This Mother’s Day, like most holidays, will bring with it an acute awareness of our family’s missing piece. Nineteen years ago, a drunk and marijuana impaired teen driver killed my firstborn child and only daughter.
Helen Marie made me a mother and watching her and my younger son, John, grow into thoughtful, confident, well-adjusted children was my greatest joy. Then in a moment, Helen Marie was gone, violently run down while rollerblading on a bike path just a few blocks from home.
She had just turned 16.
Weeks before, I had celebrated what would be my last Mother’s Day with both my children. I had received what would be the last tangible gift from my daughter: a poem, simply titled “Mother’s Day,” a girlish missive in which she sought to capture a mother’s sometimes-thankless sacrifices.
The sudden loss of my beautiful daughter left me broken and barely functioning. It left me uncertain of my own survival; surely, the grief would kill me.
Over time – thanks to MADD, thanks to my faith and my family and friends who propped me up – I learned that I could survive. I learned, as a dear friend and fellow victim often reminds me, to incorporate the sadness into my life without letting it become my life. I learned to remember my daughter without constant pain. I learned to remember with joy.
Helen Marie is with me wherever I go. She is with me as I travel across the country as MADD National President. She is with me as I meet law enforcement officers who work every day to fight this crime. She is with me as I listen to the stories of victims and recognize in their faces the crushing pain of loss. As I greet the volunteers and MADD chapter founders and staff members dedicated to our cause.
This Mother’s Day will hold both celebration and sadness. But I would not trade the 16 years I had with Helen Marie for anything. She was my daughter. She will always be my daughter. And I will always be her mother.