5:40 pm Wednesday August 31- I took Ambrose to work his shift at McDonald’s. Before he got out of the car I said, “I love you son. I am so proud of you! You will have a great time tonight. I can’t wait to see you in the morning!”
Ambrose replied, “Bye! I love you, Mom!”
10:33 pm Wednesday evening I texted my son. I told him that I wouldn’t be able to pick him up for work. I apologized because I had taken my medication. It makes very sleepy very quickly. I texted to him that I didn’t think that I could stay up that late. That I was sorry. That I loved him.
10:52 pm he texted back “Rip”.
2:00 am Thursday Ambrose left work from McDonald’s. He was walking home facing south on the northbound side of Whitmore Lake Road. He was on the gravel. He was well off the road, and past the bike lane. He was walking with his shirt over his shoulders which would have shown his pale 6 foot frame. An uninsured yellow corvette driven by an eighteen year old man slid off the road in front of Corrigan Oil. He hit my son hard enough to throw his body into the bushes off of the road. There are no brake marks. There are only skidding away tire marks, and tire marks off the road.
9:14 am I texted my son to tell him that I was sorry and I wouldn’t sleep in on him again. He never came home from work. I assumed that he had called a friend to pick him up, and was still asleep. I texted him throughout the afternoon telling him of appointments I was making for him and his cat. I never heard back. He never responded about needing a ride. It was still possible that his phone died, but he got a ride to work, so he didn’t want to bother me.
Friday morning I began to panic. I utilized the time that he was away to clean up his room and do his laundry. I even laid out a pair of pants for him to wear to work that night. I knew something horrible had happened. I called the hospital in Ann Arbor and Brighton. I called the jails. I tried calling all his friends. I tried to get a hold of people online. Mike Cook called me back and insisted on coming over.
5:45 pm I called his work to see if he showed up for his shift at 5:45. He did not. Ambrose was a committed employee. He would never be late. They told me he didn’t show up the day before either. I hung up and called 911 to file a missing person report. I told Sean that he might be in a ditch on Whitmore Lake Road and no one had seen him yet. Sean left and drove to Whitmore Lake Road. Within moments a Green Oak County officer was at my door. I met him outside on the front porch. He asked me about my son. I told him that he was about six feet tall with short blond hair. I told him Ambrose is a good, good, boy. That he didn’t smoke cigarettes, or ever drink, or ever do a drug his doctor didn’t prescribe him. That he would never ever go more than a day without calling his mother. The officer told me that he knew where Ambrose was. I thought he would tell me that he had been in a hospital. He told me that my son was dead. I fell to the ground wailing. At that moment Sean pulled up in front of the house and was crying. As soon as I had gotten off the phone with McDonald’s, an employee drove down Whitmore Lake road towards Eight Mile Road. That person saw Ambrose’s hat on the side of the road. They pulled over and saw Ambrose’s body. The policeman told me that he would have his entire top investigation team working on finding Ambrose’s killer. There were pieces of the headlights all around his body. Mercy came around the corner in the driveway and saw how I was crying. She knew right away what had happened. That was the same sort of sound I made when Gaz died. At some point Mike Cook showed up. I called Jason, but he didn’t answer. I called my mom. She was in the truck with Jeff. I gave her a quick summary. Jason called back, so I hung up with my mom. I told him what happened. I heard him yell loudly, “Not now!”. I called Sarah, but she didn’t answer. I called Nick. He was stunned and started crying with me. I called my Grandma, and Tanya, and Jennifer. My Grandma sent both of my Aunts down to be with me. I called Karen Olsen. My pastor called me. I told him he could come see me the next day. Nick came over right away and sat with us until I was exhausted from traumatic shock.
September 3- Saturday morning, I woke up screaming. As soon as I could talk at all I called Sarah. She still didn’t answer. About 10 minutes later, she texted to me “My mom just passed”. I texted back, “So, did Ambrose”. She called me back immediately. We both sobbed and wept and wailed. It was a moment of ultimate sorrow, and horror show experience. I just wanted to wake up so desperately. I couldn’t force myself awake. Women from church started pouring into my house and driveway. Arms full of hugs and tears embraced me from every direction. Arms full of food came stacking up into my kitchen. Nick brought pizzas and coffee. Sarah came immediately. As soon as she got to me house, we stitched one another to our sides. There were so many people. My grandma and grandpa came. I was shook. I was mortified. The emotional pain was excruciating, like nothing else I could know. The world was wrong. My baby boy laid in a ditch for 2 days. I was shattered. My skin filleted off from me. The air was painful. I felt this crushing weight that was so heavy I would collapse to the ground. I wanted to hold and feel my baby boy.
