It’s been a long time since I’ve been here. A lot has changed. My blog title, description, and username no longer have any relevance, and eventually, I will change those things to reflect that. For now, they remain, because it was hard enough to get here in the first place–writing is my coping mechanism, my therapy, though; this is where I need to be.
About two months ago, I meticulously laundered and folded my husband’s clothing–every last article, save for a few items that smelled like him–to put in a storage bin. I didn’t do this because of a change in seasons, because he no longer experiences those. I put them away so I didn’t have to open my closet and see them daily, storing them only for the moments when I want to hold them against my face while I cry about the life we could have, should have had.
On October 26th, I organized a large shipment of fertility-enhancing vitamins into individual baggies and medicine dispensers for the week. I laughed as I watched Ron choke down the first bagful–he was never good at swallowing pills, but he was ready for this, and he knew how important this was to me. We discussed baby names and how we’d tell our family if and when I got pregnant. I didn’t realize it would never happen–that not only would I lose my husband; I would lose the family of our dreams that we had quietly and privately planned for months, maybe even years, down to the smallest detail.
I took to and thoroughly enjoyed the role of “housewife,” which was my new job description since moving from California to Colorado in August, just two months prior. I had previously worked as a nanny, and had been with the family I was employed by for four years and counting before Ron’s job required us to relocate. I remember cooking a shepherd’s pie that night, October 26th, which I ate sitting upright in bed, multitasking and researching baby products and cooing over baby clothes on the internet while Ron ate at his desk across the room, multitasking and playing video games. I never suspected that just 24 hours later, I would dump the remainder of that dinner in the trash while sobbing hysterically over leftovers that now made me too sick to look at. I’d cooked those for us, and I couldn’t bear the thought of finishing them alone.
For some reason, that evening, the theme and the music from the game that Ron was playing sent me into a minor panic. I recall remarking to him that I was going to put some headphones on, because when he died in the game, it sent a weird chill down my spine, and I couldn’t listen to it anymore. I didn’t think twice about it–why would I?
Eventually we got into bed and snuggled while watching an episode of a favorite TV show before Ron was ready to fall asleep. I never fell asleep early, but he did. I read a book next to him because he would always ask me to remain close; he slept better with me there. I was slightly annoyed that he was in the middle of the bed, and I’d crossed my fingers that he wouldn’t roll onto my side when I got up to turn off the light. He didn’t, but when I returned, he rolled as close to me as possible and wrapped his arms around me. I wasn’t a big fan of being touched when I was tired, and I used to give him a hard time for cramping my space and producing way too much body heat. Every day now, I regret that, and long for that feeling of closeness again.
On October 27th, I woke up the usual way–to Ron giving me a kiss goodbye before he headed to work. I remember noticing the motorcycle gear and thinking to myself that perhaps I should offer him my car, but I brushed the thought off knowing that he was planning to sell the bike that coming weekend, and besides, the weather was great–he wouldn’t have accepted the offer anyway. I told Ron how much I loved him and he left. I felt a weird lack of closure with his departure, but I never once considered that it meant anything. I went back to sleep not realizing that my life would be upside-down soon.
About an hour later, I woke up for the second time, and noticed a lack of text from Ron stating that he’d arrived to work safely. It was an agreement that we made when he bought a bike back in February–he would tell me any time he was leaving and any time he arrived at his destinations. I sent him a quick text, simply asking if he was at work. Fifteen minutes later, I sent another–a quick “Hello?!” No response, so then a “Please respond” text. Silence, so I moved to Facebook, an email to his work account, and a few phone calls complete with teary voicemails. Another twenty minutes of silence was followed by a final text–“Hey, if you don’t reply, I’m gonna come to your work. I’ve tried phone call, text, email, and Facebook now. This is really stressing me out.” My mind began to wander to worst-case scenarios. I plugged his work address into a GPS app to look for accident reports along his regular route. I Googled local accident reports. I found no evidence of anything alarming, and of course, failed to realize that this didn’t mean that the worst-case scenario hadn’t actually occurred.
After about an hour, I made a decision that would only increase the impact of the accident. I threw my unbrushed hair up into a ponytail, threw on a jacket and some flip-flops–I don’t even remember if I brushed my teeth in my haste. I headed to my car. I was crying, but trying to talk myself down. I was certain a trip to his work would fix everything–I’d see his bike in the parking lot and he’d eventually call me to apologize for forgetting the morning text. Perhaps he’d explain that he was in a meeting getting the raise he was due for or another promotion. On my way to my car, I stepped on a shard of glass in my apartment parking lot. Flip-flops offer no protection against such hazards, and I cursed as my heel began to bleed, but I refused to let it stop me from getting the answers that I needed to go about my day. There were so many strange, uncomfortable, downright painful moments over the 12 hours leading up to finding the accident, but I didn’t dare think that any of them could have been an omen or some sort of message from the universe preparing me for what was to come.
