Chapter 21, Loren

I still remember the emotions I felt the moment I held each one of my sons for the very first time. 

Jackson, my oldest, made me a Mom.  It was love at first sight with that precious, 7lb 11oz baby boy, and I saw nothing but absolute perfection when we met.  My heart had never felt that kind of love before, and from that day forward the meaning of love was forever changed for me!

My sweet, baby Jagger finally made his entrance after nearly 10 weeks of labor and countless stays in the emergency room.  I worked so hard to keep him safe inside until the time was right. His chubby, 8lb 1oz self, melted my heart in ways I never could have imagined. 

My little fighter Jett made his landing on earth a month early and fought to overcome every obstacle he was born with.  That tiny, 6lb 12oz miracle expanded my love beyond anything I ever thought possible. 

My heart had grown to know the kind of love that can only be described as pure, unconditional, and everlasting.  I was chosen to be a momma three times.  I was the chosen one with the honor to love, grow, and protect three small lives. 

The morning before our custody trial, I felt unusually calm.  Countless prayers had been prayed over us, and I felt confident in my faith that everything would go in the direction God intended. Since I had done a lot of traveling to and from Georgia and North Carolina for most of the summer, I found myself always living out of a suitcase.  I did not own “important” courthouse attire, so I borrowed a dress from a friend.  I brushed and curled my hair, put on the nicest shoes I owned, and applied my makeup just so. I looked at my reflection in the mirror that day and remember thinking, you’ve got this. You are a momma. You look the part and you’ve accomplished every task of the part.  Now it’s time to show your confident motherhood-self to the judge and fight for your babies.  After all, that is what mommas do.

Sitting in the courtroom waiting for our names to be called, my hands began to sweat.  My toes felt suffocated and cramped inside of my shoes, and I began to feel overwhelmingly anxious. “What if I never see them again?  What if the outcome is not what I expect it to be?  What if our case gets cancelled and we have to wait even longer for a new trial?”  Countless terrifying scenarios began to pop into my head.  I couldn’t calm myself.  My cheeks were flustered, and my throat was dry. 

 “The case for Kirk vs Kirk,” the judge said. 

This was it.  It was our turn.  My attorney had the opening arguments, which eased some of my anxiety.  I was called to the stand to testify first.  I spoke to my attorney as if we were just two people carrying on a normal conversation…anywhere but in that courtroom.  Next, the opposing counsel stood up and begin taking her turn.  I remember the look in her eye and the tone in her voice.  I knew I was up against more than I had prepared for.  Question after question was launched at me. I felt as if I was up against a firing squad.  I was certain that any answer I gave was going to somehow be the wrong one.  Tears began to pour out of my eyes, both from frustration and panic.  I quivered through my answers, the strongest I possibly could.  

Just like that - it was over.  After only 45 minutes of questions, a judge had heard all the information she needed to about me as a mother…as a human being. 

Next up was John.  My attorney and I had previously discussed everything he planned on speaking about. He began with his first line of questioning.  “Objection!”, John’s attorney yelled out.  She approached the bench.  The questions my attorney had prepared were not allowed for trial.  Defeat number one.  I remember gripping my chair until my knuckles were white, telepathically trying to motivate my attorney, “You’ve got this!” 

He then began with his next round.  He was able to get a couple questions answered before we heard once again, “Objection!”  For the second time, the judge sided with the opposing counsel. Defeat number two.  I could see the frustration on my attorney’s face.  His utter bewilderment at what was happening started to worry me even more.  “Were the judge and opposing counsel in on this?”, I wondered.  

Finally, my former husband’s attorney got up to question her client.  She did not examine him for long.  When she was complete, she arrogantly walked back to her table and sat down in a way that read, “We won. Peasants.” 

Up next were the closing arguments. 

Each of our respected attorneys rose and gave their final debates on each of our behalf.  My attorney’s speech brought me to tears.  I felt touched that a man who had not known me for very long, knew the mother I was, and he was proud to be representing me. 

The life I expected and my role of motherhood flashed before me. I pictured taking them to their first day of school, cheering them on at every sporting event, holding them when they were sad, kissing boo-boo’s and slaying monsters. I imagined them getting off the bus and running up to tell me about their day. I could foresee big family holidays and working on school projects together. 

Every aspect of motherhood that I once consumed myself with, I could see continuing forever. These were my babies, my purpose, my why. 

The verdict came faster than my brain had time to process the words. 

The judge quickly and assuredly stated, “Ms. Kirk due to the fact that you relocated the children to better your own life, I see that as selfish and irresponsible. I hear-by grant primary sole custody to Mr. Kirk.”  

The gavel slammed…it echoed.  My heart stopped.  I couldn’t feel a thing. I couldn’t move.  The air left my lungs.  If I was going to breathe again, I had to remind myself of the action, because in that moment I lost everything. 

I was escorted to my car by a police officer, where I sat alone and in silence for what seemed like a lifetime. I sat there not remembering how to start the vehicle, nor did I even remember where I was supposed to go. 

I finally gained my bearing enough to drive back to my friend’s house where I was staying.  To this day I have no recollection of that drive, whatsoever.  No one was home when I arrived.  I pulled in the driveway, opened the car door, and slid out.  

I crawled up the driveway on my hands and knees in my dress and bare feet, having misplaced shoes. I had just enough energy to prop myself up against the garage door, where I sat for the next two hours.  

I lit one cigarette after another until all 21 had been smoked to the filter. 

I did not contemplate suicide that day, because I already felt dead. 

My existence had ended.

My heart no longer beat. 



The Road You Leave Behind