By LINDA HICKS
SPECIAL TO THE LOG CABIN
VILONIA — The family and friends of the late Jake Pruett, who died a result of a motorcycle accident in Faulkner County four months ago, aren’t going to forget him.
They plan to honor his memory by helping with educational opportunities and by sharing their grief recovery process with others.
Jake Pruett’s mother, Sheila Pruett, and employees at Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock, have joined together in a remembrance project by publishing and selling cookbooks entitled "The Heart will Always Remember."
At a cost of $20 each, the proceeds will go to establish a couple of scholarships in Jake Pruett’s honor, according to Sheila Pruett. Plans are to award at least one at Vilonia High School to a senior going into the medical field and another at the Baptist School of Nursing. The books may be purchased at Centennial Bank in Vilonia and Patti Cakes Bakery in Conway.
The cover is a panoramic sunrise shot of ducks swimming on a body of water. An avid duck hunter, Jake Pruett took the photograph in January 2010 near Des Arc. Inside the cover, are recipes and several photos of Jake Pruett.
A cookbook is fitting, Sheila Pruett said, as her son loved to eat.
"One of my favorite memories is of him standing at the refrigerator with the door open — even when he was a grown man," said Shelia Pruett, reminiscing. "He could have just eaten somewhere else but he would go to that door and look to see what was in there."
The memory, she said, sparks tender feelings that always bring tears to her eyes. Helping with the cookbook, Sheila Pruett said, has been therapeutic. She also said the project has provided an opportunity to talk to others about her grieving process.
"I just don’t want anyone to forget Jake," she said. "And, I’ve learned from a grief counselor that the thoughts and feelings I have had—losing a child—are normal and I’m not going crazy. I hope sharing, I can help someone else."
Self-described, Sheila Pruett said, she is someone with a scar that will never go away. Yet, she said, she has made a choice to "live life for what tomorrow has to offer not what was taken away, at least most days." On that note, she talks about her younger son Sage who is in college to become an elementary teacher and also plans to go to the seminary. She also talks about her dream to someday have grandchildren.
Currently, however, she said her life, as well as the rest of her family’s lives, operates on two perspectives "before Jake died and after Jake died."
As suggested by a grievance counselor, Sheila Pruett said, she journals, and that has been helpful. She also leans on her faith and her favorite Bible scriptures.
Originally from Vilonia, Jake Pruett, 26, died Sept. 21, following a motorcycle accident that occurred Sept. 1. He and his wife, Nikki, were on a leisurely ride when their motorcycle collided with a deer on Highway 287 near Holland. Nikki Pruett was also injured but survived the wreck.
The couple, who lived in Greenbrier, had been married only a couple of months. When the accident occurred, Sheila Pruett said, her son, was "at a great place in his life."
"He was married to the love of his life. He loved his career and he loved to ride his motorcycle," Pruett said. "The wedding photos weren’t even back from their wedding."
Her son and daughter-in-law had purchased a house. A registered nurse, Jake Pruett worked at the Arkansas Heart Hospital in Little Rock and also in the emergency room at Conway Regional. He and his dad, William, were making plans to go to Colorado hunting in October.
"Our family was just at a happy place," Sheila Pruett said.
That was before the "dreaded call" that was received at about 8 p.m. the night of the accident. She was told that her son was alive but had suffered traumatic head injuries and that her daughter-in-law had also been injured. As she and her husband rode to the hospital, scenes from earlier in the day flashed in her head. Her son had made a trip to Centennial Bank in Vilonia, where she worked, to see her that morning.
"We talked and before he left out, he hugged me and told me he loved me," she said.
At the hospital, she said, she learned her son had been hit in the lungs by the deer and that he might not survive.
"Now, I think we were given a gift — three weeks to say goodbye," she added.
The three weeks following the accident, Shelia Pruett said, however, was like being on a roller coaster with highs and lows as her son remained in a medicated coma.
"I would feel like I was wide awake but in a nightmare," she said of her feelings.
After her son’s death, she said, her pain was so intense that she would become sick to her stomach. From Day 1, she said, she received an outpouring of support from extended family, friends, her church family, the Vilonia community as well as friends of both her son and daughter-in-law.
During the months since his death, she said, the support remains but not as intense. And, while she is still dealing with a gamut of emotions ranging from grief to guilt, time is making a difference. "The first time I had a deep laugh, I felt guilty," she said. "I’m at a place now I can laugh."
However, she said, Christmas was an emotional time, and his birthday, Dec. 29, was worse.
On that note, she said, her pain is less intense, but she describes feeling a sense of "homesickness" to have her son back. To those who hesitate talking to her about her son, she said, "you might see tears. But, it’s just water coming out my eyes. I like talking about Jake."