My Brother Paul
By: Melody Crombie September 2015
I caught myself thinking about him again, nearly 37 years after that fateful night that changed my life forever. I went around the house wondering how I could miss one human being so much, why wasn't I able to stop the hurt? Tears stung my eyes, like they've done nearly every time I really stop and think about him. He wasn't a lover or a friend, he was my baby. . .baby brother that is. He was taken from me and my family way before his time. He was only 15 and I had just turned 17 a few weeks before. We were walking home after a hike in the Santa Cruz mountains, following the train tracks. As we crossed the highway, we chose to stay on the tracks instead of walking over to the crosswalk. That was our first mistake. It was getting dark and we didn't have flashlights, another mistake. The mist was coming in from the coast making it even more difficult for people who wore glasses to see clearly, like my brother.
I found out later that he had taken a golf ball (found on our hike) out of his pocket and was bouncing it on the pavement in front of him when it hit his shoe and went out into the highway. I was behind him looking down, rearranging the jacket I had draped over my arm. I heard him go and thought it was time to cross the road so I started to follow him. A hand grabbed my arm and pulled me back. Around that same instant I heard a loud impact sound, like something solid hitting an object made of metal and glass. It was accompanied by crunching, brakes, tires screeching and broken glass. I looked up full of hope, knowing I would see my brother on the other side of the road waving to me, showing me he was okay. Instead I looked up and saw a human form riding on the hood and front bumper of a car. My heart immediately sank. I had an incredible urge to die along with him. Panic set in, I was ready to harm myself to get to Paul, I started to run into traffic to get to my brother but our family friend, the one whose hand had kept me from going, wouldn't let me. As the minutes ticked by (it seemed like hours) he was the only thing that kept me from completely losing my mind.
When it was safe he led me across the road and kept me from seeing my brother for a long time thinking his broken body would be too much to handle. Cars slowly made their way around Paul's body and the accident vehicle. At my insistence and pleading, our friend finally allowed me to see my brother. We walked over not sure what to expect. I immediately noticed that his chest was caved in and his legs were bent backwards in a very unnatural way. His glasses and shoes were gone. A kind stranger from a home nearby had heard the crash and ran out to help. He covered my brother with a blanket, elevating his feet. I think there were flares that someone put out. Another helpful stranger said Paul was in shock and reassured us that an ambulance was on the way.
The ambulance seemed to take longer than usual. They finally arrived and using two boards on either side of his body, bent down and scooped him up off the road, placing him onto a stretcher. I rode with Paul in the ambulance while our family friend took his dog back to his house. He told me he would meet me at the hospital. In my youthful optimism and inexperience, I thought my unconscious brother would have a few cracked ribs, broken legs and an amazing story to tell everyone when he woke up. I didn't realize the frothy bloody mixture coming from his nose meant his body was already dying.
I answered a lot of questions once we got to the hospital for the admittance forms, they even asked if he had any allergies! I was surprised and completely unprepared when a different nurse at the hospital asked me to come with her. As we walked down a hallway she told me he was dead on arrival. All of a sudden, I could physically see a black cage drop down around me as I tried to grasp the reality and finality of death. Death of a loved one seemed like it only happened to other people, bad people. Not good Christian kids in good Christian families.
Our friend was devastated when he came to the hospital and heard my brother was already dead. All I could do in the moment was retain the thought that I would see him in heaven someday. I was actually joyful for a few hours. However, as the days turned into weeks and weeks into months and so on, I was unprepared for the amount of grief that would accompany never seeing Paul again in this lifetime. Waves of grief would roll over me for the next ten years and I wouldn't be able to think about him without crying. Twenty then thirty years went by and I was busy being a wife and mother. I would think about him and still miss him and cry.
God gave me a faithful husband who has stayed with me for 30 years and seven children (five are boys) to fill the lonely void. My big beautiful family and memories of Paul are constant reminders of how much God loves me and how much life matters; short or long -ALL LIVES MATTER!