The 4th of July had always been a huge family reunion of sorts. All of us kids would take our vacation at the same time, my family and my sister Stacy's family, would go to Utah to be with our parents, brother's and sisters. We would have so much fun, going to the park for all the festivities (Utah is known for their HUGE celebration), then at night we would all go to The Stadium of Fire (BYU Stadium, Miley Cyrus is performing this year...BIG event). That all changed 16 years ago.
I had just flown in with my son Josh who was 3 years old at the time and I was 6 months pregnant with Jullien. My mom picked us up at the airport. We were laughing and talking about all the plans, and festivities we were going to attend. The airport was about an hour away from my parents house in Provo. Mom told me that my brother John had decided to leave the night before to go visit my dad who was camping in Wyoming (my parents are divorced and both remarried, my dad lives in Reno, NV. and we don't get to see him much).
My mom tried to talk my brother out of going because it was late and she wanted to make sure he was there when we got in. John was a very crazy, full of life, live on the edge kind of kid. He was 21 and loved to go dancing. He planned on going to the club and then continue on from there to camp with my dad. He took one of his friends with him too. Well before he left he came up and hugged my mom and said something really out of character, "Mom, if anything happens, I want you to know that I love you." John never talked like this! He never worried about tomorrow.
John and his friend went dancing, and then headed out for the drive to Wyoming. Somehow, they missed the turn and kept traveling down a long, dark, stretch of highway. John fell asleep at the wheel, headed off the side of the road, woke up and over corrected the truck. Both boys were thrown from the car. His friend died at the scene. My brother was air lifted to the University of Utah Hospital. Had my brother not made the wrong turn, he would have been at my dad's campsite hours before the accident.
As me and my mom pulled into the driveway, laughing and joking, enjoying our time together, my step dad immediately opened the door that led into the garage. I remember he had a very strange look on his face. He told her to come into the house...she knew something was terribly wrong too. I will never forget, as long as I live, my mothers heart wrenching, agonizing scream, and running in to see my mother curled up on the floor in a fetal position crying.
We had only been told that he was in a serious accident and we needed to get to the hospital that was an hour away. My brother was in a coma for a week, it was strange because he looked perfect, even the scratches on his face were healing...but his brain was swelling. We had spent every second at the hospital, my mom wanted us to take a break and go to The Stadium of Fire show that we all had tickets for. None of us wanted to leave, but my mom said, "You know John would want you all to go." So we all sat there unable to enjoy the normal, excitement, thinking, praying and hoping for a miracle.
As the grand finale was lighting up the sky with amazing red, white, blue, gold and silver colors, I felt a heaviness and somehow knew that my brother was gone. We returned to the hospital, it was confirmed, my brother no longer had brain waves.
It was so like my brother...to leave this world with a huge celebration. He was so loud, fun, crazy, caring and loving...he was larger than life, cramming a full life into 21 short years. On July 5th my family made the decision to pull the plug. We donated his corneas, heart and kidneys to other people who needed his life saving gift...John would have wanted that.
Happy 4th of July! We continue to celebrate this holiday in your honor. We love and miss you Johnny and can't wait to see you again!