Friday, August 24, 2012
I have this posted on my personal facebook page and decided to share it with you, my SparkPeople family. Another non-weight loss related blog, but one I think carries an important message nonetheless...
Yes, this is my real story.
There are a handful of you who know my circumstances, those of you who lived through it with me. There are many of you who know the basics, having heard a brief story from me or someone I know. But I realize most of you have no clue about the single event in my life that has created the woman I am today.
On the evening of August 24th, 1999, I returned home after hanging out with some friends. Something didnít feel right and I asked to be brought home. Shortly after being dropped off, the phone rang. Mom answered. It was my uncle. There had been an accident. Grandma was hit by a car earlier that morning. Grandma had no identification on her person, so she was admitted as Jane Doe. When Grandma didnít return home, Grandpa thought maybe she went to visit one of their sons. When she couldnít be located, phone calls to police stations and hospitals ensued. Grandma was identified that evening by her keychain and wedding band.
We hit every red light on the way to Sutter Roseville, naturally. I remember not crying. I remember the Miss-Something-or-Other pageant being on the TV in the waiting room. Early the next morning, I remember someone entering the room saying that if we wanted to say our goodbyes, now would be the time. Thatís when I lost it. I couldnít see her like that. I didnít want to remember my beautiful grandmother in this condition. I remember sitting by the window, sobbing. This couldnít be happening to her, to me, to us. I remember being part of a prayer circle. It is August 25, 1999, I am 17 years old and my grandma is gone. I remember Dad driving me home. I remember lying on the floor Ė half in my room, half in the hallway Ė curled up with pictures, trying desperately to fall asleep. Hoping against all hope that I would wake up from this nightmare.
Here is what we know: Grandma was out for her morning walk. She had the right-of-way at a stoplighted intersection. A woman ran her red light and struck my grandmother at somewhere between 35-45mph. She claimed she was adjusting her sun visor, but our lawyers were able to disprove that claim. She also said she never drives that route, yet she chose to speed down a blind, curved hill.
Fast forward 24 hours. Itís the first day of my senior year in high school. I havenít eaten. Iíve barely slept. I get to the classroom of one of my former teachers. I tell him what happened and that the news article was supposed to be in that dayís Roseville Press Tribune. We walk around campus trying to find a copy. I hear him telling school personnel my story and I feel empty inside.
When I saw the police report, I noticed it had the womanís home address on it. I sat down and wrote a letter. I told her how wonderful Grandma was. I made a list of all the things Grandma would never be able to do again. I told her I was sure my grandma would forgive her but I didnít know if I could. My best friend drove me to the post office and we dropped it in the mailbox. At that moment, I forgave her.
I didnít care about school. I didnít apply to colleges or for scholarships until the last minute. I wasnít doing my homework. I didnít care about my friends. I didnít care about life. I wanted the pain to end. I had my wisdom teeth pulled and was prescribed Vicodin. I didnít need the pills. Until one day at school, when I couldnít get Grandma off my mind. I took a pill at lunch before Physics. It felt weird. My friend pointed something out in the textbook and I started bawling. What was happening to me? I stood up and left. I walked home. That was a bad experiment. Pills got tossed.
I had to tell my mom that I wrote the woman a letter, in case it came up at trial. That letter has since traveled far and wide to family across the world. It also found its way into the judgeís chambers. When the woman spoke at the criminal trial, she told of how she attempted suicide twice because of my letter. She told of how her 5 year old son asked if he could bring her to show-and-tell so his friends could meet someone who killed a person. My family wanted me to write another letter, this one to be read in court. When it came time, I couldnít stand up. I couldnít speak. But my first letter said enough. The judge thought so, too. Because he could feel the pain in my letter, he gave the woman the maximum sentence under the law.
None of us thought it was enough. The verdict was guilty of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. No jail time. She got probation and a suspended license. My grandma was gone and this woman got a slap on the wrist.
The fact that a life could be taken so quickly scared the hell out of me. After this, I had no desire to get my driverís license. I didnít want to be responsible for ending a life. I was fine being chauffeured around. So I waited until I was 21 to get a car and get my license, when I knew I needed to become independent. After the collision, something happened. I became hyper-sensitive to pedestrians. Which is why, if Iím a passenger in your car, you may still hear me say Ďpersoní, Ďpedestrianí, Ďwalkerí, Ďhi ladyí just to make sure theyíre visible to you. Or you may notice me pressing the invisible brake pedal on my side of the car. This is also why I wonít jaywalk. This is why I say ďI love you GrandmaĒ and blow a kiss when I drive through the intersection of Rocky Ridge and Strauch/Professional in Roseville, CA.
So I am still pretty messed up. I have my good days and awesome memories Ė honey buns, chocolate chip cookies, Christmas morning and her Norwegian accent. And I have bad moments Ė moments that bring me back to August, 1999. And I live it all over again. It has been 13 years. Itís an ongoing battle. And Iím never going to Ďget over ití. My family will never Ďget over ití.
My plea to you: Be completely aware, be completely there when you drive. Whether it's that phone call, text message, cup of coffee, or your kids arguing in the backseat, a split second of your inattention can shatter lives. Just pay attention. Be there. No one should have to experience this sort of loss. No one.