These are Pam's own words describing the first day, the first hours and the first moments when she first learned of the death of her daughter, Paige.
“Hi, this is Pamela Martens returning your call?”
“Oh hello Pamela, this is Kurt Krueger, President of Concordia University, Irvine.”
As the words came spilling from President Krueger’s mouth, I quickly visualized my daughter getting caught leaving campus in the trunk of someone’s cars as she joked about a week earlier. She was a practical joker and wanted to leave campus for some “real food” and it was a challenge for her at 6’5” to get past the campus security guards at the entrances. I discouraged her in fine “mom” fashion, not that it would stop the practical joker I have for a daughter. The campus security guards probably saw her. Oh no, she got caught!
“Your daughter Paige,” he continued, “was involved in a car accident early this morning and I am so sorry to say that she did not make it. Mrs. Martens, your daughter was killed in the accident.”
"No, no, no, no, no you see. Paige went to Fresno Christian and there were so many “Paige’s” there. Every time you walked into a room and said, “Paige,” all of them turned around! There must be some mistake, President Krueger.”
“No Mrs. Martens, they have her identification card from the accident and I am afraid that it is your daughter, Paige. I am so very sorry.”
All I could do was start screaming. I couldn’t stop. The car became a glass bubble and my screams filled the air as my husband took the phone.
“Jesus no!!! Jesus not my baby! Please Father, nooooooooooooo, nooooooooo, please no.” Not my Paigie. No, no, no, no, not my baby! FATHER PLEASE!!!!!!! Oh God, no, no, no, no, no. . . .Not my baby, Jesus, not my little baby,” as I rocked back and forth inside the car screaming.
My husband Tom began shaking as he tried to hear the driving instructions from President Krueger. We were within three miles of the Concordia Irvine campus. Tom’s hands shook as he left the church parking lot. My screams became deep breaths and mumbling sounds as I talked to God. “Don’t stop us at the gate,” Tom insisted to President Krueger, “we are coming straight through.”
As I wrapped my arms around my waist, I rocked and rocked trying to grasp the air and reality. “It cannot be my baby Lord, please tell me there has been some mistake. No Jesus, no.” “The pain Father, oh my God the pain! Please dear Jesus, please tell me this isn’t true! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!”
I had no concept of where we were going and what was going on around me. All I knew was that someone just told me my baby was dead, my husband was uncontrollably shaking while driving and the air around me was filled with incoherent mumbling to God. “No Father, no Father, no Father, no!”
I could see Tom focusing and meticulously following President Krueger’s directions to his campus office. Tom was talking out loud and repeating the instructions as we came to every intersection. I looked up for the first time and saw Tom, “blow the gate” as we sped forward. We wound around the curves of the Concordia campus roads and came to rest in a large parking lot.
My dear sweet husband had gotten us there safely. All I knew was that our lives had now been changed forever.
Tom slowly came around to the other side of the car and opened my door. I looked up into his eyes and saw terror. Somehow I knew that Tom's face was a mirror of my reflection. Yet with his usual calm demeanor, he reached down and gently took my arm. He somehow knew I couldn’t walk; maybe because he had a hard time himself.
Tom slowly helped me up and out of the car. My first breath of fresh air was stale and dense. The pain became so deep so fast. I did not want to get out of the car, yet I knew I had to. I had to face the painful truth. I turned around to see a tall man with his hands in his pockets. He had a kind face with sorrow written all over it.
The short walk seemed like miles as my legs were limp and weak. Tom had ahold of my elbow with one hand, and my waist with the other. Each step we took together neared us to the reality of pain.
Tom and I reach the kind faced man. “Hello, I’m Kurt Krueger.”
"Tell me it's not true. Please tell me that my beautiful daughter is not dead," as I looked him directly in the eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Pam. I'm so sorry."
My screams resurfaced as President Krueger validated my baby’s death. I could not stop calling out her name. I cried, mumbled and pleaded with God, “Oh my Paige, no, no, no Father. . .NO!”
In my husband Tom’s words describing the moment: “Her legs buckled and the screams were loud and continuous. I had a hard time keeping her off the pavement but knew this was not going to subside any time soon. Pam kept screaming about Paige and it seemed that she could hardly breathe. Everyone started to move toward the building and President Krieger’s office but that was no small task as Pam was extremely wobbly with grief and sobbing.”
We all entered the elevator as I turned to President Krueger, "I know that right now my daughter Paige is in the loving arms of Jesus." As I said the name of Jesus, there was a brief moment I felt His peace.
As we entered President Krueger’s office, he asked us to have a seat on the couch. A tissue box was there in front of me on the coffee table. Yet sitting was not an option.
“How are the other kids?” I slowly asked gazing into his eyes.
“The other kids were not seriously hurt,” President Krueger said with some relief. “They were taken to the hospital, checked out and I believe they have all been released.”
“Were drugs or alcohol involved?”
