One year. 365 days. 8,760 hours spent missing you. I believe with my entire heart that you are supposed to still be here. I believe that there is a “plan” for everyone, but I can’t help but feel like this was not yours. There have been so many moments that I just know you were supposed to be apart of. Sometimes I know exactly what you would say, sometimes I can hear you laughing, and sometimes I feel such an intense wave of sadness that makes me believe that you were supposed to be there in that moment. I have literally thought of you every single second this past year. You were the center of my world and I sure miss you something fierce.
I always thought my mom would live well into old age, and imagined she would eventually come live with my little family. I imagined her being surrounded by grandkids who kept her young far beneath her years. I pictured so much happiness that was all ripped away by a drunk driver. I never pictured losing my mom so early in life- the truth is, her spirit was even younger than I am. Anyone who knew her can attest to that; she was free-spirited and just SO full of life. Sometimes I joked that it was exhausting trying to keep up with her- she just had so.much.energy. I loved that so much about her.
I also never imagined that my family would ever be impacted by drunk driving. I never considered how often people get on the road after having a drink. My mom always tried to protect us from it- she was always afraid of us being on the road after 10:00, because that’s when she believed most of the drunk drivers were out. I listened and took caution, but I just simply did not realize how often it happens. I’ve met so many people this past year who have lost their children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and even entire families to this epidemic. What I also didn’t realize is just how broken our justice system is. One year later, we still have not gotten justice for my mom and her friend, Gary, who was taken with her. Shortly after my mom’s death, a request was made for a Victim Impact Statement to be written to explain how my mom’s death affected our lives. I submitted eight pages. Below I will share a small portion:
My mom was more than a mom to me; she was my best friend. She was the person I shared everything with, and likewise she shared her life with me. We would call each other on our long commutes to and from work without any sort of agenda, just to talk about life and the weather. She was the first person I would call with good news, big news, or any news at all. If I was ever upset, she was the person I needed without a doubt. When I needed advice, when I was sick or afraid- it was always her that I wanted by my side. I’ve never needed her more than I need her now, but she is gone and I am learning to accept that I will never have her again.
I’m having a hard time understanding and fully accepting the fact that she really is gone. How is it possible that someone I love so deeply will never be in my life again? She was just here, so healthy and happy, full of dreams and visions for her future.
My mom was such an amazing person. Really. I know people say that about people they love, but I mean it. She was so caring, genuine, thoughtful, happy. Her laugh was uncontrollable—you just couldn’t help but to laugh along with her. She was so goofy and free-spirited. She had such a huge personality and could literally make friends with anyone; she never knew a stranger. She never judged anyone or held herself at a higher regard. She taught me at a young age to love other people despite their differences and to befriend the kids who sat alone. That is one of the many wonderful things about her—she always made sure that no one was left out. Everyone was equal in her eyes. She was so incredibly strong, always standing up for what was right. There were so many life lessons she taught me that I have carried into my adult life and will instill in my own children. She never cared about what other people thought of her, which is something I envied so much. She laughed loud, spoke her mind, told the best stories, and was just the most loving woman on earth. She loved to cook, fish, camp, and play board games with the family. She found fun in anything—even the most mundane. Instead of having drinks when we would go out for our birthdays, she preferred to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, whispering in my ear as she would narrate fake conversations people had as they walked by. She could hardly get her words out because she would laugh so hard. She loved so deeply and was the most giving person in the world. Helping people was her true passion; no matter what it was, she always wanted to help. She cared so much about other people- more than she cared about herself. She loved her family so much. Sure, she had her struggles through life like every other human being, but she was always the best mom. She was more than I could have ever asked for, and I miss her something awful.
The night my mom was killed replays over and over in my mind, and I continue to relive it as if April 12th never passed. I’ll never forget falling to the floor, screaming my mom’s name over and over again after my grandfather gave me the worst news of my life. I will never forget the words, “Jenny, I hate to be the person to tell you this, but your mother was in a bad accident and has passed on.” I will never forget the sheer terror or the way my heart fell to the floor and shattered into a million pieces. I will never forget discovering how she was killed; her body was literally hit by a truck. I will never forget speaking to the charge nurse at the hospital who told me that the EMT’s were performing CPR as they rushed her off of the ambulance, only to be pronounced DOA (dead on arrival) seconds later. I will never forget the cries from our family and friends as I broke the news that my mom was gone. I will never forget the tremble in Deborah Rivers’ voice as she selflessly offered her condolences to my family as she was mourning the loss of her husband, who was killed instantly at the hands of the same driver. I will never forget the pain I felt for a family I hardly even knew when I learned that they could not have an open casket. I will never forget seeing my grandmother cry for the first time or hearing her heart break every time I’ve spoken with her since. I will never forget my knees buckling and collapsing in front of my mom’s open casket as guests formed a line waiting to say their goodbyes. I still remember the feeling of my mom’s cold, lifeless cheeks against my lips as I kissed her for the very last time. I will never forget my brother attempting to peel me away from her so that her extended family and friends could see her one last time. I relive this horror every single day of my life; the minutes, hours, and days following my mom’s death will be forever engrained in my memory. Every painstaking detail is there.
The details that I do not know haunt me the most. I will never know if my mom was coherent the 50 minutes she was alive after the crash, as the EMT crew that responded no longer work for the company. I will never know if she was in pain, if she was unconscious through that time, or if she communicated anything to the EMTs. I will never know if she was afraid, if she saw the driver coming, or if anyone sat with her and held her hand until the ambulance came. I will never know if she laid there on the side of the road with fear and sadness as her friend’s lifeless body lay right next to her. Not knowing the details of my mother’s last hour on earth hurts more than I could ever put into words. The fact that I was not there for her as she took her last breath eats away at my heart every single day.
We were robbed of so many years with my mom, but what hurts even more is that my son will never get to know what an incredible person she was. At least I have 29 years of memories. My son (and future children) will only have the stories I share. He will never know what a truly amazing person he lost; he will never understand what a wonderful, deep bond you can share with your grandparents. My mom was his last living grandparent, and he lost her at two months old.
There are so many memories that we will never get to make, so many things that she wanted to do as “grandma”. My mom had only been a grandmother for five years before she was taken from us, and she loved her little “pumpkin,” Brinley, so much. And she was just over the moon excited that she was going to have the opportunity to form a special bond with my son- her first grandson. She will never get to do that. She never got to hear his amazing laugh that would have sent her giggling to the floor, she never got to watch his sweet personality emerge, or watch him experience new things for the first time. She won’t get to watch him take his first steps, hear his first words, kiss him on his first birthday, or take him to the zoo like she always dreamed about. She won’t get to pick him up from kindergarten as he comes running into her arms, console him through his first heartbreak, cheer from the sidelines at his baseball games like she did for my brothers, or smile and beam as he walks across the stage at graduation. She won’t get to watch him fall in love and become a husband, and she won’t be there when he becomes a father himself. There is a lifetime of memories that she should be here for- not only for my son-but for her granddaughter, all of my siblings, her parents, nieces and nephews, and countless friends. But the horrible reality that we are forced to accept is that she’s not. And she is not coming back.
There are not enough words to fully embody the wonderful woman we lost that night. Learning to live in a world where she does not exist has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
To my mama: I love and miss you so terribly, and I will always be so proud to be your daughter. You are amazing, and I will never forget. Never surrender. <3