Who’s in Charge?

As soon as I realized I Randy was gone, I wanted to know: who do I blame? I was stunned, hurt, and angry. One minute I was shaking my head and sobbing; this couldn’t be my life. This isn’t how my life was supposed to go. The next, searching for answers and blame.

In my case, I knew a driver, presumably drunk, had crossed the line and struck Randy’s car head on. I knew the other driver was in worse condition and life-flighted first. At first they told me that Randy was unconscious, but it turned out that was not true. That was the police and EMT’s way of protecting me. That didn’t protect me because life-flight team told me the truth. That’s all enough to make a person angry. I would like to sit here and sound noble, tell you that I understood why they sent the other driver first. Tell you that I appreciated the effort to protect me. The truth is, I was mad. Logically, I understood the worst patient goes first and the ethics that go with all that, but in my heart I had trouble coming to terms with someone being saved after they just killed my husband. Intellectually I knew their actions were well-intentioned and absolutely towards helping me. In my heart and my head, I had to reprocess those feelings and come to terms with the fact Randy quite possibly knew he was alone, that the other driver was saved, and that he was going to die. I chose not to know the extent of his injuries, but I have a lot of common sense and put pieces together to create my own picture of what happened. I knew in my heart (and head) that he probably would not have lived either way. Most likely, his chest was compressed and he bled out into his chest when they extricated him. That would have happened either way they did it. All of that information was neither here nor there, I was angry furious and frustrated with everyone involved. 

I eventually came to terms with reality of why things were the way they were on scene. I worked through knowing the truth: he was conscious. I really understood he was probably going to die either way and that living might have been worse for him to tolerate, because of the extent of his probable injuries. Those were hard words to think, harder to say. My focus switched, I focused on being mad at God.

How can a loving God do this to someone? Why would a loving God do this to a couple who had been to their breaking point and back again, happier than ever and then rip their lives to shreds? Does a loving God do that? Only as punishment. God would only do that if someone had to be punished. What could I have done to warrant that punishment? I went to church, we had just been baptized together. I chose to believe that I didn’t deserve that, that my kids didn’t deserve that. My God wouldn’t do that. That only left one person to be mad at–the drunk driver.

I decided that sometimes terrible things happen to wonderful people and if anyone was responsible it was the man who was drinking and driving. How could anyone else be to blame? It was hard to be mad at the drunk driver. Hard because he was still recovering himself. He had two broken legs, blood on his brain, and a few other injuries. He spent months in a rehab facility. I think it was partly to avoid the charges his family knew were waiting for him and partly because he had some rather severe injuries and lasting effects from the accident including amnesia. So, I blamed myself. 

I know it seems strange to blame myself. I had nothing to do with the accident or rescue efforts. I blamed myself because I felt like I had wasted all of my time with him. I had finally discovered what an amazing man he was, or perhaps he had finally grown up and revealed himself, and then he was gone. He finally was the father I always wanted him to be. We had the relationship I always felt we were meant to have. We had the family I had dreamed of. He had the job he had dreamed of and we were starting to live the life we had worked so hard to make for ourselves. How stupid I was for wasting that time! All those months, and even years, wishing he was someone else or that he would do this or be like that. Stupid, stupid me. It was rather easy to forgive everyone else, but it took a very long time to forgive myself.

I finally cut myself a break. The fact is, life is a process of growth. It comes with its own set of growing pains, failures and successes. You can’t have success without failure. No one gets it right the very first time. It’s a process. You fall down and you get up. Eventually, if you are doing it right, you stand up enough times to reach your destination. We met our destination.  There was nothing to be mad at. It took work, but I understood.

We took an unusual path and we did the best we could. It was bumpy, but those bumps made us grow up. I came to the understanding that God is all-knowing. His plans often not understood. I know now that God knew Randy’s life was going to be short. He brought us together early, He tested our wills, and He let us grow up together. He forced us to grow into each other instead of growing apart. We did exactly what we were supposed to: we fell in love. We stuck together through the puppy love, solved our problems that could have ended us, and fell in love. His death wasn’t my fault. His death wasn’t a punishment. We didn’t do anything wrong. We were rewarded with our time together. Our love was the reward, his death was just our goodbye. Everyone has to say goodbye. God let us fill our time here, together. That’s an almighty and loving God.

So, never doubt someone is in charge. It may not be easy this way. It may leave a lot of questions and uncertainty, but there is a plan. Trust in the path, live the journey.

Foggy Decisions

Drinking and driving kills. If you don’t believe me, ask my kids. Ask them what it feels like hear their dad is dead, or for my youngest child (of the three with Randy), to never know her biological father at all. Ask my family what it feels like to hear their family is destroyed. Ask his parents what it feels like to have to say good-bye to their son. Ask me what it feels like to be 25 years old with three kids and no future. Ask me how a person starts over from that. Go ahead. Ask.

You won’t ask. No one will. At least, no one ever has.

No one asks because no one really wants to know the answers. The answers are tough to hear. It scares them. For a moment, they even put themselves into our shoes and they feel how terrible it must be. Beyond those reasons, the real reason people don’t ask is because drinking and driving is something most of us have done. Even if it was once. Even if you felt like you weren’t drunk. Even if you were the not completely alcohol-free designated driver. Most of us have done it and knowing someone that has suffered the consequences of something most of us have done, is almost more guilt than we can handle. It also ruins the lies we tell ourselves when we drink.

The lie we tell when we say “I haven’t had that much”. Or when we say, “I can drink all night and not be drunk.” Or how about my favorite lie of all, “Of course I’m fine to drive. I wouldn’t drive if I wasn’t okay.”

The problem with making the decision to drive after you have been drinking is you have an unclear mind. You have no idea how unclear it is until morning. Thanks to the alcohol, it seems perfectly clear. Unfortunately, you are wrong. There is just no polite way to say it. You are making foggy decisions. Foggy decisions that put you and everyone else on the road at risk.

I’m not throwing people who drink under the bus. I am one of those people. I do enjoy the occasional drink (or two). Sometimes, I drink a little and sometimes I drink a little too much. I am also one of the people who has driven after drinking. Unfortunately, I lived the nightmare. I know what it can do; I don’t have to ask. So, I have also made the decision not to let it happen anymore. Thanks to my support system, my children’s reminders, and my own fear, it doesn’t happen. I don’t drink and drive.

There is a large problem surrounding drinking and driving–accountability.

The person who killed Randy was drunk, exhausted, and I believe he passed out (his friends say he fell asleep) about 5:30am and rammed head on into Randy’s car after crossing the center line. Randy was on his way to work. Of course the drunk driver’s friends denied his drunken state, telling me through comments in newspaper articles that he was just ‘tired’.

Unfortunately, the blood test showed differently. Even after massive fluids through IV during the life flight, and the passage of hours since his last drink, by the time they tested his blood, he was still considered legally drunk. Two tests, by two sources differ on the numbers, but both tests proved he was drunk. I was told the average rule of thumb for a male is to add .015% to BAC for every hour that passes from the time of the accident until the time the BAC is taken. That would have put him well over the legal limit at the time of the accident, even if we use the lesser test.

He does not remember anything about the wreck. Part of that is (probably) because he was drunk. The other part is due to the short-term memory loss he has as a result of the wreck and the probable permanent amnesia from around the time of the accident.

For the record, he doesn’t remember portions of the night leading up to the wreck either. His friends filled in the gaps for him. He had a wild and fun evening. He even fell asleep at a friend’s house. He thought he was fine to drive after sleeping. Another foggy decision. He might have felt ‘fine’ or ‘okay’, but clearly he wasn’t.

For those of you who think the drunk driver never gets hurt? I’m here to tell you they do. He almost died (although he was extricated before my husband). He was life-flighted to a trauma center. He had at least 2 surgeries, maybe more, to repair his broken legs and relieve pressure in his brain. He spent months recovering in a facility(although some believe that was to avoid prosecution). He lost some memories of that day, that night, and even the weeks before. He even had to re-take a semester of school because he didn’t remember the information (according to sources, I have no first hand knowledge).

Now, if he were being honest, I bet he wishes he would have made a different choice. I bet he wishes that he would have went home alone that night. Or maybe he wishes that he would have stayed at the friends house instead of driving home. What ever the decision he made was, I bet he wishes he would have made it when he was stone-cold sober. Once  you start drinking, even one, your inhibitions come down, that’s true, but so does your common sense. So do yourself and everyone else a favor: make a decision to drink at home, get an absolutely alcohol-free driver, pay a taxi, or don’t drink while you are out. If you do go out without a plan, and you drink alcohol, I guarantee you’re making foggy decisions.

If you are feeling brave, go ahead,  ask me for proof of the devastation that drinking and driving can (and will eventually) cause.

***Just to be clear, legally drunk is .08%, however, most, if not all, states can ticket you for lesser amounts. In IL, for example, you can be ticketed for anything over .05% if you are showing signs of impairment or fail a field sobriety test. It is up to the officer.

Per DMV.org

If your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher, you are legally drunk and it is illegal for you to drive. However, if you are driving with a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08, you may still be cited for a DUI if your behavior suggests you are impaired. This is at the discretion of the officer citing you. Even with a BAC of just 0.06, you double your chance of being involved in a fatal accident.

IL informational book on driving and alcohol

So, please, use your clear head, before drinking, and avoid the alcohol-clouded judgment. It could save a life, including yours.