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Thursday, September 22, 2011

How can I help him heal?


He is a truth seeker. Every day he searches for a way to find blame with himself for the accident. Why didn't they stay five minutes longer at the park? Why didn't they go to the restaurant where Lauren wanted to go?...it would have taken longer. Why didn't he go a different route, instead of the one he usually took? Why did they take the dogs? Why didn't he put her in a five-point harness car seat (even though she was really too tall for one)? Why, why, why, why....'how can I go on living' is the question he asks himself a hundred times a day. I listen to him and try to reassure him that there is only one person to blame, and it is not he. The investigator has spent hours with him doing the same. It is breaking my heart that I've not only lost a precious granddaughter, but now it seems I am losing my son as well...the only son I have left.

The investigators are almost positive that she was texting, or at the very least making a phone call. There seems to be no other explanation for the complete lack of attention to her driving. They have subpoenaed the telephone records from her carrier. They do know that she had a dropped call at 1:47 p.m., and the first 911 call came in at 1:48, and she made a call to her husband at 1:49. The prosecutor was dismayed that the (older, not tech-savvy) officer at the scene didn't confiscate her phone as he should have, but he did note the time of her dropped call. 

I was mistaken about her having just left a funeral. She had attended one that morning, but afterward had lunch with her husband, and was heading back to work, probably in a hurry. She admitted that she saw the deer crossing the road and the car that was also stopped in the opposite lane, that she placed her foot on top of the brake, but she didn't see their vehicle, and she didn't depress the brake pedal. The investigators determined mathematically that she had anywhere from five to eight seconds to react. Five to eight seconds. Count it out. Even if she had seen them at the last second and had braked, it might have saved Lauren's life. She was going 55-60 mile per hour and hit a stopped vehicle, on a straight, flat road, in good weather, in broad daylight. She has hired the most powerful law firm in Dayton. 

The prosecutor says that he will charge her with nothing less than vehicular manslaughter, but he will try to make a case for vehicular homicide, neither of which carries more than a slap on the wrist, because they are misdemeanors. And because they are not felonies, even if convicted, she will not have it on her record permanently. Slight justice for the walking wounded.

But I don't really care about that. I just want my son to be whole again.


43 comments:

Natalie said...

We love our children, and I feel your anguish... wanting to save him, to spare him his own anguish. I am so sorry... for the loss, for the senseless cause, for the horrible nightmare of not being able to change a moment, take a different course. It can be unbearable.

I keep you all in my thoughts and heart. And know: I am even more determined to be diligent and focused in my car: focused ON DRIVING. None of us wants to be an example, or to lose a loved one and have that become a catalyst for change... but I do keep Lauren's memory, the knowledge of how dear she is, in my mind when I am driving. I really do want drivers to know her story, and others like her's. And I want texting and talking on phones while driving to become a shameful, unthinkable activity... one that none of us would consider, because we value each others lives too much.

None of this is easy to write about, and I worry about getting it wrong, making it worse... but please know how deeply I feel your sadness... that I am sad too. I know this is a very painful time. I hope that justice, hope, and healing prevail.

Susan said...

Dear sweet Natalie, you have said it all just right. You have strengthened my resolve to find some good from this...I just have to find the path to it. I hope we all never forget how one moment can change so many lives forever.

Cora said...

Oh Susan....as soon as I read your title I began to cry....again, for you and Lauren, for the whole painful event. Like you said it's bad enough that you lost your grandaughter but the pain of watching and listening to your own son suffer is heart wrenching. It hurts you to the very core. But as a mother you need to be there for him, hold him, listen, let him go through all his emotions, but mostly just be his stronghold. And I know that is hard when you are hurting too.
Our tears, anger and suffering are all hear and seen by our dear Lord in Heaven. It attracts His attention...He knows our pain, troubles and is there with us during our sleepless nights.
"God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations" 2 Cor. 1:3-4.. May you and your son find peace, that peace that passes all understanding in this world.
My prayers for you all. My heart aches as I cry with you.
One day at a time, one step towards healing....
Many hugs for you.

Tina said...

Oh bless his heart. Bless your heart. I know he's hurting. It's so hard not to go through life, especially something as painful as this, and not think about the "what if's". To know and yet understand that it's all in God's timing, is hard for us sometimes, because we are so human. We want answers to our questions. We want to understand without being angry or sad. We want back what was ours.

I am happy to hear that she had such a good day before God took her home. Those will always be sweet memories.

I will continue to pray for him, for you and the family.
God Bless.

