A mother’s grief and loss, turns to a passion to end drunk driving.
By: Ava Fontenot
My 25year old son Lindsey and his 21year old friend Raymond were killed by a drunk driver on July 2, 2010.
Raymond had called Lindsey to go out that night and Lindsey said he would but told Raymond he did not want to drink as he had to be at work for 7:00 in the morning. Whenever Lindsey and his friends went out they always made sure there would be a non -drinking designated driver with them. The friends that hung out with them said they had a good time drinking coke and laughing with their friends that night. The cameras at the club they were in shows them leaving at two a.m. Their friends said they were cutting up laughing with each other on the walk to Raymond’s truck. Upon reaching the truck they told their friends goodbye and neither one realized they had approximately 8 minutes left to live.
The phone call came at 2: 23 a.m. on Friday, July 2, 2010. There has been a car crash, a female voice on the other end said, and Lindsey did not make it. Lindsey, my 25-year-old son, who loved life and lived it big, who had a bright future – a fiancée, good friends and a great job did not make it? I struggled to make sense of the words, asking her to repeat several times those words that just could not be true. I remember telling her that she was wrong, to stay there, that I was on my way. As a parent I knew I could fix this. I knew all I had to do was get there and find Lindsey and tell them all he was fine they had the wrong person.
Just a few minutes earlier, at 2:11, I had awoken startled from a sound sleep. Glancing at the clock, I listened intently to the silence and wondered what had caused my abrupt consciousness before drifting back to sleep. In hindsight, I think that was the moment that Lindsey’s soul left this earth.
My heart racing from the phone call, I hurriedly threw clothes on and upon opening the bedroom door, saw Lindsey’s finance Jessica, standing there. She had received a call and rushed over, knowing that Mike, my husband, was working offshore, that I was home alone. I kept telling Jessica that we had to go to the crash site to tell them that they were wrong, that it was not our Lindsey in that crash. It could not be him. As we were leaving the house, my daughter Lauren and her finance Jeremiah arrived, and without hesitation, got in my car to drive us to the site. During that numb seemingly hours long 10-minute ride to the crash site, I kept asking if anyone tried calling Lindsey’s cell phone and Jessica just kept saying yes, that he was not answering his phone. Well just get me there so I can tell them they are all wrong, I kept saying. I remember looking over at Jessica sitting next to me in the back seat. She just looked like someone had just sucked all the life out of her. Because her life as she knew it a few hours before when she went to sleep was now over. All her hopes, plans and dreams with Lindsey were now gone. My daughter just sat quietly in the front seat praying that her only sibling, the big brother she looked up to and admired would be found safe.
Once there, the scene looked like a high school football game had just let out. There were kids and cars everywhere. The state trooper would not allow us close to the scene. He then asked me who I was, and I said I am Lindsey’s mom. With a serious but concerned voice he looked at me and said your son has been involved in a fatal crash. Looking at him in desperation, I asked how he was so sure that it was Lindsey. He simply replied that Lindsey had his driver’s license with him. I quickly looked around for Lindsey and Raymond and not seeing either the undeniable truth was starting to sink in.
Those hard words confirmed that it was indeed our Lindsey. My daughter kept trying to get me to leave. But what she didn’t understand was that’s where Lindsey took his last breath and I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Lindsey, and his best friend Raymond, were killed instantly in the car crash. The coroner explained to me that Lindsey’s injuries were so bad that we would have to have a closed casket funeral. He also stated that Raymond was partially decapitated. The second vehicle involved was driven by a young man who, we later found out, had a blood alcohol content of over 2 times the legal limit. He was also killed, cut in half by the impact. Lindsey and Raymond both chose not to drink that night. This was later confirmed there was no alcohol in either’s bloodstream.
Our lives were forever changed by a senseless deliberate act of drunk driving.
Even in my shock, I knew that once home, there were hard phone calls to make, the first one to Mike’s company to request they arrange to have a trusted co-worker be with him to break the news and accompany him on the terrible trip home.
My second call would be to my 83-year-old mother who worshiped Lindsey. Lindsey was her grandson that she counted on for everything. Whenever she needed something Lindsey was her go to and I had to call her and break her heart.
After my husband got home we knew funeral arrangements needed to be made. It was the fourth of July weekend and we could not lay Lindsey out until the following Monday. On that Monday morning I told my husband we had forgotten to order prayer cards and that I would go to the funeral home and order them. After ordering them the coroner asked me if I wanted to spend some time with Lindsey as he knew the casket would be closed. I said yes as I needed to see him. He led me to a room where Lindsey was on a stretcher covered with a sheet from his feet to his neck. I walked over to him he had a brush burn over his left eye but other than that his face was perfect he was still the handsome young man I had raised. As I stood there staring at him I noticed that he had blood in both ears and that his skull was cracked from behind his ear all the way around to the back of his neck. I remember I put my hands on his face and he was so cold, I thought if I could just warm him up maybe he would be alright, maybe he would take a breath. So, I put my hands on his chest and I hugged him, then I asked God please God just give him back, just give him back. He is only 25, take me but just give him back. But Lindsey did not move, he didn’t get warm and he didn’t take a breath. I kissed him goodbye and told him that I loved him. I told him I would take care of his dad, his sister and Jessica and that we would all be fine. But we are not fine, we miss Lindsey every single second of every day. Lindsey and Raymond died that night because one person made a choice.
A few weeks later after returning to work and trying to create a new normal without Lindsey in it. One evening at home I sat down at my computer and looked up MADD. I knew what they stood for, but I did not know what they actually did to fulfill their mission. While searching the MADD website I came across a program called Victim Impact Panel (VIP). This program allows victims/survivors of impaired driving crashes to share their stories with DWI/DUI offenders. By reliving their nightmares with offenders, they hope to change the attitude and mind set and bring them into their shattered lives because of one person’s bad decision. Knowing how Lindsey never met a stranger I knew I had found my way of continuing Lindsey’s legacy. I now work with law enforcement and do VIP panels in my hometown and surrounding cities. High schools and other preventive programs in my area also call me to speak. In each class I hope to reach at least one person and show them what the other side of a DUI looks like. Many offenders tell me that my story has changed their outlook on drinking and driving and they will always remember Lindsey and Raymond. I know I am making a difference and saving lives one person at a time.
Anyone that is 21 years or older has a legal right to consume alcohol. But they also owe it to themselves and others to make a plan before they start drinking. The most important plan they are going to make that day. The plan on how they are going to get home safely. Are they going to have a designated driver, call a cab, or simply call a friend or family member to come and pick them up. Such a simple plan can help save so many lives. Drinking and driving is a choice and it is 100% preventable. No one should ever lose their life because of one person’s bad decision.
Law enforcement officers do their best to catch offenders and hold them accountable to keep our roadways safe. Thank you to these underappreciated individuals that go above and beyond daily to keep civility in our communities. Thank you for the tons of paperwork written to file one report. Thank you for choosing a career that is highly underpaid for the responsibility placed on you daily. Although your work may seem to go unnoticed, believe me, you are appreciated beyond words by so many. Defund the people that are trying to keep us safe? That is the craziest thing I have ever heard of. It is our duty to ourselves and others to support our officers and work with them towards a safer tomorrow.