30: Mary and Me

30: Mary and Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Mary and Me

In my friend, I find a second self.

~Isabel Norton

Mary and I hadn’t known each other very long when our children were in a car accident together — struck by a drunk driver while walking home from a study date. My son Neil had been dating Mary’s daughter Trista for just eight or nine months when the crash occurred, killing Trista and leaving Neil with a serious traumatic brain injury. We moved in different circles. Mary was a lifelong resident of our town, graduating from the same high school as her two children would attend. I was more of a newcomer. I had moved my family to this beautiful coastal community from a central part of the state some ten years earlier. My friends were like me — transplants from somewhere else.

Having kids who were dating each other brought us closer together. We took turns dropping our kids off at soccer games and picking them up from school plays. We snapped pictures of them dressed for their semi-formal, Trista in her shimmering blue gown, Neil in top hat and tux. Though their relationship was new, Neil and Trista’s devotion to each other was compelling. Though Neil was headed off to college in the fall, he had decided to remain a couple with Trista, not look for other girlfriends. Trista told Mary she thought Neil was “the one.” With our kids’ relationship progressing, I found myself wondering if Mary would someday be Neil’s mother-in-law.

But it was not to be. Instead of walking our children down a wedding aisle, we walked down courtroom corridors together as the drunk driver was charged, tried and sentenced. Instead of reading toasts to family and friends, we read our victim impact statements to a judge. Mary spoke of memories of Trista, of shopping together and holding hands. She talked of all the things Trista would never experience: college, a wedding, children. I told the judge about physical therapy and antidepressants and academic modifications Neil needed because of his brain injury.

Though our children suffered very different fates, our experience was uniquely bonding. The night of the accident, Neil and Trista were taken to two different hospitals. Trista was on life support. Neil was confused. He thought he was in a gym. He didn’t know what year it was. Mary and I spoke on the phone, updating each other on our children’s conditions. Eventually, Trista was pronounced dead. While Neil was taken to the operating room to have his broken leg repaired, Trista was having her organs harvested for donation. While Neil was being intubated for his operation, Trista was extubated after hers.

Mary and I still move in different circles. We see each other around town from time to time; we catch up on our separate lives. Our friendship isn’t one of coffee klatches and double dates or long walks together. Our friendship was born on the dreams of our children. It has survived the death of one and the alteration forever of the other. From Mary, I have understood pain and loss, but also learned of resilience and the infinite power of love. Our friendship endures still, strengthened by tears, solidified by our unique and tragic commonality, evolved to a place of acceptance and grace.

~Carolyn Roy-Bornstein

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