When I woke up, he was gone.

The first time I saw Wesley I was a little girl playing outside at my Nonna and Papa’s home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. His grandmother lived across the street from mine.

Wesley was a year older than me.

I thought he was so cute and instantly had one of my first ever crushes.

From then on, I’d find any reason to go over to his grandmother’s house.

“Nonna, do you need me to bring anything across the street to Dee’s house today?” In hopes that he would just happen to be visiting her.

A few years later I would be attending middle school with Wesley. Being in the grade ahead of me, I hardly ever saw him but when I did, my heart stopped.

He had a longer haircut back then and I thought he was the coolest person I had ever seen.

I remember seeing him at a high school football game one night. We were still in middle school but were there anyway and I remember watching him with his girlfriend at the time. I remember comparing myself to her. As a 7th grader, I looked even younger than my 12 year old self and she, being an 8th grader looked sophisticated and confident. She was wearing overalls and knitted mittens and no coat. I remember Wesley putting his hands in the pockets of her overalls to keep his hands warm and sitting behind her with her in between his legs.

I felt so much younger.

Never in a million years did I think I would get to be his girlfriend one day.

After 7th grade, my mom and I moved about an hour and a half away to a town called Wayland where I attended 8th grade through high school. After I graduated,  my mom remarried and moved back to Cape Cod.

I lived with my mom on the Cape in between college and then one night at my boyfriend’s house party when I was 23 years old, I saw Wesley.

I instantly knew who he was.

I felt my heart in my throat.

He recognized me right away and started talking to me.

I couldn’t believe he knew who I was, but I wasn’t a shy little 12 year old girl anymore. I was a very confident 23 year old with no qualms and a current boyfriend on his way out.

Wes and I talked and flirted for what seemed like forever but he knew I was in a relationship and I told him nothing would happen as long as I was still involved (he later told me that’s why he wanted to date me even more).

When that relationship finally did end, I really was heartbroken but I had Wesley in the back of my mind.

As most 23 year-olds do when they’re newly single, I started dating right away and had a few different people I was talking to. I bumped into Wesley at a bar one night and exchanged numbers and we got together pretty soon after that.

I remember partying a lot in those days. Way too much.

One night we went back to one of Wesley’s friend’s houses and he pulled me aside and said “I know you’ve got about 3 other guys in the running, but I’m going to win.”

That was it for me.

This was my childhood crush, afterall, I couldn’t believe he wanted to date me.

What breaks my heart is looking back and remembering all of the carelessness and partying we did together but Wesley would look at me and say “You’re better than this”.

I didn’t really understand because I was just doing what we were all doing at the time, but Wesley always held me on a pedestal and thought I was better than everyone else.

I remember driving in his friends car with him and they had to run into a bar to pick someone up. It was a sketchy bar and Wesley told his friend to stay in the car and watch over me. “I don’t want Kristal going in that place, you make sure she’s safe until I get back”.

I’ll never forget that.

He always made me feel protected and precious.

We didn’t have the perfect relationship. We were young and were acting foolishly and Wesley and I broke up a couple times.

But I loved him.

We both came from Italian families and I would make him my Nonna’s homemade sauce and meatballs on a Sunday and we would share a bottle of wine and he’d sneak a bottle of his parent’s homemade dressing that he called “The Pure!” It was delicious. He lived in the cottage behind his parent’s house, so he could walk into their kitchen if we were missing something we needed.

He always smelled really good and I would keep one of his hoodies with me when we weren’t together so I could smell him.

His cottage had a staircase leading up to a loft bedroom and you’d have to duck your head at the top.

He put up his own Christmas tree in the cottage that year and let me decorate it. I made it all gold and I remember him saying “But my mom’s is always so full of color!”

He worked for his friend’s construction company at the time and his friend would come pick him up in the morning. We could see the truck pull into the driveway through the little window in his bedroom. He’d kiss my head and tell me to go back to sleep before he left.

I had invited him as my date to a wedding I was in before we broke up and when we started talking again I asked him if he’d still like to come with me. He agreed.

The wedding was off-Cape and I had to be there the night before with the bridal party and we were all going to get ready at the bride’s salon the next morning.

We decided Wesley would drive to the wedding with my mom the day of. He and I had rented a hotel near the venue for after the wedding so we could stay and then drive home together the following morning.

The day of the wedding was so much fun with all the girls. It was the first real wedding I was in as an adult. We all got ready at the salon and had our hair and makeup done while drinking mimosas.

At one point, my friend (the bride) realized it was colder than we anticipated and she needed something to cover her shoulders over her gown, so I drove to the local mall and found her the most adorable soft, white, faux fur shawl.

I remember talking to Wesley on the phone while I drove in the limo with the girls. I was so excited to see him and for him to see me dressed up, standing at the altar with the other bridesmaids. I felt beautiful and special.

During the ceremony, I remember crying and looking back over my shoulder to find Wesley in the crowd. I did and he gave me the biggest smile.

I remember my mom taking a picture of us together and he planted the biggest, silliest kiss on my cheek.

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I remember a moment with him on the dancefloor. I knew I was being foolish by not being with him. I loved him and once we were away from all the other meaningless distractions and it was just he and I dancing in that moment I knew I wanted to be with him. I always knew. I looked at him and said “Will you be my boyfriend again?” He hugged me and said “Let’s talk about it when we get home.”

And that’s the last thing I remember.

When I woke up, my body felt like it weighed a million pounds. Everything was blurry and foggy. My throat hurt and I couldn’t speak.

I started to look around and fuzzy blobs started to take form into people.

My mom was standing over me rubbing my head.

Someone who I didn’t recognize was next to her and started talking to me.

I was so confused and couldn’t really understand what she was saying or where I was.