“There were no drugs or alcohol involved in the accident,” he said.
Our other children had to be told. . . .
The pain relentlessly gripped me as I slowly dialed the phone.
“Hi Carly. Hi honey.”
“Carly, honey, Paigie has been in an accident sweetie. . . She didn’t make it honey. She passed away honey.”
Carly’s screams pierced my heart. I couldn’t be there to hold her either. Oh, Jesus, what was going on?
My daughter’s screams shattered my heart. Carly's pain and screems seemed to reach through the miles between us to grab my soul.
I felt my body give into the pain and I bent over and began to weep.
“Hang on honey, please just hang on,” I pleaded. “I love you so much. Pop and I are going to fly you and Julian down here. Try to get your stuff together and go to the airport. I still have to call Ian, sweetie.”
I didn’t think she heard me through her screams, yet somehow she knew what to do.
My voice was weak and shaky. I still had to tell our son, Ian. Oh dear God no!
Ian didn’t answer the call. So I called Carly back.
“Honey, do you know where Ian is. I need to tell him,” I sob-fully muttered.
Somehow, someway, Ian called back immediately.
“Sweetheart, I am so sorry to have to tell you this.”
“What Momma, what?”
“Sweetheart, Paigie was involved in a traffic accident and she didn’t make it honey.”
“No momma NO! PLEASE MOMMA, TELL ME IT’S NOT TRUE!”
I couldn’t hold him either. The miles between us created even more pain.
“Jesus, please help this family!” I pleaded with my Savior.
“Oh God, my baby sister momma, my baby sister,” Ian was sobbing.
“I am going to bring you to us baby, hang on honey, hang on. . .Please hang on.”
Carly and Ian’s sobs took my heart one step deeper into this living hell. It was all I could do to stay strong for them. As a mother, I could do anything. Yet, today I was totally helpless, as I had just laid waste to my children’s future through a phone call. Now what Jesus? What do I do???
I hung up from my phone calls wanting to hold my other children. An empty heart with empty arms was pure anguish. Distance kept me from my other children as the twisted torture of each verbal impact took hold of me.
Hours passed in President Krueger’s office to make flight arrangements for our other children to join us. Medical attention was not necessary, yet would be provided if need be.
Prayers of peace surrounded us; if not aloud, you could feel the staff’s hearts bleeding for us. Their faces reflected our pain. President Krueger’s staff was there to support us every step of the way. The peace of Christ filled the room as our minds, bodies and souls were drowning in anguish.
Two days later, I wrote Paige’s obituary.
Paige’s Celebration of Life was in the Fresno Christian Gym. Everyone was numb, in shock yet focused to glorify Christ through this horrendous tragedy. Together as The Body of Christ, we were strong. We were One.
We drove back to Chino Hills, to prepare for Paige’s Memorial Service on the Concordia, Irvine Campus.
As I sat in our living room talking with my brother, Rick and my husband, Tom; I was overwhelmed by a feeling I had never had before. A path was laid out before my eyes. I was blinded by grief but I could feel Jesus as my walking stick. I was being “pulled.” I felt an overwhelming desire to see this man. I had to meet him. I had to tell him that I wasn’t mad. I had to tell him that God loved him. I had to tell him that he was forgiven. Above all, he was forgiven!
I called President Krueger and told him I NEEDED to meet the driver. He knew there was a sense of urgency. There was no misunderstanding my NEED to see and speak to the driver. It was an indescribable energy pulling me. There was no arguing or reasoning with the power that was overtaking me. It was a force that I will never forget. Every scenario and every option swept through my mind and flooded it like a tidal wave. Yet I knew that Peace would be there.
The meeting was set for 7:00pm and President Krueger was already in his office when we arrived. The driver was late. Then I heard the elevator door open. He came around the corner and entered the President’s lobby. There he stood, tall and slender. The man that took my daughter’s life had just given President Krueger a slight smile. He caught my eye. No one had to tell him who I was. No introduction was necessary. He immediately looked down. Slowly he moved inside the office. My eyes were fixed on his face.
“The Driver” became David in a short introduction. His mom was there trying her best to cope. I met her and asked her if I could speak with her son alone. She agreed as Tom and Rick slowly escorted her out of the room. President Krueger gently shut his door leaving himself, David and me. An unearthly calm fell over the room.
“How are you doing?” I whispered.
Quietly he answered, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.”
I asked David to have a seat next to me on the couch. President Krueger was to our right at his desk and out of our line of sight. He sat motionless. The room dimly lit with his desk lamp. The windows that comprised two of his walls had given way to the darkness and now served as a mirror for the two people sitting on the couch. I was sitting side by side with David. An undeniable Presence was in the room.
This very important meeting took place on Tuesday, January 18, 2011, nine days after Paige died. Pam is here to share her story of that meeting and how God's Grace was shed upon her that night.
- Live to Love Ministries