But the shrines don't seem to help. Drunken driving and drug related deaths continue to rise statistically in direct proportion to the grief of those who have lost loved ones. I, for one, am tired of this.
I had often thanked God that the Vietnam War spared my husband, my sons and brothers. Yet fifteen years later, a Vietnam veteran, messed up by drugs and alcohol, took my daughter’s life in an area I had hoped was a safe haven to raise children. Sadly, there are no safe places. My nightmare began on a lovely country road in rural Pennsylvania and 26 years later the scars are not, nor ever will be fully healed.
Noelle was one of the true innocent victims of drunken driving events. She did nothing wrong, loved life and lived it to the fullest. In a split second, her neck was snapped and spinal cord severed by the drunk driver, who swerved into her with his rear-view mirror, and flipped her twenty feet over the back of his truck. When I ran to her she was face down, bluish and not breathing. The paramedics managed to revive her—and that began a ten day vigil—a horror for Noelle, who had a perfect mind, eyes that could barely see and perfect hearing. But nothing else. She held on to whatever life she had, out of love for us, until I gave her permission to go Home, if she chose. Within two days, she was gone. It was the hardest think I ever had to do, but I felt that God wanted me to let her go.
My family, including six children, now five, fell apart and suffered alone, each in our own way. I wrote as a catharsis to my intense grief. These stories culminated in the completion of a memoir of her life. Writing it brought my daughter back to life, full of laughter and comical antics, but when I finished it, I lost her all over again — because there seems to be no closure with the death of the child.
However, something wonderful happened after the release of my book . . . “And the Whippoorwill Sang." At long last and well overdue, Staten Island, New York where I now live, organized a MADD (Mothers against Drunk Drivers) group. I knew then what needed to be done for my family and myself. We joined immediately.
The goal of MADD is to make the general public aware of how to address the problem of keeping our families safe. MADD educators stress that our youth have choices to make in their young lives — choices only they can make. They seek to remind youth that they will be held accountable for their own actions, as well as being affected by those of their friends.
The MADD organization is also available to console those who've suffered losses, leading them through fellowship, to the other side of grief. I wish this had been available to my own family years ago. It is now, and I intend to take full advantage of everything this wonderful group of volunteers is willing to offer. As I give thanks for the support MADD has to offer, I remember the works of the writer, John Donne, who certainly spoke the truth when he wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself; each man is a piece of the continent . . . Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind . . . .”