Last night as I was laying awake thinking about things, I remembered where I was 8 years ago. I don’t often do that because more often than not- the nights and days are awfully insignificant. With the help of Facebook, I know that 8 years ago today I wasn’t feeling all too well. At the time, I was a senior fashion student in college and simultaneously working at the Gap. I had made plans with a good friend of mine for dinner when I got off of work. I remember having a particularly good time catching up with her and I remember going to bed with my proverbial cup overflowing.
Since that day, I’ve had plenty of days and moments that felt that good. In hindsight, they are the best moments of that memory. The rest of them were much more vivid and quite honestly still take the breath right out of my throat. The kind of breathing when your chest is so tight the air doesn’t quite move through.
8 years ago today I lost one of my best friends in a drunk and drugged driving accident. Ashley Donahue was my former college roommate whom I had remained very close with up until her death. She was 20 years old and she died as a passenger in an accident. Ashley and I met at the start of my sophomore year of college. Ashley was a freshman and was eager to meet her first college roommate. Once the initial shock of living with an underclassmen wore off, I too was excited to meet her. We became fast friends and did almost everything together- right down to nightly teeth brushing. We’d stay up late most nights talking about her summers spent in Cape Cod, listening to Celine Dion and having dance parties until 2am. Ashley became a sort of little sitter to me and I always appreciated the special bond we shared. It was the kind of friendship where you didn’t have to compete with one another and we were just there for each other when it was needed most. I miss how she was the best listener and how she she was the best little sister I never had. She was a hopeless romantic and her love for love is something I carry with me everyday.
When Ashley passed away, she left behind her loving parents, relatives, cousins, friends and classmates. A chain of bad decisions ended her life within minutes. That chain of decisions reshaped every life she touched. I swear I live differently than I did. I know how quickly life can change and I know how important it is to live life to the fullest. I gained a renewed sense of family as mine rallied around me. Sudden life changing events create room in life for thoughtful risks.
8 years ago this morning, I remember waking up to my ex boyfriend calling to tell me the news in an effort to prevent Facebook from telling me first. I remember calling my mom and breaking the news to her in fits of sobbing. I remember my sister driving an hour just to hug me. I remember the wake and the mile long lines of people in the cold rain, the funeral and everything in between. Even now I remember little things about her though many memories have since faded. I know first hand how decisions can change many lives.
There’s my life before and after that accident. The terrible life lessons of how devastating sudden death can be and how unfair and fragile life is. There’s the beautiful memories of a stunning young woman at the beginning of her life and the senseless decisions made that night. Losing someone is never easy and in my opinion, the more sudden the harder it is to cope. I’ve sat with her parents and witnessed a community struggle to cope with great loss. There is no way to prepare for something like this. As a natural born planner, if I could have practiced this sort of pain I am quite certain I would have. The only way to prepare is to prevent.
Not only is it the anniversary of Ashley’s accident but December is also Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month. December can be a very chaotic month between holiday parties, family drama and depending on where you live, weather can complicate things quite a bit. Remember to make safe decisions for yourself and for those around you. With the invention of Lyft and Uber, there is literally no reason to get behind the wheel when you are impaired. Your decisions aren’t just for you in these situations, they could affect hundreds of other people.
This holiday season, I wish for you to be safe. I wish you time spent with the people you love and I wish you many more opportunities to make memories. I wish you never have to understand the loss I and so many other people deal with today and everyday. To those of you who do know this loss, I wish you peace. I wish that you know you are being prayed for because I know how hard it can be.
I ask that you remember today and always how impactful even the small decisions are. How one accident can set a change an entire community. During this season, make smart choices for you and for the other people out on the road. For more information, tips and resources- please visit the link below.
See you soon,