August 14, 1993. It was a wonderful day! Twenty-five year old, Michelle Davidson was marrying the love of her life, Doug Brooks. Though she was a Certified Nurse’s Assistant (CNA), she earned more working at the local factory. She was a hard worker, fast on her machine. Doug was working in nearby Cookeville. They were plannning to buy a home there. Michelle confided to her mother, Alene Davidson, that within a year, they hoped to have a dark-haired baby girl.
It was a small, but beautiful wedding on the lake. All Michelle’s siblings were there, a sister and 5 brothers, including her twin brother, Mike. The boys worshipped her. “Sis” as she was called, was very loving, but she could hold her own against her brothers. She could shoot a gun, go 4-wheeling, change her oil, and service her own car. She had always been their buddy.
Only one dark cloud had surrounded the wedding. Michelle’s Uncle “Junebug,” her mom’s brother, had shown up to the wedding drunk. He had embarrassed Michelle and her friends so much that he had been asked to leave. But that was behind them. Michelle and Doug changed clothes and headed off to start their lives together with a honeymoon in Chattanooga.
Later that night, Alene had just finished putting Michelle’s wedding dress away when the phone rang. “There’s been a wreck,” someone told her oldest son who turned to Alene and said “It involves Sis and Doug…and Junebug.” Alene struggled to make sense of it. She had just seen the newlyweds off! The caller said they needed to go to the hospital as the ambulances had already taken them there.
The hospital was a nightmare as the pieces started to come together. Still drunk, it was Michelle’s Uncle Junebug who had hit them head-on on Highway 111 in Overton County. Unlike Michelle and Doug, he was not hurt in the crash. Doug had sustained a 9-inch gash across his face and neck that would require plastic surgery. But it was Sis who was left clinging to life.
Alene held her while they waited for an air ambulance to fly her and her new husband to the University of Tennessee Hospital in Knoxville. She told her how much they loved her, but soon the newlyweds were loaded up and gone. Alene and the rest of the family drove to the trauma center where Sis had been taken. When she got there, Michelle was in surgery. The doctors warned that her blood loss was probably fatal.
Alene says, “The days dragged on, one surgery after another – she was always on life-support.” On the third morning, the doctor told them Michelle had an “incident.” They suspected it might have been a stroke. The result was that she no longer had any brain activity.
The next day, they made the heart-wrenching decision to take Sis off life-support and donate her organs. She was pronounced dead on August 21, just six days after her wedding. Instead of hearing tales of a magical honeymoon and how house-shopping was going, Alene and her children attended Sis’ funeral. The family was devastated.
Within a few months, Junebug went to trial. He was sentenced to eight years for killing his niece and injuring her husband. He only served four before being sent home to die of cancer. Alene, who had not spoken to her brother since the horrific crash, felt compelled to see him as he neared his death. She recalls, “I went to him and told him I loved him. I’m very glad I made the effort.”
August 14, 2018, will be Doug and Michelle’s 25th Wedding Anniversary. But no celebration is planned. “We’ll visit her grave instead,” says Alene. “I remember so well how happy she was a few hours before she left us. She seemed to ‘glow’ with her dark eyes lit up. She loved Doug so much.”
Alene and Sis were best friends. Now the week of her daughter’s wedding anniversary will always bring tears, not of joy, but of loss for the daughter who was hit by a drunk driver on her wedding day. After the crash, Michelle’s brother, Mike, refused to celebrate his own birthday without his twin sister because they had shared birthdays for all their lives. Doug never remarried. He still joins in family events and Alene still calls him her son-in-law.
As tears fill her eyes so much that she can hardly see the words, Alene writes, “There is no home of hers I can visit. There will never be that little dark-haired girl. A drunk man’s need for another drink took all of this away. Michelle will be forever in our hearts and will always be missed.”