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My Mom was Killed by a Drunk Driver

I have been wanting to start a blog for years now to document important milestones in my life, savor memories that always seem to fade, and offer a platform for my {current and future} kids to visit one day. Over the years there have been thousands of moments where I’ve thought to myself, “alright, I’m finally going to do it- this {moment} will be my first blog post.” You know, when my niece would stay the night and we’d bake cookies at night and pancakes in the morning. When I got engaged and had all of my bridesmaids over to help with wedding planning. When I found out I was pregnant after years of trying. When I brought my baby boy home. Those kind of things were what I had envisioned writing about for my first blog post. Never in a million years did I expect it to be: “My Mom was Killed by a Drunk Driver.” As I type those words I literally have to stop for a moment to catch my breath as my heart pounds out of my chest. Every day this reality becomes more and more real.

Wednesday, April 12th, was just like any normal day (my sweet baby boy, Beckham, was born on February 7th, so my temporary “normal” is a day at home with a newborn while on maternity leave). I got up around 8:00 to feed and change Beckham and did housework until he woke up for the day. Easter was coming up and I had promised my grandma I would bring cupcakes to our family gathering. I had been wanting to learn to use fondant, so I strapped Beckham to my chest in his new baby carrier and started playing with fondant and dyes, unsuccessfully cutting out flowers (which just ended up looking like little pieces of mold in the end), all while laughing at myself and taking photos to later create my first blog post (which had to have been at least the 500th “first blog post” I had created in my head). I put Beckham in his swing and turned on Baby Lullaby on Pandora (his and his daddy’s favorite), and got an early start on dinner. Tilapia + lemons, fresh green beans, and roasted red potatoes. As I started cutting the green beans, I was reminded of my mom– she loved fresh green beans. I stopped and snapped a picture of what I was cooking to later use to persuade her to head over for dinner and stay the night (nothing out of the usual). Before I put dinner in the oven, I sent my mom a text that read, “Can you come see us soon?,” and grabbed Beckham for his daily play-time. Little did I know at the time, this would be my very last text to my mom. She never wrote back or checked her phone while she was working, so I was waiting to send my dinner picture to her right when she got off work, which I knew would have triggered her to pick up the phone and head over. I got busy with my baby boy and completely forgot. Fast forward to 10:00 that night: my husband, Robert, was getting ready for bed and took Beckham with him. I finished up laundry and started shopping on Etsy for a friend’s baby shower. 12:30 AM rolled around and I was still online shopping. Before heading to bed myself, I woke Beckham up for a feeding. Right as he finished his bottle and I laid him in his bassinet, my phone rang. It was 1:14 AM. I only get calls that late/early when something is wrong… really wrong. It was my grandfather on the other end, and I will never forget his words: “Jenny, I hate to be the person to tell you this, but your mother was in a bad accident and has passed on.”

My world stopped. I hardly remember what happened next, but I remember throwing the phone down on the bed with my grandfather still on the other end and fell to the floor screaming. I probably yelled out “my mom… why?!” about a thousand times before I managed to pick myself up off the floor to try to contact my brothers. I remember hearing Robert on the phone at one point with a detective and hearing him ask, “so she was DOA (dead on arrival)?” How this was really happening to my family was just beyond my comprehension at that point. The next few hours felt like days. I didn’t want to know the details of what happened because I was afraid of what I was going to learn. All I knew is that my mom was in an accident and that she was gone. A few days passed by (or so it felt like) and I stumbled across the piece of paper Robert was writing on while he spoke with the detective that night. “RR tire” was scribbled down amongst names and contact information. It was that moment that I decided I needed to know what happened. I asked Robert if my mom had a blowout. He shook his head, yes (he knew I wasn’t ready to hear the full details and was respecting that). “So someone hit her car when her tire blew out?” He shook his head, no. I didn’t need to ask anything more. I knew she had been struck while she was changing her tire, outside of her car. My mom was hit by a car. I remember screaming out again as Robert rocked me back and forth. I let him explain the rest. My mother pulled over to the shoulder to change her tire (which was not the tire facing the road). A man, who we later discovered was a friend she had called to come help her, parked his truck behind her and was assisting my mom with her tire. A drunk driver drifted off the road at full speed, hitting the truck, which hit and killed them both. Her friend was killed instantly, and my mom was laying on the side of the road (and eventually in an ambulance) fighting for her life. As the EMT’s were rushing my mom into the ER, they performed CPR and she lost her pulse. She was pronounced DOA 50 minutes after the accident.

So why am I sharing this? In all the years I thought about creating a blog, I knew I wanted it to stay personal. For myself, for my family. For those of you who know me, I am a super private person. I had never planned on sharing any of my thoughts with the world.. until now. For my mom, for her friend, for other victims of drunk drivers, for anyone who thinks that it will never happen to them. I want everyone to know that it can happen to you. If just one person reading this decides to take Uber home instead of getting behind the wheel after a few drinks, or perhaps stops a friend from driving after a night out drinking, my mom would truly feel honored as she was extremely against drinking and driving. You could save someones son, daughter, brother, sister, father, mother.. a two-month old’s grandmother.

My mom was one of my very best friends, and here I am, three weeks later, fighting through tears as I further accept the reality that I will never see her again on this earth. My brothers and I lost our mother, and my son lost his only living grandparent at only 2-months old. He will never get to know what an incredible person she was, and will never know the love of a grandparent. Likewise, my mother will never get the chance to do all of the things she so desperately wanted to do as “grandma.” She had only been a grandmother for five years, and my son was only her second grandchild. Her life was ripped from my family because of someone else’s poor, reckless judgement.

