Who are you?
You read a post about this cute woman and her adorable service dog and now you are wondering who the hell is she? You just read that post and you are thinking “How did she go from losing her son in a horrific accident to posing with a poodle in a bow tie?” Well, it is a complicated, beautiful, and heart wrenching story and I am here to give you a brief look into who I am.
We will skip the childhood portion for a later day and start when I was 17. I was an honor roll student, in all the school plays, and just found out I was pregnant. Yup, you read that right, I was knocked up and 17. Baby daddy and I didnt work out and he never ended up meeting his son. I was a single mom to a beautiful baby boy named Ethan. At 18 I started working at PetSmart and growing my career as a Pet Stylist.
When Ethan was 18 months old, I met my soulmate, Kyle. Kyle was the only Dad Ethan ever knew. Kyle proposed after dating for a year and 7 months and we got married on our 2 year anniversary. At this point, I felt like life couldn’t get better. I was a Salon Manager for PetSmart and an Academy Instructor teaching students how to groom. Kyle worked for the Port of Tampa and we had our cute little starter home. Meanwhile, Ethan was the most amazing kid that ever existed. He had this contagious personality that just made your heart melt. He always had a bright outlook on life and always had empathy towards other people.
After being married for 2 years, we found out we were expecting a new little Bethune on the way! Ethan was going to be a big brother and he was over the moon proud! Ethan and Ben loved going to disney (we have been passholders since December of 2006). We would make little day trips just to go for a couple hours. Ethan even helped Ben learn how to walk at 12 months old. They were inseparable.
Insert September 16th 2011. We were preparing to leave for Ethan’s Birthday Weekend (His birthday was September 19th) and I had been packing the entire night before. I walked Ethan to the bus stop and he gave me these beautiful yellow flowers he just picked and said “Here Mom, I love you!” and he skipped off to the bus. As soon as I got done with work that day, we loaded up and hit the road. 15 minutes into our routine trip on I4 we were hit by a truck that crossed the center median. I saw Ethan killed instantly. My first born son just died right in front of my eyes. I can remember getting out of the van and running to his side of the car and knowing there wasn’t anything that I can do. He was dead. I remember the world was spinning, but I was standing still and screaming. It was the sound of the pain of a mother losing their child.
Kyle was in the hospital for 5 days with a brain bleed, ruptured spleen, and 3 broken ribs. By the grace of God, Ben, who was 13 months old, walked away with one small scratch on his head. I was able to walk away physically fine, but mentally, I was ruined forever. I immediately started taking heavy pills to numb the image of Ethan. Soon, I felt like a zombie, not even recognizable to the person I used to be. For years, I was on serious anxiety medicine and had panic attack pills on standby.
Over the years, we had two more beautiful kids, Molly (6) and Eli (4). We have made amazing memories with the whole family while always sharing Ethan and his life with Ben, Molly, and Eli. In the meantime, Theodore was given to me at 8 weeks old by a woman who needed to flee the state because of domestic violence. As soon as I held Theodore, I looked into his eyes and we had this unbreakable connection.
I met Hope Springs mand she introduced the notion that I could be eligible for a Service Dog for my severe panic attacks and anxiety disorder. I talked to my doctor and the rest was history. We evaluated Theodore when he was 6 months old and decided that he would be a great candidate for being a Service Dog. We put him through training and trained him for the specific tasks I needed him to complete.
Having Theodore has given me my life back. I don’t have to live in fear of my panic attacks any more. I can travel anywhere I want and when I do have a flashback to the accident, Theodore leaps into action and knows exactly what to do. I don’t have to take highly addictive medicine anymore and I am not a zombie that I don’t even recognize. He gives me the confidence to go anywhere and do anything because I know that he has my back, no matter what.
Many of you are appalled that we still go to Disney after our accident with comments such as “She clearly doesn’t grieve her son at all with that smile on her face”, “If I lost a son, I wouldn’t ever go back to somewhere he died at, she obviously didn’t care about him”, and “She can just go spread her legs and make a replacement kid”.
Why do I go back to Disney? It is simple, it was Ethan’s favorite place on Earth and I would be doing his memory a disservice if we stopped going. When I am at Disney, I feel close to Ethan. I feel joy in my heart just walking down Main Street. We make new memories with our kids and point out all of Ethan’s favorite rides and snacks. We make Ethan still a part of the family.
So many people judge me by my outer appearance, but let me tell you, it took a long time mentally to get this way. Why do I wear so much makeup and dress in cute clothes? One day, after the accident, I realized that I had let myself go. I never wore makeup, I was always in yoga pants, and my hair was sloppily put in a bun on top of my head. I decided to put makeup on and real clothes one morning. And damn it wouldn’t you know, I made it through my day and accomplished a ton of stuff. I was actually productive! Day by day, I would put makeup on and real clothes and venture out into the world and I became human again. It became where I loved makeup again and dressing cute, so I kept it up. It helps me get through my day.
When I wrote that post, I had wanted to open up a few hearts and minds to invisible disabilities; I had no idea how big it would get. No matter the negative comments and how far the post goes, the message is still the same…… Don’t make judgements based on appearance, you have no idea the battle that someone is fighting on the inside.