He was so good. He was on the last few weeks of teenage hell. That Thursday was when we had plans to go get his driver’s permit. He had a job. He was doing well there, and was saving money. Every paycheck he would buy a gift for someone or himself, take someone out to dinner (usually me) and then put the rest into the bank. He was a great person. The last big ticket item he bought was an action figure from Marley’s favorite cartoon. Ambrose had introduced Marley to Jo Jo’s Great Adventure, and they had spent countless hours watching it together. He was an excellent brother.
Saturday Evening- The police return to tell me that they caught the person who killed my son. The guy’s brother turned him in. The damage to the car was exactly when and where my son was hit. They had hid the car. The guy admitted everything to the police. He told the officer that he thought he hit a deer, got out of his car to look, but didn’t see anything and drove away. But that isn’t true. He still isn’t under arrest.
Sunday, Jason and I already had many decisions to make. We had to come speak with the small funeral home I picked in Pinckney. It was right down the street from my church. As soon as I got into his car I told him explicitly that I could not listen to music. Jason could not tolerate any music whatsoever either. I accidentally had him drive past Whitmore Lake Road that first time we went out together. I only made that mistake once. Jason drove me down the street to my church. I had to get a good healthy dose of church family loving. Jason chain smoked in the parking lot. Jason has been more than gracious in every way. Nick was at my house if he wasn’t at work. My grandparents stayed with me all day. Sarah came with Ricky. Sean took Ricky down to Ambrose’s room. He was devastated. Too much time never to be accounted for.
Monday, everyone on board with mourning Ambrose and Linda (Sarah’s mom) were exclusive to the rest of reality. Everything was so surreal. The First borns of The Fab Four were a whole other level of tragedy. Sarah is by my side with her son, Ricky. Ricky is a wreck. Tanya was in North Carolina, but Sarah picked her daughter Jacque up from her dad’s house. When Jacque came to the house, she was speechless. Jen was house bound by medical chains. Her daughter, Mary, was just freaked out. Those four kids knew each other before they were born. Their mothers had been best friends for decades. That corner of the square is gone. I was still trying to call anyone I could about Ambrose’s murder. I was inconsolable. My mother would be arriving Thursday. My grandparents were there every day. Sarah was driving all over the state of Michigan to be sure that no one was left out. Nick… the indispensable Nick. The only one who had anything useful to say. He was the only person I knew who had their child die. The odds of it happening to both of us seemed so miniscule. It happened. It really happened. We talked continuously of Ambrose’s valor. I decided what tattoo I would get for Ambrose. Nick said he would get the same. Sarah said she would, too.
The hospital would not release his body until we had him cremated. Jason and I had to choose an urn. I wanted Jason to have Ambrose, too. He chose a large marble urn for me to keep, and another smaller one for himself. I was in a cold haze. I felt so empty. I felt incomplete, and robbed. I felt vulnerable to the worst events. I mean, I prayed EVERYday for my babies. My baby boy was murdered. This was really happening. It was happening for real.
By Tuesday, the story of Ambrose’s murder was all over the media. I didn’t know that at the time because I was absent from reality. None of it mattered. Nothing matters.
I was mostly at home. I took a couple of short walks with the dog. It was painful to leave the property, because I couldn’t leave even the energy of Ambrose. Lots of sitting in circles while weeping. A lot of weeping. A lot of reminiscing. A lot of counting the things of which he can never have a chance to do. God was off in the distance. I was down in it.
Sean was in the background raising the girls, and propping me up. Church friends were still drifting by and checking in on me. Ambrose’s best friends were at my house every day to take care of me and the girls and Spike. Jason and I were connecting, but it was in a morbid way.
Sarah and I decided we should get drunk.
Wednesday I did not leave my nightgown or my bed, excluding tasks regarding bodily functions. It felt like the right thing to do. My pastor came by and we discussed what a memorial service for Ambrose might look like. There were 3 songs I needed to be played for Ambrose. I had to make one of those damn poster boards. I didn’t even acknowledge much of the rest of it. Sarah came by with mead, wine, and whiskey. Nick was still here with me as much as he could be. I was rocking a lot. I would stare off into space for a long time. I continued silently screaming into my hands all the time. There was a screaming in my head that would not stop. I was still waiting to wake up. I had to get drunk so that I could go downstairs in Ambrose’s room. I had to get pictures out from storage. I might have done a better job sober, but it was the only way I could get through it.
