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Carbon Monoxide

Barbara Russell

February 18th

Tuesday, February 18th, was the day my mother was found lifeless, in her bed. She was clutching her chest and in her pajamas. She had washed her face. Her hearing aids were found on the bedside table.

I had a date to meet my mother that morning. It was extremely cold for us, as we were living in Florida. I remember dressing warm. It was still cold from the night before. I couldn’t wait to tell my mom about a new lipstick I had found, one that stayed on for 24 hours. I called her from my home, earlier than my usual morning phone call. There was no answer and I just thought she was taking a shower, or going for her customary, early morning walk. I left a message and told her I would call later, once I was on the road. My mother lived an hour’s drive from me, over in Viera of Melbourne. We were meeting each other, half way in Merritt Island. Ironically, we were to meet at the Erdman Dealership in Merritt Island. This dealership had sold numerous cars to my mother and knew her well. She was having her car in for servicing, and joining me for a Mother/ Daughter Day.

On the road, I once again tried to call my mother. This time, when there was no answer, I looked at an app on my phone called, “Find My Friends.” The app has the location of my sisters, children and some friends posted with their location. My mother was on my list of friends. Her location did not show up. I thought that was strange, and didn’t like it, not one little bit, but rationalized that her phone was not charged. I didn’t really have a big worry, yet.

I arrived at the Dealership. My mother was not there. I called again. I waited until 15 minutes after the appointed time. Then, I called her boyfriend. He too had tried to call her in the morning, before his golf match. He left a message. He said he would go over and check on her. Then, I called her dear friend and neighbor, Betty. I explained that Mom did not answer her phone, I did not know where she was. I kept thinking that if my mother were en route and I left to go to her house, I would miss her in passing. I asked Betty to see if her car was in the garage. Then I would know if I should stay at the Dealership or go to her home. Betty called me back and said she was in my mother’s house, that she looked around and did not see my mother. She went into the garage and said the car was left running. I felt panic. I called my sister and told her to be on high alert as this seemed scary and I was feeling sick inside.

Next, I heard from her boyfriend. He said he found my Mom. He gently said it looked like she had a stroke. I was racing in my mind. I remember being on edge and it seemed I had a high pitched voice, and gasping out, “Bob, my mom would not have gotten up, gone into the garage, started her car and gone back to bed. I think this must be carbon monoxide poisoning. Call 911. I am coming as fast as I can.”

The next moments were a blur. Driving to my Mom’s house, calling my sister again and telling her to come up. Telling her about Bob’s call, my worry about carbon monoxide and all the scenarios playing in my head…hospitals, recovery but never her demise. So horrible. By the time I arrived at my mother’s home, the police had arrived, there was crime scene tape all around her house, rescue vehicles there and we were left outside, in the cold to wait for the authorities to complete their investigation. Bob came up to me and said, “She’s gone.”

This was a keyless ignition car, a new feature for cars at the time. Unbeknownst, and incredibly, this car will run until it runs out of gas, even if the key fob leaves the car. Can you believe it? A gasoline engine is not programmed to turn off after a certain amount of idle time?

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