My life changed forever one day before Valentine’s Day, four days before a trip to my future sister-in-law’s bridal shower, 11 days before a second trip to Las Vegas with my husband, and two months before my brother-in-law’s wedding.
On the afternoon of February 13, 2011, a drunk driver ran a stop sign, crashing broadside into my car, resulting in non-displaced fractures. I spent a little more than eight weeks in a neck brace 24/7. I was both angry and terrified, yet, I also felt fortunate. I survived. I “walked” away from injuries that should have killed or paralyzed me. I still suffer from changed sleep patterns and anxiety, and there are some activities I can no longer participate in.
But I survived.
The offender received a sentence of 30 days in jail, 45 days mandatory in-patient rehab and 10 years’ probation. The sentence brought me peace. At the hearing, I told him what he had done – what he’d ripped away from me. I began the healing process.
I have since come to understand that victims of violent crimes can remain stuck in that moment of confrontation. It becomes too easy to allow that moment to consume you and define you. But that’s just another victory for the drunk.
I realized, if I didn't want that moment to so completely define my life, I must move forward. That meant letting go of whatever negative emotions I held in. With the support of my victim advocate, Suzette, and by attending support groups, I’ve been able to let go and move forward. I hope that by sharing my story with others, they can do the same.
Learning to live again is killing me ~ Garth Brooks
Bright lights, tall trees, family, and laughter -- Such words are often associated with celebrating the holidays. As a child, I could only dream of the next time I would see a Christmas tree or gather with loved ones to open presents, bake treats, and stay up all night.
When I was six years old, the motorcycle my brother was riding on was hit by a drunk driver. He left home on a cool November night, and never returned. Instead, 5 days later, on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1982, our parents made the decision to take Hector off life support. The Holidays would never be the same again, and Thanksgiving became just another day. Our mother could not handle setting a table with an empty chair, or breaking down every time we began to talk about what we were thankful for. Year after year, we also stopped celebrating Christmas. Our traditions were lost. I remember thinking, but too afraid to say the words out loud, what about the rest of your children?
When I went away to college, 12 years later, I looked forward to coming home and baking pecan pies with my parents for Thanksgiving. Yet the memory of gathering around the dinner table, remembering my brother, is still distant. In fact, it was a topic we continued to avoid.
Thirty three years ago, our family lost its joy at the hands of a drunk driver. We did not know how to live while a piece of our heart was missing. Three decades later, we still haven’t learned to celebrate his short life. But we have chosen to honor our son, father, brother, uncle, and friend by living and by doing things that seem normal to everyone else that we couldn’t do before.
Writing about my brother Hector is my therapy and doing so helps me on my continued journey of healing and adjusting to my new normal of him not being here. It is just another way of keeping his memory alive by sharing his story that I hope helps others.
-Olga M. Hickman, Ph.D