There were many heartfelt letters my family wrote to my mom that were read off at her funeral service; below, I will share mine:

“Mom—It’s hard to imagine a world without your voice, your laugh, your advice, your shoulder to lean on, your hugs. If I could go back and choose having anyone else as my mother for my entire life or you for just 29, I would choose you every single time. I am eternally grateful for every moment spent with you. You were so energetic, so full of life. No matter how many times life knocked you down, you always got back up with a smile on your face. You showed grace and positivity when most people would have given up. You were strong beyond measure and lived by your motto, “Never Surrender!” You have the most giving heart of anyone I’ve ever met. We had so many friends growing up that became family because you opened our home to anyone in need. Your love for other people is something I will never forget. Just a few weeks ago, you called me completely hysterical because a friend’s dog had passed away. Your sensitive heart broke any time someone you loved was hurting. You loved unconditionally. No sacrifice to you was too big to give Matt, Kyle and I anything we wanted or needed. You gave us a childhood any mom would be proud of. My friends to this day still talk about birthday parties you threw for me in Middle School. You always made sure we had the best vacations—trips to the beach, skiing, camping, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, etc. You pushed us to be the best versions of ourselves and never ceased to show your proud, beaming face after any accomplishment. You were our biggest fan. You were the kind of mom I could share anything with. The kind of mom I wanted at my birthday outings and bachelorette party. The kind of mom even my friends wanted to hang out with. The kind of mom that became one of my very best friends. And you never missed a beat. If I needed a dog-sitter, you dropped whatever you were doing to be there. When I decided at 10:00 on a Friday night that I wanted wallpaper, you packed your tools and showed up on my doorstep without hesitation. When Robert and I moved, you showed up at our empty house at 6:00 in the morning to wait for deliveries throughout the day because we couldn’t be there. I could count on you for anything. You were the kind of mom I hope I can be someday. There will never be enough words to explain the gravity of how much I miss you. I miss the way you’d talk through movies and crunch your popcorn way too loud. I miss pretending like I was hearing your story for the first time, even though I had heard it ten times before. I miss watching your dynamic facial expressions as you rambled on about your ghost stories. I miss you calling my baby boy your little ninja, even though you knew it was my least favorite of the names you chose. I miss hearing your train-like snores when you’d fall asleep in the middle of our conversation, only to deny you had fallen asleep as you’d chime back in. I miss taking you to restaurants where you would read the menu an inch from your face, and I miss watching your face light up as you tried to explain what a salty dog was. I miss the way you would try to embarrass me with your dance moves in public and how you would sing your heart out to a familiar song, microphone hands and all. But most of all I miss the way you loved us all. I miss your goodnight texts and your early morning calls. I miss your complete goofiness and preaching that life is way too short to worry so much. I miss how much you loved playing charades and board games as a family, and hearing you laugh so hard you could hardly catch your breath. I miss how relentlessly you checked on me when you knew I was having a rough day, and the way you always tried to cheer me up by offering to cook dinner. I miss your effortless encouragement, and telling me all the ways I made you proud. I miss you staying the night with us in the room you claimed as your own. I miss hearing you talk about how much you loved my baby boy and all of the places you wanted to take him someday. I will never stop missing you. You mean absolutely everything to me. There’s nothing that can fill the huge gaping hole in my heart that formed the instant I learned you had left this earth. There’s no heartache you haven’t carried me through and no happy time in my life you haven’t celebrated right by my side. To not have you here through the worst pain of my life has been impossible. You were and will forever be, my person. I will never stop loving you, and for as long as I live, Beckham will always know his grandma and how deeply you loved him. My mama. My person. My heart is longing for the day I will see you again. Never surrender.

My mom truly meant everything to me, and the past few weeks have been a complete nightmare. I have gone through what feels like months of grief- waves of intense sadness and anger that has made me physically ill at times, moments of denial and confusion, and even guilt at the smiles I fake in public and even for my own son. The time in my life that is supposed to be the happiest, has turned into the saddest and most confusing time of my life. I miss my mom so uncontrollably, and to think that she would still be here, having sleepovers with my little family and giggling at each new moment with my baby boy, had one person (be it the driver herself, or a friend) stopped the drunk driver that got behind the wheel.

To the driver who killed my mom: one day I hope that I can find it in my heart to forgive you. I know you would not have chosen to hurt my mom and her friend, destroying three families (including your own). But you did choose to gamble their lives and your own as you got in your car and turned the key. I hate thinking about the guilt you have to carry for the rest of your life, but I cannot forgive you. Not now, not yet. Right now, I am beyond angry that you made such a careless mistake, that you took my mother away from me and my family, from my baby boy that will never know what he is missing out on. I am angry that another man’s family is feeling the same gut-wrenching pain I experience every second of every day. For every text I receive after 10:00 PM in which I think for just a split-second is my mother texting me her usual, “Goodnight, Jenny. I love you,” I envy you.. because you don’t have to live each day knowing your mother was laying on the side of the road for 50 minutes, alone and likely scared as she took her last breath, all because of a drunk driver. Forgiveness was second-nature to my mother, so one day I do hope to forgive you.

Today I am grateful for the outpouring of love and support from family and friends (side note: the people who stay by your side when you lose a parent are the people you want to cherish for the rest of your life), especially my husband and baby boy. Thank you all for helping us through this horrible time, and thank you to my mama, for instilling in my heart to “never surrender.” I love you.

Don’t drink and drive.

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