From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Saved by the Belt

As a mother, I have been blessed. I have a nice, smart, good-looking son who has given me much pleasure over the years. In the months leading up to Alan’s 16th birthday, there was a lot of excitement and commotion about his upcoming rite of passage—the driver’s license.

About a month before his birthday, there was an assembly about seat-belt safety presented at his high school. One of the presenters in this program, Kathy Hezlep, had lost her son in a horrible car crash the year before. When Kathy was first asked to speak at this assembly, she was reluctant. Her son’s death had been extremely hard on her. She often felt helpless and discouraged, and she wasn’t sure how she could make a difference by speaking with this group.

But the school had convinced her to talk to the students. Kathy spoke about how hard it had been since the loss of her son. There were days when it was an effort just to get out of bed. She spoke directly from her heart and my son took her words straight into his heart. I remember Alan coming home that day and the two of us talking about the crash. We thought it was interesting that she was a single mother (like me) and that her son, Ryan, was her only child (like Alan).

Well, the big day finally arrived. The state of Florida, in its infinite wisdom, granted my “child” a license to take a loaded weapon and drive it! At the time, I thought the worst feeling I could possibly experience was watching my only child drive off alone in my car. I was wrong.

Alan had his license exactly one week when the call that is every parent’s worst nightmare came. The police told me my son had been driving down a curving road, lost control of the car and, because he was an inexperienced driver, didn’t know how to come out of the spin. He managed to miss a lake and a traffic sign that were in his path, but went full force into a light pole. Thank God he wasn’t going faster, because if he had hit the pole any harder, he and his two passengers could have been electrocuted.

When I was taken to the scene of the accident and saw the wrecked car, I felt physically sick. I couldn’t believe three kids had walked away from that car alive. I thought, My son must have a guardian angel. I was right.

When I got to the hospital, I talked to Alan about the accident. He told me that none of the kids had been wearing their seat belts when he started the car. But Kathy Hezlep’s words, spoken so sincerely and eloquently about her terrible loss, had impressed him so deeply that he insisted that everyone put on their shoulder and lap belts before he would leave. That is what had saved their lives.

My family is one of the lucky ones. We still have what we consider most precious—each other. I have unending admiration, respect and love for Kathy Hezlep. She is not a celebrity but an everyday person; a mother who, despite her immeasurable loss, had the courage to speak out and make a difference that saved three lives. To me, Kathy is a superstar.

Randee Goldsmith

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