Wanda..... said...

Dear Susan, there is no greater love than that of a parent’s for their child. The depth of your son's profound sadness and pain, as well as your own, is unimaginable, but know that we feel and care deeply for your loss. How could one not feel empty, angry, resentful, even the feeling of guilt...blaming oneself for failing to prevent it in some way. It brings to mind the book, 'The Year of Magical Thinking', about such loss, despair and moments of disbelief. I hope together with family and friends, that with time, some solace and a bit of comfort can be found in happy memories of your beloved Lauren. Just try to cope one day at a time and hang unto the knowledge that facing one's feelings and clinging to those memories will slowly help one through such a difficult time.

ds said...

Oh, Susan...
Around here there are laws banning using cell phones while driving (yes, another slap on the wrist and no comfort for you, but it's a start)...I do want you to know that I sat mesmerized by your slideshow the other morning and cried and cried, for you for Jaye for the whole of your family.
No other words, just friendship and hugs. Many many many hugs...

Carol said...

You are in our prayers.

Oliag said...

Susan, I think of you and Lauren and Jaye every day...If loving thoughts and virtual hugs can help Jaye with this struggle then he has them...and you do too.

xoxo
Gail

Kathleen said...

I have no words and there are no answers. I will continue to pray for you and your family. It is the only thing that I can think to do.

Sandy Nawrot said...

My dear friend, I'm just sitting here shaking my head. This is going to take a very very long time for him to reconcile. But he has you for a mom, and I believe that ultimately you will all emerge from the tunnel with a sense of peace. I also believe that if this woman was in the wrong, justice will be served, either here on earth or later. Much love.

Barb said...

I think of you often, Susan, and of sweet Lauren and her family.You son's yearning for a different ending is understandable. Isn't that what we would all wish for? I watched your slide show of Lauren and began crying. Such a precious life taken from you. Thank goodness for your memories. As a Grandparent, I cannot fathom your Family's grief. Hugs to you, Susan.

California Girl said...

Oh Susan, I pray for you and he and the family. He is probably suffering PTSD. He needs counselling. He still has responsibilities to his other family members. Ask him what his daughter would want him to do. Use whatever you can to persuade him, especially his daughter's wishes.

I hear your cry. You and other members of your family can only try to persuade him. Hopefully, he'll realize you are right.

Thanks for keeping us aware. Love you.

Deborah said...

Your own terrible what-ifs, and if- onlys give you the experience to be able to really understand what he is living through, Susie. Of anyone, you are the one to turn his head around, to help him accept that looking back and blaming himself will never change the result, and will only further damage what he still has.

I hope, with all my being, that he finds a way to stop thinking he was responsible.

Susan said...

Cora, sometimes all I do when I'm with him is to hold him and pat his arm or hand and tell him that I love him. I'm just thankful that he isn't holding back his feelings. I would be much more worried about him, if that were the case.

Thank you for reaching out, especially in the midst of your own heartbreak.

XOXO

Susan said...

Tina, if we could just turn back time. But would they (or we) have done anything differently? How would we know? It will take time, a lot of time, for him to heal. We just try to surround him and his wife and our grandson with as much love as we can.

Thank you for your kindness.

XOXO

Susan said...

Wanda, I read Joan Didion's book and it was so good...I may read it again. Jaye has read a couple of things, and I think it helped him realize that any parent who deals with such a horrible loss has the same agonizing questions as he has put himself through, and does on a daily basis. I just hope that the answers will start to come more easily and not bring such pain. I know that time heals, and it will with him, too.

Ruth said...

Susie, how can you help him heal? You are helping him, you are there for him as much as any mother, any person, could possibly be. Imagine how it would be without you and David? It's not possible to imagine, actually. And I know that your grief for Jaye is in some ways more devastating than for yourself. You are so right to want him to let it out, just as you want Matthew to let it out. You each have to let it out in the way you can. Your doing it here with us is what you have done, and I ask myself the same question, how can I help Susie heal? There is no answer, really. We have to help ourselves heal, and thankfully, very loving family and friends surround us and make us safe to do that. Much love to you.

Susan said...

ds, there is a law in Ohio that has passed the House, but is languishing in the Senate, that addresses the issue, but it basically does nothing, except a small fine, and it isn't a primary offense. I've been writing Senate members to convince them to pass a more strongly worded law, making it a criminal offense if there is a fatality in an accident where handheld devices were in use. I feel that if I can be effective in that way, that it may save someone else's life.

