Garrett John Delorme
January 25, 2000 — August 18, 2008
Garrett was born on January 25, 2000—The new millennium! We were so excited to be parents. He was the first grandchild on my side of the family, and as my husband was the youngest of his family, Garrett was the first baby to arrive on his side in over ten years. Garrett was the first great-grandchild on both sides of my family. My Scottish grandmother was excited that he was born on Robbie Burns day, and my German grandmother couldn’t wait to start cooking for him.
Garrett made parenting easy. He was a happy baby who smiled at everyone, though he wasn’t perfect—he was the worst sleeper! As we tried to navigate all the let-him-cry-it-out advice along with the soothers-make-you-bad-parents wisdom, combined with our desire to hold him constantly, I’m sure we were responsible for his sleep issues. Even after his sister was born, Garrett was up during the night while she slept right through. One of my favorite memories of his sleepless nights was when he was two years old. He wandered to my bedside to tell me, “Mom, there’s a moose in my room…and he brought his mom.” Even sleep-deprived, it was difficult to be annoyed by such an adorable imagination.
Garrett grew up loving every part of farm life. He loved animals and the outdoors. When he was eight-years-old, he convinced Gerry to let him shoot gophers. I did not grow up on a farm, so this ritual of farm life seemed strange to me, and I was apprehensive about it. Because Garrett was too young to take the Firearms Safety Course available in Canada, Gerry got his old course manual and read it with him, cover to cover. After Garrett could recite all the safety rules, the two of them began hunting gophers often. Garrett was thrilled that he was such a great shot, and he often spoke about the safety precautions they were taking.
August 18, 2008, is a day that changed everything for us. I’d arrived home the night before from a girl’s weekend at the spa, so I felt rejuvenated and had lots of energy for the kids this day—which was a blessing. We spent the day playing board games and having fun in the bale fort, and then we labelled all the school supplies since the first day of school was less than a week away. Looking back, I smile because Garrett insisted that each crayon, pencil crayon, marker, pencil, and pen be labelled separately; having his name on the boxes was not enough. In a way, that was a gift as we still have many of his labelled supplies around our house—I love seeing his name!
It was about four o’clock when Gerry’s childhood friend stopped by to see if he and Garrett wanted to shoot gophers with him and his son. He was home with his kids for one last visit before school started. They lived in the city, and his kids loved getting out to the farm to enjoy the outdoors and all the things that came with it. Of course, gopher hunting was high on that list. Gerry and his buddy took the kids out to the pasture to shoot gophers.
I won’t go into too many details about this day because, first, I wasn’t there, and secondly, I know it is still painful for many people. The bare facts are these: after two hours of shooting hundreds of gophers (our part of the province was completely overrun with them that year), the boys were told it was time to go home. Garrett, being the rule follower that he was, got up to go, but he stepped in front of the boy who was taking “one last shot.” Garrett was shot in the back of the head. He did not feel pain; he would be pronounced brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Gerry went ahead of me with Garrett in the ambulance to the city hospital, since our small-town hospital was not equipped to deal with such a serious injury. I left Morgan and Justin with a neighbor and drove to the hospital with my parents. I remember every minute of that two-hour drive—the longest drive of my life—yet I was filled with an overwhelming sense of composure. Somehow, God put it in my head and heart that no matter the outcome, I would be okay.
When we arrived at the hospital, we were ushered into a cold, windowless room decorated with wooden crates for seating and a heart diagram on the wall. My poor husband was devastated. I have never felt so helpless in my life. Not only was my son critically injured, but my husband felt responsible and was inconsolable. We were allowed into emergency room #7 to see Garrett while they were running brain scans to determine activity. Seeing my son unresponsive and potentially dying was a sight that I wish I hadn’t seen, though I know that the images Gerry has of the accident are worse than mine.
While we were waiting for our consultation with the doctor, the police came to question Gerry and his friend. It is their job to ask questions whenever someone is injured with a firearm, but we sure didn’t appreciate the intrusion at the time. So here we were, unsure whether our child would live, and the police were in everyone’s face needing answers. In the end, they judged there was nothing criminal about Garrett’s accident.
After waiting for an hour or so, the doctor came to tell us that the damage to Garrett’s brain was permanent and there was nothing he could do to save him. Within minutes of that news, the organ-donor-guy (I’m sure he has a title, but I don’t care what it is) came to ask us if we were willing to donate Garrett’s organs. Gerry and I had always agreed that we’d donate our own organs should the situation arise, though I don’t have to tell you this was not a question we had ever considered for our children. We discussed briefly and decided that if we could give one parent the gift of their child’s life, we would donate. I learned so many things that night that I wish I could unlearn. There was a list of about 200 questions that we had to answer for Garrett to qualify. Thankfully the organ-donor-guy saw fit to skip the 50 questions related to Garrett’s sex life.
After signing the consent papers, our options were to leave him and accept that his machines would be turned off after the transplants, or wait until all the surgeries were complete and then leave after he was officially pronounced dead (each organ was extracted with its own surgery). So we waited. And waited. Garrett had surgery to remove and donate his kidneys, but because of the extensive brain damage he suffered, the doctors were unable to keep him alive long enough to harvest his other organs. Harvest? Yes, harvest! I was absolutely traumatized to learn this terminology for organ extractions.
It was about 4:30 a.m. when they called us to say our final goodbyes to Garrett. I squeezed his hand and ran my fingers through his hair one last time. Leaving him there seemed so wrong, and I was on the phone with our funeral director as soon as they opened the next morning making arrangements for Garrett to be brought home.
When I think back to that night, I realize I must have been in complete shock. If you had asked me how I would react if one of my kids died, I would have told you that I would be hysterical, but that was not my reaction. I did not cry inconsolably. I did not yell at people. I did not swear or throw things. I competently handled all the questions and decisions, and I cry more thinking back to that nightmare than I did that night.