Sarah and I decided we should get our nails done.
Thursday, Ambrose’s friend Chappy came by with a pastor. He was a nice man who discussed mourning with me. He had a lot of positive things to add to my coping skills box. I was touched by Chappy’s gesture. Sarah came over in the later that morning to get our nails done. We had to do something to break off from the grieving train. It’s not ok to be in that state of ultimate sadness for long periods of time. The music in the nail salon was pop. That meant it was the same as listening to a noise that isn’t music.
Sarah and I decided we should get a tattoo.
Then we drove out to Hartland where Nick’s cafe and the tattoo shop that I had a gift certificate is. Sarah and I made got coffee and lunch at Kahuna Coffee, and then went next door to the tattoo shop. I had a $150 gift certificate from a Make-a-Wish fundraiser. Nick holds one every year in honor of Emma. The guy needed more time to design it. Sarah and I made a new appointment for 5:00 pm the next day. There were some issues in keeping with the integrity of Ambrose’s music. I asked Sarah’s dad if he would play Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. He accepted. Heroes by David Bowie. Death is not the end by Nick cave and the Bad Seeds. My mother and stepfather stopped by for a bit.
Friday, it’s the day before my son’s funeral. Morning’s were the worst. Every morning I woke up, I thought of Ambrose and nothing else. It was excruciating knowing that I was fucked living another day without him. His murder was real another day. Another day I can not hold him. I started at doors waiting for Ambrose to walk through one. Sarah was consoling her family. I was consoling mine. Many tears. She and I spent as many moments as we could carving out the agony together. Jason picked me up that morning so that we could go to the church and finalize Ambrose’s memorial. He had already learned the back roads to get there.
Saturday, THE day. It was raining, of course. Emily had given me the just right dress to wear, and a mourning shawl. I wore as many layers as I could. Make-up, perfume, covering all my skin, I was prepared but not ready for this. I rode to the funeral with Jason and his wife, Sarah. It was quiet and cold.
As soon as we arrived at the church, people approached to hug us. It’s a blur. I went outside and saw my small smoking section. Nick was there. Jeff was there. That was important. I saw Isaac. That was important. I saw many people. They were all important. Before the service, Pastor Bonnie came to me. We both cried as we both prayed. I heard Sarah’s dad start playing Hallelujah, the Leonard Cohen version. I put my mourning shawl over my head and began the slow walk in. Paul Zissler gave a moving introduction. Pastor Bonnie gave a moving sermon. Chappy gave a brilliant eulogy. There was a slide show of Ambrose. The song Heroes by David Bowie played in the background. People said 2 word adjectives about Ambrose. There were many perfect compliments. Ryan Ponessa played All the Poor and Powerless. Then something… Then when the song, Death is Not the End, by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds played; I walked slowly up the aisle through the sanctuary. There were people all over me, hugging me, crying with me. People who I hadn’t seen in many years had come to pay tribute to the Mighty Ambrose. It was standing room only after all of the chair space was used. At least 250 people were there.
I was held up by Nick and Sarah all the way to the Fellowship Hall for a bread breaking. People were around me in droves. I was surrounded by arm, and tears, and wailing. Some people just ate. No one smiled. My Isaac was there. Even Melodie and Ryan were there. All the food looked like raw animals, or body parts and food coloring added. When I saw Jason’s mom I just wailed. When I saw Jane Clark, I begged her to tell me what to do. “I don’t know what to do now, Mrs. Jane.” Jeff Stewart was there because he should be. Jonathan came. Of course he came. He indulged in showing Ambrose underground art and media.Every single person ever was there. There were a whole corporate board and all his co-workers from McDonald’s. People tried to make me eat, but it couldn’t happen. Eventually, I was walked to Nick’s car. Sean took the girls home. Or maybe they went with people. I don’t know. Jason, Sarah, and Charlotte went to Chappy’s house.
A circle made it to Nick’s. Not just any circle, but a circle of people who had been by his side to watch him grow, and contributed to his development. The people who really knew Ambrose. It was me, Sarah, Nick, Jonathan, Ricky, Mark, Mark, Tanya, Jacque and Darryan.
We sat and chain smoked cigarettes. We talked about Ambrose and we talked about everything for hours.
I made it home somehow. I must have fallen asleep at some point. I will never stop crying. I know that there will never be any true joy or happiness ever again in my entire life.