We often hear how Impaired Driving kills innocent people and how Mothers Against Drunk Driving is a leading supporter of the victims of this violent crime. However, until it happens to you, you really can’t comprehend the value and support that MADD gives to those during the worst nightmare of their life, like me.

Early morning of August 1st, 2015 had started like any other day. I woke up, got my morning cup of coffee and was headed back upstairs when my cell phone rang.  A man was on the other end asking me if I knew Richard Michael Rodriguez. In my still sleepy confusion I thought they had the wrong number. “Yes”, I said, “Who is this?”, “Ma’am, this is the California Highway Patrol, we regret to inform you that Mr. Richard Michael Rodriguez was killed early this morning”. “What? What? I’m sorry what did you just say?” As the young officer repeated the words I just started screaming “No, no, please no”.  Twenty years after my only sister was murdered, I was now getting a second life shattering phone call, my children’s father had been killed by a 25 year old drunk driver less than a mile from his home.  The man that killed Richard was a repeat offender. While he was being treated for his injury, Richard, who had always lived his life with respect, responsibility and the love of his family, lied in a cold morgue waiting for his body to be released.

Richard and I struggled for 14 years to have our second child. We were finally blessed with our daughter in 1999.  I couldn’t imagine how with her only being 15 years old, was I supposed to do this alone. I couldn’t bring myself to even think about how he wouldn’t be here to see all of her or her brother’s milestones, for the rest of their lives.  He was gone!

As I made all the calls to notify Richard’s family members, the begging, pleading, screams into the phone, telling me no it can’t be true, and the hysterical sobs, will forever be seared into my memory. But the worst was having to tell our children.  Hearing your 29 year old son sob and beg for just one more day to sit on the back porch and talk with his dad as they smoked a cigar, something they often did. “Please mom, please, I just want one more day”.

The pain a mother feels for herself is nothing compared to not being able to heal your children’s broken heart.

Richards’s life was taken due to the choices of an irresponsible man! Because of this he has missed seeing his two grandchildren grow, the birth of his two new grandchildren, and watching our son grow into an amazing husband and father.  He wasn’t there when our beautiful daughter got her driver’s license, was named the 2017 Prom Queen for Vista High or to see her walk across the stage at her graduation to accept her diploma. He will not be there to see her off to College and witness as she grows her wings and flies to what her life will become.  There are so many things that he will not get to stand by our sides and share with us, but in our hearts, we know he will always be there.

It has been almost 2 years now. The court hearings have stopped, the media gone, the sentencing passed, the visits and calls from family and friends slowly diminishes. Yet, every day for us, time stands still.  In everything that we do, every holiday we share, no matter how many friends we invite, no matter how many ways we try and change old traditions for new, there is always an empty seat at the table, a cloud that hangs over us, and a deep sorrow that can’t be brightened or changed. We are forced  to go through this journey of grief. Thankfully we don’t ever have to worry about doing it alone. One thing that remains is the love, support, and guidance we continue to receive from MADD.  MADD has held our hands, wiped our tears, allowed us to scream and shout, and supported us every step of the way. They are right there to tell me they get it, they understand, and they haven’t forgotten.

Teen Coletta, 2015