Thank you for your ongoing kindness.

XOXO

stacybuckeye said...

Susan, you've been in my thoughts and prayers and you will stay there indefinitely. Thank you for the update.
It makes me angry to know that she was on her phone and I wish Ohio had a law on the books AT THE VERY LEAST. I'll be sending a letter to our State Senators too.
Just keep listening and hugging and crying - your son obviously needs you, even when your own heart is breaking. Sending love your way.

Susan said...

Carol, thank you for keeping us there.

Susan said...

Gail, thank you so much for your love and concern...virtual hugs are nearly as good as the real thing. Maybe someday we can give each other a real hug.

XOXO

Susan said...

Kathleen, every prayer helps in our healing...we will get there someday.

XOXO

Susan said...

Dear Sandy, I'm so fortunate to have friends like you, like all of you here, who care about me and my family, and I know they aren't just words on a screen. Thank you for sticking with me, even though I've been pretty much absent from blogging. I hope someday I will be able to be excited about it again.

I know that justice will be served. I'm sure the driver is already living in the hell of her own making.

XOXO

Susan said...

Barb, yes, it's that yearning for the outcome to somehow be different that keeps Jaye from healing. I think he believes that if he keeps saying these things over and over again that it will somehow change the outcome. I just hope that therapy will help him realize that it can never be.

It's hard to believe such a vibrant little person could suddenly be gone.

Thank you for thinking of us.

XOXO

Susan said...

Debbie (CG), he most definitely has PTSD, all three of them do. They jump at every loud noise, and Matthew is back to sleeping in his parents' bed, maybe as much for them as for him. They are seeing therapists, together and separately, also one for Matthew. They also have attended a meeting of Compassionate Friends, which they seemed to find helpful. At least Jaye knows that he isn't the only parent to have those feelings and think those thoughts.

Remarkably, Matthew was able to finish his potty training through all of this, and he hasn't regressed at all. He is such a sunny little boy, and we go to their house as often as we do as much for him as for Jaye and Kelly. He has suffered a tremendous loss. He is attending pre-school three mornings a week, and that has helped him so much. He was so lonely.

Thank you for all of your love and concern, dear friend.

XOXO

Susan said...

Deb, my new mantra is going to be "It won't bring her back." I just realized this morning that it may not be helping him to let him to continually repeat the litany of questions over and over. I think it has become something of a prayer, that if he keeps saying it, it will change the outcome. I'll let him talk as much as he wants, but I'm going to say every time that no matter how many times he says it, she isn't coming back, in a kind way, of course.

This examining of facts that he does is something that he has always done. He did it with Joshua, too. It's the historian in him. He must know the truth, even if it destroys him. He said something Friday, though, that makes me think it wouldn't destroy him. He said that the worst thing about it is that this woman now owns Lauren's life. Maybe if he could find just a wee bit of fault of his own, he could reclaim that. I don't know, it's just a thought.

XOXO

Susan said...

Dearest Ruthie, what would I do without you to bring me clarity? I think I have been able to accept Lauren's death. I can't change what happened; I can only change my reaction to it. I want to make a difference in other people's lives. I'm working on a plan to talk to high school students. A friend with whom I met last week lost her son in a drunk driving accident, and she goes to area high schools to talk about the dangers. She coordinates with the state highway patrol. I think I could do the same thing. She wants me to do it. I think this has already changed a lot of people's behavior when they're behind the wheel. Maybe I could affect that change in young people. I want to make something positive out of Lauren's life and death.

I plan to give Jaye a copy of the book, when I feel that he's ready to accept it. I don't think he's ready yet.

Love you, my friend.

Susan said...

Stacy, there was a rally at the Statehouse last week, but I didn't find out about it until it was over. I found out that the House Bill 99 is actually the more strongly worded bill. It passed the House, but is languishing in the Senate. There's to be a hearing about it Wednesday.

http://www.thenews-messenger.com/article/20110924/NEWS01/109240304/Rally-supports-possible-Ohio-texting-ban

Thank you, my friend, for your continued support.

XOXO

California Girl said...

The high school talks are a great idea. I see it as not only educating kids who need it now but also as cathartic for you. I see more & more people drive erratically and they are almost always on a cell phone. Why we don't have a nation-wide law against it is beyond me.

shoreacres said...

There's nothing I can say that others haven't said, more eloquently, more gracefully.

When I first heard about the accident, my sorrow for you, my astonishment at the enormity of such a sudden and senseless loss was one thing. But seeing the photos here, feeling what it must have been like for your son and his daughter to be wrenched apart is that moment - it's almost more than I can bear.

