The beginning of 2018 promised a new start. I was in a new home within walking distance of
the store. I could focus on my goals for the year. I posted them above my desk so that I would have a
daily reminder of where I wanted to take this special little place. More social media presence, a
website, empty a back room filled with boxes of books that needed shelving, finish organizing
bookshelves, connect with a publishing company, and host more local authors for readings and signings.
I set about accomplishing these goals one step at a time.
March rolled around and I came across a postcard among a variety that we sell. It is the above picture of a heart formed by lightning with a quote by Joseph Conrad. “We live in the flicker.” It also
has a calendar for the month of March across the bottom. After having just lost both parents, the quote
struck a chord within me. Even though they both lived into their 90’s, it seemed as though looking back
I’d only had them a short time. It all passed in a flicker in the grand scheme of things.
March 14, 2018 passed for me like any other day. Worked in the store, went home and spent
my evening as usual. Dinner, texting with friends, a little television and to bed. I had spent a mundane
evening not knowing how drastically life was going to change. I am a night owl of the worst sort. It
wasn’t until 2 a. m. that I began turning in. My doorbell literally rang as I was lying down. My heart
began to pound. I picked up my phone to call my oldest son. He was calling me. He was the person
ringing my doorbell. Two in the morning. All things that parents dread seem to occur at that hour. It’s
cliché until it happens to you. As the mother of two state troopers and a Marine, I had prepared myself
for bad news for years. I was also married to a trooper for nearly 30 years. There had been a few of
those instances where things happened that no parent or wife wishes to experience. None had
occurred at 2:00 a.m. Everything prior had been serious but never life threatening. My family and I had
persevered and become stronger individuals in the process.
Thoughts were racing through my head. It wasn’t John. He was the one calling. It had to be my
other son or my ex-husband. Not once did it occur to me that it was my Marine because he was safe on
his base here in the states. He was no longer in danger after returning from deployment in the Middle
East. I opened the door and my second son was standing there with John. My ex then? No. It WAS my
Marine. He had been wrestling around with a friend on base after chow and gone into sudden cardiac
arrest at 6:40 that evening. During the episode he had also aspirated his entire dinner into his lungs.
Due to military protocol, information is never passed on to family members until all facts are
established. My son’s commanding officer was mid-flight from overseas when he was informed. He
could not make notification until all facts were confirmed. Mid-flight communication prevented absolute
confirmation. My son’s father was not informed until 12:30 that night. For six hours our family was
oblivious to the fact that our son was fighting for his life. Within five minutes I was dressed and we were
on our way to Charleston, SC to where he had been airlifted. I didn’t know it at the time, but his dad
had been informed that the situation was grave. Our son was not expected to live through the night.
Had it not been for his friends relentlessly doing CPR even though they could not find a pulse, he
would have died then and there. EMT’s had to defibrillate him four times before finally getting a pulse and transporting him to the hospital in Beaufort, SC.
There he was stabilized and med-flighted to the Medical University of South Carolina — one of the top
hospitals in the country. During the six-hour ride I prayed nonstop. We arrived to find a waiting room
filled with his fellow Marines. Those lean, mean fighting machines were, at that moment, a group
of frightened, emotional young people who had witnessed a nightmare. We learned that our boy was
still with us and every measure possible was being taken to keep him alive. Heart and lung bypasses.
Ventilator. Central lines. Looking down at my handsome, physically fit son with all of those machines
attached to him was heartbreaking. One wonders how you keep breathing if something so bad happens
to one of your children. I found my answer in that moment. You just do. Your body won’t let you stop.
Our every need was met by the Marine Corps. Housing in a beautiful southern mansion called
Fisher House was arranged. It is similar to what we know as Ronald McDonald House but for veteran
and military families who need lodging during medical stays. Our family never wanted for food,
clothing, or comfort. In the midst of that nightmare we found blessings at every turn. Slowly, our son
emerged from near death. Each day we watched him grow weaker and physically waste away until
nearly a month later he turned a corner and began to win little victories. He combed his hair. He
brushed his teeth. He stood for a few seconds on his own. He walked a few steps. He began to amaze
the medical staff with his recovery. No patient there had ever come back from such a traumatic event
As life fell into a routine, I was able to consider what would happen to my little store back home.
My friend offered to open it on Saturdays and Mondays for me. She was working six days a week
between the store and her own job as a church secretary. I will be forever grateful to her. We posted a
brief explanation on our store Facebook page. “Family emergency” was all we stated. Our customers
became very concerned, so we reluctantly gave more detail. I can honestly say that our bookshop has a
great support system. Customers posted that they were praying for our family. They also made sure to
visit the store on the two days a week we were able to be open.
I’m happy to say that when my son was released at the end of April I was able to come home to
a business that the community had kept alive with their support. In the year since, life has finally
settled and I have been able to achieve most of the goals I posted back in January 2018. This new website is
up and running, the shelves are all in order, our social media presence continues to grow, and we have hosted
several local authors with success. I still have the heart postcard pinned beside the goal sheet. I had
been back to work in the store a couple of days before I even noticed it above my desk. It sent chills
down my body. We do “live in the flicker.” Life is precious and unpredictable. One thing I know for
sure. Princeton is a community that supports its local bookstore, but more importantly, our customers
are a true blessing in a life filled with blessings.