As I laid in bed that night, I reconciled that my life was nothing more than a game to God. And then I closed the chapter on the worst day of my entire life.
I wrote from a field in Lebanon today. It wasn’t THE field since that is private property, but I got close.
If you are a writer or want to explore a passion for writing, you can join in on the free My 500 Words challenge with Jeff Goins.
Find my previous challenge posts below: