I remember all the vivid and surrealistic details of that fate-filled day. I can recite what I had on and the section of the coveted Sunday paper I was reading. It was still warm outside and sunny as if inviting you to come out and play. I was entrusted with watching my daughter Kendal’s dog while she went to the football game with one of her good friends. It was Labor Day weekend and everyone was home from college and I remember, though running late, she was excited to see everyone. It was 12:30 pm when she jetted out the door with an “I love you, Mom” and “I’ll be back soon.” I still wait for that day and perhaps I will forever….the day she will be back! My mind of course knows this is not a possibility, but try convincing my heart. Three and a half hours later she was dead.
She and four of her friends that she had not seen in a while decided to skip the game and go do something else. The friend who was driving was the drunk and impaired beyond belief driver and he killed Kendal. He was more than twice over the BAC limit, had 3 vehicular assault charges, 1 vehicular homicide (My Kendal), no driver’s license, no Insurance, resisting arrest, a cocktail of drugs in his system and he got 3 months in a local women’s jail. THREE months for my daughter’s life…..a slap on the hand for him and a knife in my heart.
At this point you are wondering why she got in the car with him driving…..and I have no answer for that, and I will always wonder. I wonder why I asked her not to drive her car to the game, and she didn’t and if she had of, maybe she would have been driving…..the “what ifs” knock on my door daily. Her autopsy showed nothing in her system, so why did she? I have to believe it was her ‘free will’ and the invincible attitude she had. There were no ‘good-byes’, no hugs, no preparation……we had spent the day together the day before….just like every weekend, we always spent at least one of the days together.
I was her confidant and she was mine, she was my best friend and yet she knew not to cross the fine line that made me her Mother. We were very close. When she was 3, I divorced her father who she remained very close to and it was just her and me. I remarried when she was 7 and she loved him with all her heart and he grieves as I do for all that is lost and never to be experienced. We will never see her wedding, or hold her child in her arms for the first time, experience the joy that being a Grandmother can bring, watching her mature into a woman, what impact she would have had on the world and oh so many more. Kendal was my only child, so there will be no Grandchildren for me. I often wonder who I am, as if her dying took my identity. If I am not Kendal’s Mom then who am I?
The drunk and impaired driver is now married with 2 daughters. He is on probation until 2019, does not have a driver’s license until next year. He learned a lot those 3 months, he was driving from the moment he got out, he has no remorse, his actions tell me that, if not the fact that he has never talked to me.
It was hard for Kendal’s friends at first because she had quite an eclectic group of friends and a lot of them actually took sides. They are 23 and 24, old enough not to bother me with that kind of thing, but the rumors flew, until I had to distance myself from almost all of them, especially the ones who live in this city. No Mother should have to lose their child to a selfish act and then have to listen to how it was an “accident” and Kendal didn’t have to go, and it could have been anyone driving, etc. The thing is………….it was NOT an accident, and he WAS driving!! An accident is when you spill a drink or break a treasured keepsake…..there was nothing accidental about this. He had been tailgating since 8 am that morning and had been doing the same thing the day before. He knew he could not drive. His story in court was that his was the only car not blocked in as if that gave him the right to take other people’s life in his hands.
He killed my daughter and caused a ripple down effect in many lives. And my husband and I are left to pick up the pieces as we walk this never ending grief journey. There isn’t a minute that goes by that I don’t think of her and the urge to pick up the phone and call or text her is still there. I find myself off balance, as if a piece of me is missing. Yet, the public still treats this as an accident and punishes (or not) accordingly.
As a Victim/Survivor, I do not feel like we have any justice. If a felony carries 8-30 years sentence then that is what the felon should serve. I do not understand why the courts and the judges seem to want to treat this as an accident. It just puts then back out on the streets to do it again. If I was going to drink and drive and knew if I killed someone I would only get 3 months…..I would take the chance. Exactly why every day another tragedy happens and loved ones are gone in the blink of the eye and things left unsaid haunt the survivors for the rest of their lives.
All I have left of my daughter are boxes packed in the attic because I haven’t been able to go through them yet, pictures, videos, her voice on a card, baby books, memorabilia of hers and a large empty space in my soul along with a broken heart.
The holidays are coming and all the decorations are already up in the stores and everyone is feeling the magic of the season and I feel like I am on the outside looking in at a world I use to belong to. Holidays are so hard and it is almost more than I can bare to have her birthday the day after Christmas. I often think about that, because when she was alive it was always so much fun, transforming everything from Christmas to Birthday over night. The chain reaction from just one person’s choice can affect so many lives. Choose wisely, do not drive drunk or impaired in any way!!~Donna Clark