I’m MADD. Help me understand. I’m angry. Help me understand.
It was a nice Saturday evening following a family outing. The kids, siblings, were playing in a mud puddle in the front yard as kids often like to do after a good rain. The youngest kicked off his shoes, sending one spiraling towards the edge of the yard, near the street without sidewalks. As any kid would do, he went to retrieve it. But he never made it. A speeding driver who had probably been drinking changed five lives that afternoon. The older two siblings, a brother and a sister, witnessed the whole thing. They watched in horror as their baby brother left his mortal body and the driver left the scene, taking out mailboxes down the street until finally wrecking his car. Fast-thinking neighbors caught the driver and handed him over to the police as a frantic father tried in vain to save his young son. The mother, a co-worker of mine, has lost her baby.
I’ve been told before that writing can be a way to release anger and frustration, so my usual Taylor Hicks blog is being high-jacked to try to make some sense of a tragic and senseless event. I won’t call it an accident. It wasn’t an accident that the driver was speeding. It wasn’t an accident that he may have chosen to have a few drinks before getting behind the wheel. It may have been an accident that several mailboxes were hit. It was no accident that the driver left the scene. And it was no accident that a child’s life was cut short.
From the moment I first heard about this family’s tragedy, I have been angry. I just didn’t know until tonight. What do you say to a grieving family? I’m sorry just doesn’t seem to cut it. Even though I truly am sorry that they are suffering, that they have lost a child, that a child’s life has been cut too short, it’s just not enough to say “I’m sorry”.
Someone recently said, as a parent, we expect to pick out our baby’s crib; we don’t expect to pick out his casket. Yet, this young family has had to do that because of someone else’s choices. God gave us free will, the freedom to make our own decisions and choices. It’s up to us to figure out what are the right choices. I don’t believe, can’t believe, won’t believe that drinking and driving is a right choice. We’ve probably all done it, one time or another. I’m guilty. But I won’t be again. Not ever. No party, no alcohol, no favorite concoction is worth what this family is dealing with right now, or others who have gone before and those yet to face the harsh reality of someone’s choice.
The family had gathered at the funeral home for the wake and to receive friends and extended family. I’ve never attended a child’s funeral. I never want to again. He was beautiful as he lay there, angelic without wings. So perfect, so peaceful, so young. His young friends and family had decorated his final bed with stickers and loving messages, his favorite toys, his blanket.
I couldn’t cry. I wanted to. All I could do was ask God “why?” There was no answer. As I drove away from the funeral home, in silent meditation and contemplation, I realized why I couldn’t cry. I was angry. Angry that someone had carelessly cut short the life of another. Angry that this family had to suffer the loss of a child. Angry that someone had probably been drinking before getting behind the wheel of his car. Angry that the driver was speeding and left the scene as the child lay lifeless, his brother and sister witnesses to such tragedy.
How do I turn anger to understanding? I can’t, not alone, but with your help. The next time you have a couple of drinks, make sure you’re at home. If you aren’t, make sure you have a non-drinking designated driver, or know the phone number of your local cab or taxi service. When you’re in a hurry in a congested area, where children are often present, slow down, take a few extra minutes to get to your destination. Watch out for those young lives, protecting them as if they were your own children. It takes only a split second to change a life forever, whether it’s your own or that of another.
And above all, take time to enjoy your children, no matter how old or how young. Enjoy your grandchildren if you have any. Give them love and hugs and praise. Set the right example – don’t drink and drive, or use excessive speed.
God grant peace to this family and their friends.
God have mercy on the driver.
Lord, let me remember always the pain, and to never get behind the wheel when I may be impaired.
Now the tears are flowing.
In loving memory of Frank Alexander Brooks, age 5
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