81: Triumph over Tragedy

81: Triumph over Tragedy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Triumph over Tragedy

Courage is being afraid but going on anyhow.

~Dan Rather

“Get in the car, there’s been a bad accident!” my husband, Patrick, shouted at me. After a phone call from my ex-husband to tell me he would be bringing our children home and another one 30 minutes later, from his fiancée asking me if he arrived, Patrick set out to find them.

When he returned for me, his urgency was ominous. We rushed to the hospital, and ran through the sliding doors that lead to the emergency room and up to the first doctor we saw. “Where are the kids from the wreck?” I asked. He pointed in the direction of two closed doors, and as he gestured he said, “There’s a little boy in there and his dad is in the next room.”

“Where are the girls?” I pleaded, almost too loud, the anxiety growing in my voice. “WHERE ARE THE GIRLS FROM THE CAR WRECK?” I was greeted with a blank stare. He stammered and we were ushered to a small, private waiting room.

It was probably a few minutes later, but felt like a lifetime before the doctor showed up again. He said words that will ring in my ears forever. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but your daughters died at the scene of the accident.” Katie, Miranda, and Jodi, ages eight, seven, and five, were gone. Jodi’s twin, Shane, and their dad, Jay, were clinging to life in separate rooms in the ER. Shane had a broken leg and a concussion. Jay’s injuries were more serious and he lost his fight for life a few hours later, the day after his 28th birthday.

A drunk driver stole what I thought was forever mine. I would never look at the world the same way again. Of course I knew that children could die—I read the obituary section in the newspaper. What I didn’t know was that something so awful, so tragic, so heartbreaking could happen to me. Thankfully, Shane survived. His broken leg was soon healed, and after a time we found a new normal.

One year went by and my thoughts had turned to how I could use this tragedy to encourage others. I was contacted by Victims’ Impact Panel of Oklahoma, Inc. They were conducting an informational meeting in my town and asked me to attend. The representative from VIP was engaging; she had a can-do attitude that was infectious. I did not need much persuasion, I knew from the start that I wanted to share my story to prevent more drunk driving deaths. As I was completing the form to participate, she told me that they needed a speaker the next day at a small school not far from where I live. I agreed to meet her at the school for the program.

I spent that evening preparing what I would say and I spent the drive over to the school the next day reassuring myself that I could indeed give the speech. I arrived at the school gym a little early and spent the time before the program began meeting the other speakers. Soon, students began filing in and sitting on the bleachers. The other speakers and I sat at the table facing them. There was a huge screen behind us for the video that would be shown. I was terribly nervous; I tried every technique I could remember to reduce my anxiety. I would be the last of the three speakers. First, the video, faces of the victims of drunk driving appeared one by one on the screen, along with birthdates and death dates, music was played in the background, tears stung my eyes as I realized I was not alone.

Before I knew it, it was my turn. I rose from my chair and walked to the microphone. Laying my note cards out before me, I wet my lips and began to speak. After I introduced myself, I told them about the day that changed my life. I also told them about the personalities of each of my girls, I wanted the students to know them as real people, not just as names. As I spoke I held a picture of Katie, Miranda, and Jodi that was taken six months before they died. After it was over and I sat down, an amazing feeling washed over me. It felt as if the burden I had been carrying around was lifted and replaced with a feeling of accomplishment. I knew that something I had said changed a life that day. The best part was that I could talk about my children, say their names, and share a memory and no one changed the subject. I could not wait to do it again.

Every time someone from Victims’ Impact Panel called I was a willing speaker. I traveled throughout northwest Oklahoma sharing my story at schools and offender programs. Speaking was like an inoculation against bitterness and despair. Anyone who has experienced the death of a child will say it is not something you get over, but something you go through. The hurt never goes away completely, but with the help of the Victims’ Impact Panel the wounds in my heart began to heal.

~Brenda Dillon Carr

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