Saturday, December 13, 2014

Drunk Driving: Losing My Sister & Finding Hope In A Dark Place

December  2013 

names have been omitted in this post 


I gently pick up the bundle of bright green stems off the tan leather seat and exit the SUV. Slamming the door shut and clicking the key fob the doors lock and I turn to see my daughter's small hand reaching out for mine. I slip my hand in hers and my son joins me as we walk along the December grass... our vision colliding with wreaths gracing burial plots... spots of Christmas red, metallics and ribbon adorning them.

Pockets of dry leaves crunch under our feet like a rhythmic marching band of three.
We walk in silence.
There under the giant tree is the spot.

The three of us stand there fixed to the spot, silent…
huddled together in the cold wind…
freezing, despite the sun beaming down…

It had been five years.
Five years and no marker.


names have been omitted


My phone ringing on my bedside table…

Groggy, I answer. It's my dad telling me to go to the front door. Confused... was I dreaming? It was almost midnight. Nudging my husband beside me in bed to wake up... "Wake up! Mom and dad are at the door, I don't know what's going on." Stumbling... bare feet on carpet then hardwood. Throwing on a turquoise terry robe over pajamas. Sticking dirty fogged over contacts in my eyes quickly. Headed to the front door, him following close behind me. Opening it. Parents huddled on the front porch. My mother's forlorn expression...

The news that she had died.

"No, Mommy, no… " I gasped.

I hadn't uttered "Mommy" in two decades.

Shock. No. No. No. NO! Denial.
Pinch me. This can't be real. Shaking... make. it. stop.
Physically shaking...  like I have a cold, my are teeth chattering.

Talking to one of the officers on the scene… there was a video of the altercation between my sister and her boyfriend outside the gas station… minutes before he gunned the truck and sped off onto the highway… right into an SUV head on. His truck had burst into flames trapping my sister. Someone managed to pull him out but not her… not her... why not her? Why him? It infuriated me. It made me see red. When he died the following morning I didn't care… in my hurting heart that next morning I saw justice of some sort.

All the hell that had happened… his abuse toward her… six years of hell… her bruises… my talking with her, my pleading with her to leave him… the strained phone calls… she died because of him… because he chose to drink too much and get behind the wheel… I wondered if she had been yelling at him… if the altercation was her attempting to get his keys from him.

The officer on the scene uttered phrases no one wants to hear... the words "toxicology report" and "dental records"...  infiltrated my mind and made it scream to please wake up… going to the funeral home to choose a coffin… the flowers, white gladiolus, the card… tears, sobs… heaving shoulders, the kind of drippy runny nose that won't stop... wet upper lips... Kleenex. Lots of Kleenex.

the nightmares began… and then more nightmares…


My mother's birthday… now my sister's burial day despite her protestations…
my vocal outrage…how insensitive… how un-empathetic… how horrible…
met with my father's indifference, coldness and detachment.
My complete and utter disgust at him…

How is this possible? How can someone behave this way?
Questions… questions… questions… racing thoughts…
wracking my brain for answers…
"Personality disorder" the therapist told me like she was telling me the weather.
Everything began clicking and the answers I'd needed
for the whole length of a childhood.
The answers stared me down. It was a mute point.
Answers that came too late…it was all too little too late.
I sat across from her sobbing in the midst of stark reality.

Dismal gray day, rain in the forecast… 
her dismal gray coffin that matched the sky…. 
Hymn of Promise by Natalie Sleeth… 
birds chirping and suddenly taking flight overhead as the service came to an end…
I wanted to sit there all day and into the night with her… 
I didn't want to leave.
But I got snapped at like a child to get in the car…
"Let's go!" came the angry words.
I had never seen my mother look so frail. 
My heart ached for her.
For my sister, the horror of it all…
it ached for all of us. 
I got in the limo and looked back at the coffin…
thinking this must be just a nightmare.
I would wake up….

Our couch at home, I took up residency on it… masses of crumpled tissues did too… pajamas… dirty hair, dirty sweatshirt… month by month... seasons changed from winter to spring... staring listlessly as The Today Show airs and Matt Lauer babbles on about crap that doesn't even matter… why were they so happy, anyway?… feeling no motivation… I notice a "Life Is Good" t-shirt magazine ad and want to scream and cry "Like hell!"… grabbing the remote control, flipping, flipping, flipping channels… nap after nap… I change from pajamas to jeans to pick up my kids from school… homework… dinner… bed… tomorrow... next week… repeat of this depression….
repeat tomorrow and the next day and the next…
Repeat of this cycle I want off and yet don't know how to remove myself from….

nightmares… more nightmares… make. them. stop. 
riding in the car was debilitating and sent me into a panic
"panic disorder" my therapist told me 

Reaching out… angry and sad… crying out for God.
It was like that song… it was like He went off for a cigarette break…
and was off the job… like He wasn't watching out for her.
Why? Why? Why?
Where were You when everything was falling apart? 
Needing comfort. Needing strength.
Needing something or someone good to believe in.

No one tells you grief is so exhausting, that it's comparable to a full time job... tiny steps, zig zagging through the stages of grief… therapy… talking about a loss helps so much as it helps propel you in healing… growing stronger… and as you muddle through the grief the "Why? Why did this happen?" nags at you like a hangnail or snagged sweater… trying to wrack our brain and figure out why God allowed this destruction to happen can drive us crazy. It's chasing something that we never can catch. This chase never ends well, it simply keeps us running in circles… like a little terrier after his tail, fraught in the circle of dissatisfaction. At some point we have to stop chasing and simply stand still… trust Him to bring beauty out of ashes, out of hurt, pain, loss and destruction.

keep. pressing. on.