I set out on Ron’s work route. Leave the parking lot and turn right, left at the stop sign, right at the light. I followed the road about a half mile before I saw the police blockade at the intersection and acknowledged the officers waving me away. I turned my car around, preparing myself to take an alternate route. I still had no idea that I was exactly where I had hoped and prayed I wouldn’t be, about to see exactly what I had dreaded seeing. Then I looked in my rearview mirror. There was a box truck stopped in the intersection. There was a familiar green motorcycle on the ground. My heart sunk.
I stopped my car; I believe I initially forgot to put it into park before I tried to get out. An officer approached me to ask what I was doing. I was shaking, crying again, and blurted “I think that’s my husband’s bike!” I believe I mentioned that he’d been on his way to work and I couldn’t get a hold of him and was out looking for him to try to confirm his safety. I still hoped that they would tell me it wasn’t him and I’d be on my way. Instead, the officer asked if my husband had California plates, and what my name was. My ears began to ring and my stomach began to grumble with the noises of impending sickness. I was asked to pull to the other side of the road. There was a lot of talking, and I don’t remember what was said, but I do remember that I was told Ron had been in an accident, and I do remember immediately asking if he was okay or if he was dead. I also remember not getting an answer to my question, until I finally got so frustrated that I was downright angry. I may have shouted; I can’t remember if I was even slightly composed. I was thinking, and then said “If he wasn’t dead, you tell me he’s not dead. Why won’t you answer me?!” At some point another officer came over and the first officer I’d been speaking with explained that I’d “figured out what happened.” I was sick and furious and very confused by the fact that I had to “figure it out.” The exchange still haunts and angers me. Eventually I was told that Ron was at the hospital because “he [was] a donor and his organs [were] being harvested.” I still reflect on it as one of the most insensitive sentences that I have ever heard.
Eventually, another officer came over and told me he’d drive me to the hospital. I sat in the passenger seat of my own car and tried to decide who to call. My mom is a cardiac arrest survivor, and I feared that the news would cause her to be shocked by her defibrillator. I called my dad first. My family was visiting Montana at the time, and my dad promised they’d get the next flight out, but I knew it wouldn’t likely be a same-day situation. I remember wondering how I’d survive the day, even the hour, alone.
During the ride to the hospital, I learned a few more details about what had happened, but I don’t remember a lot of them, and I never wanted to know more–I still don’t. I know that Ron was not gone when the officers arrived; I am aware that he died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, and every time I think about it, I wish I had woken up sooner, left sooner, and been there with him in those final moments. I know that I told the officer who was driving that Ron and I had just moved, that I didn’t have friends or family nearby, that we had been trying to have a baby. I remember thinking about all of our plans–the big ones, and the ones as small as possibly going to the mountains that weekend, for the first time since we’d moved. It felt like all of this unfinished business was going to change everything; perhaps if I explained that this was a terrible time to lose Ron and that we had so much planned and he had such a bright future ahead of him, the officer would tell me that this was all a sick joke or a nightmare or a mistake, and Ron was actually at the hospital okay, waiting for me to pick him up.
I was escorted into the hospital and I sat in the ER waiting room for a moment while the officer asked the check-in desk where to take me. A young man, presumably a released patient, approached me and told me to “cheer up.” This was the second most insensitive thing I’d heard that day. My urge to scream at him was only subdued by the shock that was choking me. Though it felt like an eternity, in a few short moments, I was escorted to a private room–the “bad news room” that I’d seen on TV shows on TLC and The Discovery Channel. There were a lot of people around, and I don’t know who exactly everyone was or what exactly they were handing me or telling me. I do remember a single moment of internal laughter–when I noticed the sticky dried blood on my foot and asked for a bandage, a request which was ignored, in a hospital waiting room ironically enough. I was pretty mentally occupied, trying to figure out who I would call, and eventually failing to reach almost every member of Ron’s immediate family that topped my list. Just when I thought I couldn’t feel any more defeated, I was told that I could see Ron. I was given the choice and felt like if I didn’t see him, I wouldn’t ever feel like it was real, and I would regret not saying goodbye for the rest of my life. I stood up and felt so wobbly that I was offered a wheelchair.
