My husband, Patrick, was dedicated to staying physically fit. He didn’t love working out but he did it anyway. Each morning he would run, lift weights, or ride his bike out Shaw Avenue to Quail Lakes, do a lap or two and return home.
I am not a morning person so I regularly slept through his entire workout. He would usually finish by 6:45 a.m. at the latest.
On April 20 last year, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. for a call at 7. He wasn’t home but I wasn’t immediately alarmed and got ready to work. At 7, I asked our daughter, Camille, to check the garage for his bike. No bike. I started my call.
Maybe he was going into work late? Camille tried to call him with no answer. I excused myself from the call and drove to look for him.
At Shaw and Leonard avenues, the road was closed. I saw a lot of cars but no emergency vehicles. I spoke briefly to a community service officer, who said it was a motorcycle accident. As I left, I started to realize that the facts were not adding up. I tried to get closer but suddenly realized that I needed to get back home to Camille.
This was a very strong feeling, but I also had a sense of calm. I now believe that Patrick was protecting me. I didn’t need to be at the accident scene.
I decided to call my nephew. My voice wavered a little as I told him his uncle was missing. He said he would make some calls. As I drove home, I listened to the traffic report but nothing was mentioned.
I went back home and as I walked through the door, I got a breaking news alert that told me Shaw was closed due to a fatal accident. And I knew.
Thank God, Camille was still home. I told her that there had been an accident. I realized that I needed to start calling people. I called my sister, Denise Campbell, and asked her to call the others.
Denise was living in Agoura Hills at the time so she contacted our daughter Sierra, who was at school in Long Beach.
She told her she needed to come get her to bring her home and that she needed to pack a bag. Sierra did not ask any questions; she did not text or call anyone. I believe that Patrick was also watching over her so that she would not get the news until Denise was with her. It took Denise about 1 1/2 hours to get to Sierra.
She called me when she got there and kept me on the phone to talk to Sierra. Telling Sierra was the worst part of the day for me. Camille and I had time to absorb it slowly and we were together the whole time.
For Sierra, it was sudden and shocking. My heart broke as she said, “What? No, no, no, why?” and sobbed.
I questioned whether it was the right thing to do, but I didn’t want her spending four hours in the car, not knowing what she was coming home to. I am so grateful Denise was there to get her for me. I’m sure it was the hardest thing she has ever done.
All morning I could tell discussions and calls were taking place regarding identification of Patrick and official confirmation. I didn’t ask questions. I really didn’t want to rush the inevitable.
Patrick’s cousin, Carlo Prandini, ended up at the scene and volunteered to identify Patrick. This had to be incredibly hard for him but I am grateful that he did. When he came to my house and told me, I knew there was no doubt.
I thought I was prepared but then he handed me a baggie with Patrick’s watch and wedding band and suddenly it was real. I just walked away, went inside and found Camille, and gathered Patrick’s family. I have always said that the greatest gift he ever gave me was his family and our girls.
This has never been more evident than it was during this difficult, awful process. I don’t know how people do this without family.
On the worst day of my life I was surrounded by the love of friends, family, and even strangers. I am dedicated to paying it forward.
Danell TeNyenhuis of Clovis is a retired customer service specialist for Aetna Insurance. She is studying for a master’s degree in counseling with Grand Canyon University.