The last night

This year, Oct. 5 fell on a Monday. I spent the evening at my son’s baseball game. Two years ago, it was a Saturday night when I tried to use my cracked fingernails to burrow down into the rocky earth for warmth.

After the game, I just couldn’t bring myself to write about it.

What is there to say? I was cold, bitterly cold. I spent the night hallucinating and coming up with all sorts of fantastical “explanations” as to why I was outside and freezing.

So instead of recollecting, I watched my kid play ball. I teared up a couple of times, imagining the things my psychologist told me not to imagine. What if I had died? Would he even be playing ball? And if so, who would be watching, cheering him on?

Yesterday, Oct. 6, I awoke with a sense of … lightness. For on this day, I was found.

I want to write about that feeling later, after I’ve had some time to process it.

What I can say, right now, is that I am so glad this anniversary is now past. Well, almost. This time two years ago, I was out of the ICU, but still not allowed to get out of bed and walk. I was, however, healing.

Many times, these past two weeks, I’ve longed to be back in that hospital, sedated and comforted by the presence of firm and compassionate hands. Instead, I’ve made a couple of trips to my psychologist and gotten a prescription for a benzo.

But again, I remind myself that I am here. I. Am. HERE. Alive. Sitting in the living room with my kids and husband and reassuring everyone that dinner is almost done.

Last year, I recognized this anniversary by watching my newspaper series run.

This year, I’ve made other arrangements. You can expect some great photos on Facebook soon.

Meanwhile, good night. Enjoy your time with your families. Hug those pesky kids and, if even your husband is being a totally annoying dude, hug him anyway and tell him you love him.

(Because one day, you, too, might have to remember during each and every argument that Dude freaking saved your butt by hiking out of the desert in search of help while you flailed around under a mesquite tree. Trust me, it’s irritating, but damn, I love the guy for everything he did to get me out of there.)

So on this night … God bless and good night.




‘I just sat down’

This is the difficult day, Oct. 4. It’s the day that I sat down beside a mesquite tree and told my husband to leave me in the desert.

This wasn’t an emotional scene. In fact, we were very matter-0f-fact about separating.

He could still keep going. I couldn’t.

I was the one who told him to go.

Later, Rick told me that if I had cried or shown any sign of fear at being left alone, he wouldn’t have been able to leave.

But I was done. And I could see that he wasn’t.

It just made sense to split up.

For two years, however, I’ve mentally flogged myself for “quitting.” Or, as Texans put it, for “sitting down.”

I was a mother trying to get home to two children. I’d hung in there for 2 1/2 days. And I am not a quitter. What kind of mother just … gives up? What kind of mother just sits the f*** down?

And then last weekend, I took my son to see Everest. I’ve read Thin Air. I’m well aware that the movie wasn’t true to the book.

But the scene in which guide Rob Hall refuses to leave his client, Doug, got to me.

Rob could’ve made it. If he’d left the dying Doug behind and headed down, he would have made it home to his pregnant wife. But he wouldn’t go. And Doug, in the movie, anyway, wasn’t in any condition to tell Rob to get the hell out while he still could.

At the time that Rick and I parted ways, the only thought running through my mind was that Rick still had a chance. And if he made it out, the kids would still have one of their parents.

And maybe, just maybe, if he made it out, I would live too.

I wasn’t thinking about it then, but the fact is that McFarlands thrive on missions. Give ’em a goal and they’re unstoppable.

Looking back … the best thing I ever could have done to have ensured our survival was to send Rick out on a mission.

Get out. Get help. The kids are depending on you. I am depending on you.

But it wasn’t until watching the movie last weekend that I finally understood that I made a mother’s sacrifice. I was willing to give up my life if it meant that my kids would see their Daddy come home.

The thought of them losing both parents? I just couldn’t conceive of it.

I have the most amazing husband in the world. But I see now that I short-changed myself.

Yeah, I sat down. But I did so knowing that it was the only way to make my husband go. To leave. To turn his back on me.

And for that … I. Am. Proud.