I sat down, closed my eyes, and prayed that he’d be breathing when I got to him. At this point, we all know how the story ends, though. Ron wasn’t breathing. His eyes were covered, his mouth was open, and I absolutely hated it. He looked like himself, but he looked dead–because he is dead. There were people watching. I know that at some point, as I held Ron’s still-warm hand, I told those people that I just wanted to see him breathe, and then stood up long enough to kiss his forehead–I wasn’t allowed to hug him, though I would have gladly jumped on the gurney and clung to him for the rest of my own life given the opportunity.
My 26th birthday was just a week after we moved to Colorado. Ron would have turned 29 just three weeks after his death. We would have celebrated six years of being together ten days after the accident and we had celebrated a year of marriage four months prior. When I returned to the bad news room, the officer brought me Ron’s wedding ring. That is perhaps one of the last vivid memories I have of that day, only accompanied by the image of Ron’s face. These moments still haunt me and make me sick and miserable and sometimes overshadow every beautiful memory that I have, that we’d made over our six years together. More often than I have good days, I have days where I feel like I have to consciously remind myself to breathe, lest I literally suffocate under the weight of this heartbreak. I don’t feel like myself; I have a hard time remembering the moments before we were together, when there was Chelsea without a Ron, and I don’t yet know how to use memories as a substitute for Ron’s physical presence. I don’t even know if I believe that it’s possible for that ever to be enough for me to feel happy again.
Ron was one of the most kind-hearted, genuine people I, and many others, had ever met. His smile could brighten a room and his laughter made my heart flutter. Even complete strangers noticed. After his accident, I received a message from a woman who had never met Ron personally but crossed paths with him regularly on her own morning ride to work. His daily nod and wave had such an impact on her that she scoured Facebook to find me, knowing only what Ron’s motorcycle looked like and the area in which the accident had occurred–she, too had seen the aftermath that morning. Ron’s family and friends have been heartbroken beyond words. While the accident has brought many of us closer so we can support eachother through these uncharted waters, it has also caused division between some of us as we deal with our grief in our own ways.
Most of the time, I don’t even know how to deal with my grief. I have lost the person that I spent nearly six years turning to for everything. Happy moments, sad moments, just reflecting on my day–he was the first person to hear all of it. He was my shoulder to cry on, the person who could turn my anxiety and depression into laughter and joy. He was my most constant source of encouragement and positivity and unconditional love. He knew me better than anyone ever has and maybe better than anyone ever will. I knew we had a beautiful relationship but after the accident, more people than I could have fathomed came to tell me just how much our love for eachother touched, inspired, and brought hope to them. Nearly every day, I have moments where I think of things that I want to ask Ron, or things that I want to do for him, often not immediately remembering that he’s not coming back. My parents, sisters, and niece uprooted their life in California to move to Colorado to be close to me, and I get a lot of help and comfort from having them so nearby, but the truth is that they are not a substitute for Ron or a solution to my pain. I feel utterly empty, even in rooms full of love and support. This heartbreak will never go away, and I know I am not the only one feeling it.
Ron was a very non-confrontational, calm, non-retaliatory person. I frequently find myself trying to channel those aspects of his personality into myself when I feel angry and sad and overwhelmed. I absolutely forgive the driver of the vehicle that killed my husband and truly believe that this was an, unfortunately careless, mistake. My only hope that I cling to every day is that somehow I can turn this into an opportunity to spread a message so that Ron hasn’t lost his life completely in vain. We were both huge proponents of motorcycle safety and awareness. It is the reason why Ron wore head-to-toe gear in bright colors and rode a brightly colored bike. And yet, that wasn’t enough to save him. It is so easy to forget that we are all human on the road; for people to become invisible behind their vehicles, even in the brightest of colors. But we are not the vehicles that we drive. We are people behind the wheels–people with families, friends, plans, dreams. When you are driving, be aware. Take the extra moment to look once, twice, several times before you make a turn. Pause an extra second at that stop sign. Wait to scan the intersection before you move on a green light. And don’t do it because you don’t want to hit another vehicle–do it because you don’t want to harm the person driving that vehicle. I am no longer a wife. I am a 26-year-old widow because someone didn’t take an extra split second to look twice. He forgot that there are people on the road, and he didn’t look at all.
Nothing was beautiful and everything hurt.
Ronald Joseph Saldivar, Jr.
11/18/1987 – 10/27/2016