Finally the words started registering. “Kristal, you were in an accident. You’re ok but don’t try to talk.” I didn’t know I had been in a drug-induced coma for 2 days and had tubes down my throat.

The first thing I did was try to ask a question but my throat was hoarse and my mom acted like she couldn’t understand what I was asking so I made a gesture with my hand to write.

Someone got me a piece of paper and a pen.

“Where is Wes?” I wrote.

My mom acted like she couldn’t read what I wrote, which only made me angry and frustrated. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t talk, but I could write. I knew what I had written was scribbled but legible.

My mom handed the paper to the nurse and walked out of the room. She didn’t want to tell me.

The nurse came over to me.

“Wesley was killed in the accident.” She said.

I started to panic.

“Don’t move Kristal, don’t move!”

That’s all I remember for the next couple of days.

I guess she gave me something to sleep again because I had lacerated my liver and if I made any sudden movements it could tear more and I could have internal bleeding.

What I later learned was a snowstorm had moved it’s way in and Wesley and I decided to bail on our hotel and make the hour and a half drive back to the Cape because I had work the next day.

We made it all the way back over the bridge, just 3 exits short or our destination when we lost control of the car and it flipped. We were both ejected. Wesley landed in the fast line of the highway and I landed on or near the guard rale.

During this snowstorm, 2 cars hit and ran over Wesley.

A car pulled up to the accident and the woman gave me CPR. She didn’t see Wes.

When the ambulance and fire fighters arrived on the scene a med flight was called in for Wesley to be taken into Boston but they called it off due to the weather. He was declared dead before they reached the hospital.

I was in a drug induced coma for 2 days, ICU for a week and spend another week in a regular hospital room. I had major surgery on my femur, which had been torn to shreds and almost amputated. There is now titanium screws and plate holding it together.

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The fire fighters and EMT’s who were on the scene that night came to visit me in the hospital because they couldn’t believe I had survived and needed to see me for themselves.

Wesley’s wake and funeral were held while I was in ICU.

I screamed and threw a tantrum in the hospital when I learned that I couldn’t leave to say Goodbye.

All I wanted was to close my eyes and be back on that dancefloor again.

How did this happen?

Because I had no recollection of anything after that moment at the wedding and we had both been ejected, no one could determine how it all happened.

I was dancing one minute and woke up in a hospital being told that Wesley was gone the next.

I can’t tell you what that did to me or still does to me to this day and probably for the rest of my life.

I can’t tell you what it’s like living my life knowing I was the last person Wesley was with before he died and I can’t tell you what it’s like having children of your own after having gone through something like that.

Every friendship and relationship has been and will be effected by my accident.

I’m a different wife now than I would have been had this not happened. Thankfully I married a wonderful man who holds me and lets me cry some days over another man I once loved.

I’m a different parent because of our accident. I have fears and anxieties that another mother might not have. Some completely irrational and seemingly unrelated but I know where it stems from.

It’s crazy how the mind and body are connected. Some time will go by without my thinking about Wesley or the accident and then all of a sudden it will hit me out of nowhere.

I was getting horrendous stomach aches for years that would come and go and no doctor could figure it out. I would curl into a ball on the floor because of the pain. I had an upper endoscopy and colonoscopy and several blood tests done. Nothing came back with any real answer. I went gluten-free for a while and eliminated other foods from my diet thinking this was somehow allergy-related or some kind of sensitivity. It was just a couple years ago that one doctor took the time to go over my medical history and finally figured out that I was getting these awful pains right around the anniversary. They always completely subside as the anniversary passes. I had never put the two together before.

I was living in Boston at one point a few years after the accident and having a horrible day. I couldn’t stop crying or thinking about Wes. I would hold on to any item I had of his or any picture of him and couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t figure out why I was having such a tough day, it was the middle of the summer afterall, nowhere near the February date of the accident. Finally I went outside for a walk to clear my head and as I was walking back to my apartment it hit me. It was August 2nd. Wesley’s birthday.

Your body will remind you of things you might want to forget.

Wesley was an amazing person. He was an awesome big brother, a great son, a good friend and a wonderful boyfriend.

I’ll never forget watching him from across the street at his grandmother’s house and losing my breath when I walked past him in the hallway in middle school. I’ll never forget the way he looked at me, how he used to call me “Poops” for no reason other than he thought it was funny, his voice when he was trying to make me laugh, his hugs or how much he loved my grandparents and would always tell my Nonna she looked beautiful.

I’ll never forget holding his hand as we walked to get dinner at a nice restaurant that we couldn’t afford at the time but that he insisted on taking me to or watching movies in his cottage. I’ll never forget how he used to laugh and correct me when I tried to sing along to music and got the words wrong “It’s Even flow, not Even though” and kissed me.

I’ll try to do what my therapist suggested and hold on to that moment on the dancefloor when I asked him to be my boyfriend again.

Some people don’t get to have a great last moment with the person they lost.

I’m lucky that I have that to keep.

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2 thoughts on “When I woke up, he was gone.

  1. Hey Sweetie, Just a quick moment to tell you I remember this time well, there has always been a question as to how you are from having experienced such a great loss. I remember your Dad telling me of the accident in very few words because he was so scared for you. He wasn’t sure if you would be able to heal and comeback to the lil girl he loved so much. I am so happy you wrote of this, the experience that was so painful was shared with so much love for Wes, and was so bittersweet to read. I think of you often just because, and I am so happy for you moving in so many grand ways into a life that you get fulfillment. I know there are many great things ahead for you, you have always striven to drive yourself to do and try many things and I must say there isn’t much you can’t do. I will always look to see your many achievements, just because there is something real special about you that never leaves the person who has that chance to meet you. Love you, Aunt Sue

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