She Blossomed on Earth
She Blooms in Heaven
September 5, 1966
May 3rd, 1980
On May 3rd, 1980, my daughter, Cari Lightner was killed by a multiple repeat offender drunk driver. Her foreshortened life now stands for something amazing. Hundreds of thousands of people have 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 her dad 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, which means generous in Arabic, 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 was 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. We were so stunned by her death that we didn’t know anyone who could conduct her funeral. A friend of ours suggested a nondenominational minister who was wonderful. We are not of any particular faith but I had read the book The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and loved it. I asked the minister to read my favorite passage:
“And at night you will look up at the stars. Where I live everything is so small that I cannot show you where my star is to be found. It is better, like that. My star will be just one of the stars, for you. And so you will love to watch the stars in the heavens .
“In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night . . . You-only you- will have the stars that can laugh!”
“And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend. You will want to laugh with me. And you will sometimes open your window, so, for that pleasure . . And your friends will be properly astonished to see you laughing as you look up at the sky! Yes, the stars always make me laugh.”
That is my Cari, one of the stars in the sky, the one that shines the brightest. And yes, I do laugh when I look up at the sky.
We are in a turbulent time in our history with so many people suffering the loss of a loved on and not being able to hold or comfort them before they die. In many cases they must grieve alone. My heart aches for them. Although I didn’t have the chance to hold Cari or say goodbye, like so many others whose loved ones died violently, I was able to have a funeral and see my daughter after her death. I was able to grieve with family and friends although I still preferred to grieve on my own. And as time passed, I was able to see Cari in my dreams and in my grandchildren. She will always be with me in the work I do and the comfort I give to others. Her life continues to inspire me each time I encourage people to drive safely, to speak up against injustice and to believe that they too can make a difference. As long as there are stars in the sky, I will always see her as “that” star, the one that shines the brightest.
Please #drivekind in memory of Cari.
If you would like to honor my daughter’s memory and the work we do, you can donate to We Save Lives. Thank you for caring.