Austin’s Story
April 25, 2019
Jim’s Story
May 23, 2019

Cari Lightner – She Blossomed on Earth, She Blooms in Heaven

She Blossomed on Earth
She Blooms in Heaven
May 3rd, 1980

On May 3rd, 39 years ago, my daughter, Cari Lightner was killed by a multiple repeat offender drunk driver and hundreds of thousands people lived as a result of her death. Who knew that her death would spark a movement, a revolution really, against the way this world thinks about drinking and driving. This date will be forever etched in my mind, my life and my actions. It was the catalyst for my founding MADD - and her life and that of my family continue to inspire me as I move forward with We Save Lives. While everyone celebrates holidays like Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, I celebrate my child’s life and mourn my child’s death.

My memories of her bring both smiles and tears. Smiles when I think of my daughter Cari on the phone with her friends giving everyone advice, imitating a teacher or classmate, swimming with her friends in our backyard pool and telling me how she was going to live with me forever because she “had it made at home.” She decided she was going to go into real estate with me (I am sure that would have changed a million times, had she lived) and we would work together. This is when she wasn’t mad at me for something I did or didn’t do.

One of my favorite memories of her is when she had gained a few pounds and her father made an insensitive remark during one of his visits. This was after our divorce. She came to me in tears and I said. "you need to tell him." She called him and asked him to come over and he did. She sat on his lap and in no uncertain terms informed him how much his comment hurt and he responded by apologizing and hugging her. I will always have that image of my big 13 year old, sitting on her father’s lap with his arms around her.

Her name at birth was Carime, however, no one could quite pronounce it correctly and so it became Cari for short. Her middle name Anne, was after me, as that is one of my middle names. She brought home every stray animal that came our way and she just always had such a sense of what was right and what was wrong. She is an identical twin, born 4 minutes before her sister Serena and she could be very bossy. I tell everyone whose loved one was killed by an impaired driver that Cari is waiting for them in the afterlife and will immediately tell them what to do.

The tears come when I think of how short her life was on this earth and how much she is still missed and loved. Whenever I work on life-saving legislation, or promote the We Save Lives Courage to Intervene Promise or ask people to turn off their phones while driving, she and the thousands of other children killed by drunk, drugged and distracted drivers are always foremost in my mind. I hope you will join us in on our ongoing efforts to save lives. Cari has been gone for 39 years and I am asking you if you would be so kind as to acknowledge her life and the lifesaving work we do on her behalf and that of others with a contribution of just $39.00. For the past 39 years, laws have been passed making drunk driving socially unacceptable and attitudes have changed. Because of her, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved and because of her I have gone on to found We Save Lives that focuses on drunk, drugged and distracted driving. Please help us save more lives so there will be no more Cari’s. Thank you.

Candace Lightner
President, We Save Lives


  1. Honored to celebrate Cari’s life, legacy and undying spirit through the inspired and irrepressible work her Mom has done to save lives.

  2. Candace says:

    Thank you, Ken. I know you understand better than most.

  3. Alison says:

    Thank you for everything you do Candace. Thinking today about how much your movement has changed the world. Instead of breaking down all the way and letting the pieces just fall, you built something new, and everyone could learn this from you now. I’m so sad that Cari could not live to save all the people she has. So thank you again for honoring her in the best way you possibly could. It’s obvious to me why she felt she “had it made” in your home. <3

  4. Debbie Prude says:

    The biggest part of my heart left 38 years ago. Because you and my mom talked for a couple of hours one Sunday in February of 1981, a group of warriors began to band together to try to stop the slaughter of innocent people. We’d rather have Cari and Eddie with us. But, because we loved them, we made a difference.

  5. Mark Surks says:

    Candace, with your loss you changed the world. So many people have lived their entire lives due to your hard work and dedication. So many did not die, did not get maimed and so many parents did not have to go thru what you did because of your enormous contribution to the world.
    I am still in awe that I had the occasion to spend time with you on a number of occasions. You are one of the heros of America. I will love and admire you always. Mark Surks

  6. Kathy says:

    I remember your daughter’s story. I grew up in Davis and at the time I lived in Sacramento going to community college and I felt so sad for you. I was a 20 year old at the time and though I didn’t drink, many I was around would go out and drink and then drive. I became the ‘designated driver’ for my friends when we went out. There were no ubers or lyfts back then and taxis were expensive. The impact of your story had a further reach than you will ever know. It was not limited to the MADD community. Others listened as well.

  7. Patty Gordon says:

    I remember the day she died, I remember receiving the news. I was in such shock – so many emotions – fear, anger, sorrow. Cari , Serena and I were friends. I remember having them over to my house and we would ride my horses and run through the creek at the edge of our property. At the funeral, I made a promise, drinking alcohol in excess would never be part of my life and I would be there for my friends and others to make sure they arrived home safely. I have kept this promise to this day.

    Thank you for the sacrifices you and your family have made to save so many.

    Patty V.

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