It was a little after 4:00 a.m.   June 8, 2014.  Like most people, I was in bed, asleep.  It was a loud banging that woke me up and it took me a minute to figure out that someone was banging on the door.  My husband had gotten up before me and was answering the door.  As I was rustling about, he came back in and told me that Kyle was there.  Kyle is my second oldest son, and he lived with his older brother in the next town over. This couldn’t be good.  Kyle wouldn’t be banging on our door, in the middle of the night, to deliver anything but horrible news.  I walked out into the kitchen and saw my son standing there, sobbing.  As soon as I saw him, my heart stopped.  Looking at him, I knew.  I just knew what he was about to tell me.  He couldn’t find the words though … So, as he stood there, trying to speak, I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t the worst.  That we would be driving back to his house to check on Michael, or maybe the hospital.  I even considered that we might be going to post bail.  Just anything, anything other than the worst.  Anything other than what I already knew.

Finally, Kyle spoke those two words …  “Mike died.”

The two words that crushed my soul and turned my world into before and after. Immediately, I wanted him to take them back. This couldn’t be happening, it couldn’t be real.

Michael was 26, and Kyle 24. They had moved into their own place together, about a year before.

When they were little and growing up, Michael and Kyle were always … Michael and Kyle. Like, one word.  You couldn’t say one without the other. They were together all the time.  They shared rooms, shared friends, and shared their lives.  I stood there, heartbroken, myself … and heartbroken for Kyle.

He gave me a card and told me I was supposed to call. I looked at it … Summit County Medical Examiner.

Obviously there had been some kind of mistake.  This was my Michael, my boy … My firstborn son.  How on earth could we be talking about my boy and the medical examiner in the same sentence?  None of this made any sense.  My other 2 sons had woken with all the commotion.  Joey was 16 at the time, and Ethan just 7.  Their older brother was everything to them and my heart broke into more pieces as I witnessed their pain.

Michael had been at a party and gotten into a car with someone he met there.  We’re not sure why, but the why doesn’t really matter.  The party was about 4 houses away from Michael and Kyle’s house.

The crash occurred around the corner from their house.  There was no reason for Michael to be in that car that night.  And yet, he was.  Though the driver tested below the legal limit, they both had been drinking at the party.  The driver lost control of the vehicle and it hit a tree.  The impact caused the car to flip onto the passenger side.  As it flipped, my son was partially ejected from the vehicle, through the window.  The vehicle then landed on my son, crushing him.  I am told that he died instantly, as if it’s some kind of comfort.  I am relieved that he did not suffer, but there is no comfort in any of this.  Michael suffered from multiple injuries, caused by both the force of his head hitting the pavement, and the car landing on top of him.  These are facts no mother should hear about her son.  Facts no one should hear about anyone.

Neighbors were woken by the crash and knew who Michael was.  They ran to his house, where Kyle was sleeping, to tell him there had been an accident.  Kyle was brought to the scene.  I hate that for him.  Hate that he was woken and told such horrible news.  Hate that he then had to drive to my house, and then give the news to his mother.  This is not something anyone should have to do.

Michael didn’t want to die.  He was 26 and just coming into his own.  He was handsome and smart, all things any mom would say about her son, but so very true. Michael had been gifted a heart of compassion, and he cared deeply for others.  He loved his family fiercely and was very protective of all of us.  As the oldest, Michael was the “Big Brother” to all of his siblings, a role he took seriously.  He loved with all his heart, and his family was most important to him.

Since losing Michael, our family has been changed forever.  We all struggle daily to live through such a tremendous loss.  There is something missing from our lives now … a void, a vacancy, a heartbreaking loss. Everything is different now, and life has become before and after. Life before Michael died, and the life after … It’s living with a never ending sadness, an ache for what should be.  There is always an empty seat at holidays and special occasions, a place where Michael should be.  We will never see our Michael again, never see him get married, or have children.  We’ll always wonder about what could have been.

The driver of the vehicle was by legal definition, impaired.  He tested positive for alcohol, but was below the legal limit.  Proof that you do not need to be over the limit to cause devastating consequences.  The crash happened just hundreds of feet from where Michael lived, which is something that I don’t think I will ever come to terms with.  It is all so senseless and unfair.  So many lives have been irrevocably changed, my hope is to spare any other family from having to go through this pain.  It is my plea to anyone reading this, to please … please have a designated driver and don’t ever drink and drive.  It seems so easy to do, especially with the many options that are out there today, yet people are killed every day.  If you know you will be drinking, leave the keys at home and save a life.  If not your own, someone else’s son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother.  No one has the right to end a life and cause such devastating heartache.

My family and I have somehow survived the past 4 ½ years.  We all struggle every day, and never forget our missing piece. In the early days of losing Michael, I started a little movement to spread random acts of kindness, called Michael’s  (Random Act of Kindness)RAK.  I live my life now, in memory of, and for Michael.  There is nothing that will bring him back, so by remembering him, and doing these small things in honor of him, I can keep his memory alive.  It is Michael’s huge heart for others that inspired Michael’s RAK, so do something nice for someone today, spread a little kindness, big or small, and make a difference in someone else’s day.  Tell them Michael sent you.