I understand your son's reaction in a way I wouldn't have, three months ago. Since my mother's death, I've gone through every detail of the months and days prior to her hospitalization, saying to myself: If only I had insisted on assisted living. If only I'd been more attentive. If only I'd come home earlier that day - perhaps she wouldn't have fallen. Everything from the choice of hospital to a decision to eat dinner before going back to the hospital her last night has been subject to the tyranny of The Great What-If. And I have no answer for that, except the support of others, and the passage of time.

I can tell you this. The Texas Legislature - yes, Texas, for heaven's sake - passed a law banning cell phones in school zones. Period. It's only a step, but it's a step in the right direction. Enough steps taken in enough places, and perhaps all of us can have a hand in keeping such tragedies from happening.

You are in my prayers.

CottageGirl said...

Can't imagine what you are going through, my girl. Thoughts and more and more prayers ...

Jeanie said...

Susan, my heart is filled with so very many prayers for you and for your son. I understand the guilt, and I trust that it will -- at least the rawest, most intense part -- will pass. It may take awhile, but it will pass. Sometimes it is important to talk, to be angry, before one can heal. The words others have said really do say it all -- let me only add that I send you hope. Hope for healing.

Susan said...

Debbie (CG), I think I will be testifying at the Ohio Senate hearings, on the texting ban bill that the House has already passed, that will be taking place in the weeks to come. After I contacted the Democratic co-sponsor (it's bi-partisan) of the bill, she put me in touch with the head of an advocacy group who has encouraged me to do this. I just have to clear it with our son's attorney about what I can and cannot say. The driver hasn't even been charged yet, so it may have to be in the more generic form of "distracted driving".

The testimony and high school speaking may have to wait until the trial (or plea bargain) is over. I wouldn't want to jeopardize the case.

Public speaking terrifies me.

Susan said...

Linda, first of all, I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear mother. Even before this happened, I had been out of touch in blog world, so I didn't know. Please accept my sincere condolences.

Yes, it is gut-wrenching to watch my son put himself through this castigation repeatedly. Something Jaye said about the woman who caused the accident now owning Lauren's life made me think that, in his mind, he has to keep doing this to reclaim his daughter from her. That is he can find some fault with himself, he can do that. I don't know. He's getting angrier about it, so maybe that's a good thing...gives him somewhere else to focus.

Unbelievably, Ohio is one of only 15 or 16 states that has not passed legislation to control the use of handheld devices while driving. Hopefully, they will get with the program soon. Both the House and the Senate are getting a lot of pressure from citizens to right this wrong.

Thank you for your kindness.

Susan said...

Debbie (Cottage Girl), I hope you never, ever have to find out what this hell is like. I know that every time you think of me, you must imagine what it would be to lose one of your own precious little ones. Hold them dear, and spread the word.

XOXO

Susan said...

Jeanie, even though it is very difficult to watch my son and hear his pain, I also think it's important for him to work through it like this. I would be much more worried about him, if he were keeping it all inside. I know the time will come when he will be able to talk about Lauren with a smile on his face, but it may be a long time from now.

Thank you so much for your kind words...they will add to my healing.

California Girl said...

Susan: Public speaking terrifies me too but you'll get through it. I bet when you're on your feet, addressing the committee, advocacy group or large crowd, your passion will steady you and you'll articulate the facts as well as what is in your heart.

Diane Cayton-Hakey said...

There is nothing left for me to say that others have not already stated so eloquently. Please just know that I think of you and your family every single day since the loss of Lauren. My heart aches for all of you.

Diane

Judy said...

My heart aches for all of you involved.

culdesacchronicles said...

I've been away for a while and have not visited anyone. I saw your comment on my post this morning and jumped over here.

I think of you often. Watching a child suffer is a mother's great pain. We feel so powerless to help our children at times. It's good that he can talk to you and let this anguish out, though it must be very painful for you to hear. I think of time passing for all of you - time that will create a buffer between you and this horrible time of your life.

Keeping you in my heart.

steviewren said...

Susan, I so wish I could say something that would help each one of you. I can't imagine the pain you must feel. I'm saying a prayer and sending healing thoughts your way.

Cora said...

Thinking of you often! xooxoo

Mollers Down Under said...

I want to say something to make it better, but I know no words can do that. You and your son and his wife are in my thoughts. You have lost a precious little girl, hold on to those memories.