Little reminders of my sister are always bittersweet... hearing her name always gives me pause... wishing for one more day... one more moment... yet thankful for having the time I had…I think of her every day and I'm so thankful the last words I told her were "I love you". I'm so thankful for God.
He was there all along. 

December   2013

names have been omitted in this post 


Wearing brown boots standing in the bright green grass beside the spot that is hers… with two little ones huddled beside me… an unmarked spot… and yet she's there… the unmarked spot my father still hasn't placed her name on…. her unmarked spot that bears no sign of someone there except for our little bundle of flowers from the store.

The first words he spat toward her 
once buried were: 

"Well, you won't be causing anymore trouble!" 

The unmarked spot that is his daughter...
brought here at the hands and wheels of a drunk driver. 
Unmarked spot that to others may appear to be empty,
to hold no significance…  yet it's the spot I visit her…
it's a spot of grief, loss and also... eternal hope.
One day I will see her again. 

© ~ 2014 

All posts are important to me… but especially this one

this is a horrific reality for so many families
 that have lost loved ones due to drunk drivers…
 please pray for strength, healing and peace for these families…

With the New Year quickly approaching…
 so is revelry and drinking
to celebrate ringing in the new year…
 it's important to plan ahead…
to ensure you have a designated driver arranged for that night. 

The time to plan is now. 

No one wants to be responsible for someone's injuries or death stemming from drinking and driving ... something that is highly preventable. And no one wants to lose their family member to a drunk driver. It takes merely a few minutes to ensure you have somewhere to stay for the night or a responsible ride. Let's each do our part to look out for others and make certain everyone has a bright new year.  


The 5 Stages Of Grief: 

Not every stage takes the same amount of time and grief is not a neat, consistent formula to healing... instead you may find yourself zig zagging back and forth between stages, relapsing then moving forward again bit by bit. 

1. Denial: denying the loss happened, that it's real... feeling shock and numb as if having an out of body experience. 

2. Anger: anger begins picking up where denial leaves off. You may find yourself angry at your loved one for leaving which makes us feel worse... you may feel angry at God... angry that the reality is you lack control; sometimes really bad things do happen. 

3. Bargaining: attempting to bargain with God... what if I did this? Beating yourself up with "What if's"... Re-writing history... what if I'd done this or that? Would they still be here?

4. Depression: extended isolation in mourning...  a time that if it persists, if it deters you from functioning, seek grief therapy with a psychologist and or your doctor for anti-depressants temporarily. Anxiety may occur, panic, ptsd, etc… consult with a therapist for treatment if this happens. 

5. Acceptance: finally peace and acceptance that is brought on by hope, by prayer and realization that yes, this is not the end... that there will be a reuniting one day. 

Facts: via

Almost every 90 seconds, a person is injured in a drunk driving crash. 

Blincoe, Lawrence, et al. “The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2000.” Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2002. NHTSA FARS data, 2011.

50 to 75 percent of convicted drunk drivers continue to drive on a suspended license. 

(Peck, R.C., Wilson, R. J., and Sutton, L. 1995. “Driver license strategies for controlling the persistent DUI offender, Strategies for Dealing with the intent Drinking Driver.” Transportation Research Board, Transportation Research Circular No. 437. Washington, D.C. National Research Council: 48-49 and Beck, KH, et al. “Effects of Ignition Interlock License Restrictions on Drivers with Multiple Alcohol Offenses: A Randomized Trial in Maryland.” American Journal of Public Health, 89 vol. 11 (1999): 1696-1700.)

An average drunk driver has driven drunk 80 times before first arrest. 

(Centers for Disease Control. “Vital Signs: Alcohol-Impaired Driving Among Adults — United States, 2010.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. October 4, 2011.)

Every day in America, another 28 people die as a result of drunk driving crashes. 

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS data, 2013.

In 2011, 226 children were killed in drunk driving crashes. Of those, 122 (54% percent) were riding with the drunk driver. 

NHTSA data query, 2013. 

Related Posts: 

Grieving = One Of The Most Basic Human Needs: 

A Season of Change - Sensing God's Presence: 

An Ambulance = A Fighting Chance & Hope: 

Recommended Reading:

Hello From Heaven!

- Bill Guggenheim & Judy Guggenheim 

On Grief and Grieving: Finding The Meaning Of Grief Through The Five Stages Of Loss

- Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler 

To My Readers: 

Thank you for reading, 

commenting and sharing! 


  1. I am amazed by your resilence and hope in the Lord during life's challenges and loss. Your story continues to inspire and lives will be saved from this post. You will indeed see your sister again. Bless you Jennifer.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment. I'm hoping her loss will prevent more. Blessings to you!

  2. I am sorry for your loss. I was moved when I read your original post from last year. Among the many pieces of your story that bothered me was that your sister lies in an unmarked grave. Why after all these years has a marker not been placed on her grave? If I followed your story correctly, your father didn't want the grave to have a marker, but what about the rest of the family? Why couldn't you and your mother have made arrangements for this. It doesn't seem that your father would know if you put a marker on her grave. I think doing this for your sister would help in your healing. Just an observation.

    1. Thank you… My father originally did choose what he wanted. My mother was understandably upset that he didn't include her in it and tried to broach a few additional ideas. He stated then she wouldn't get a marker at all. I was ready to purchase a marker this past year and do it myself but legally since it's my father's family plots it's his place…. most cemeteries require a permit, some type of written authorization/ the plot owners signature to install.

  3. I really feel sad for you but must say that you have done a great job writing things here. This would have definitely eased mental pressure from you. I shared your post with my uncle who works with a DUI attorney Los Angeles and he was equally touched too.

    1. Thank you for reading & the heartfelt comment, I appreciate it. And for sharing the post! The more awareness we share the more lives will be saved.