Sunday, September 11, 2011

Honoring Ashley

I think to myself often on how all this metal creating started. How it was birthed out of heartache. How I continue to find that common thread throughout my work, over and over. Hoping to mend hearts. To give a small token to the broken, to honor and tribute the lost with imprints of their name. It is always here - there are so many broken. I hurt for all of them. I feel helpless. I wish I could do something, fight for them somehow... I can't. So many hurting mothers, and I have only a carved piece of metal to offer them.

So when a different story of pain reached me, I was not only sad, I was angry.

Mandy wrote me last week because she was looking for a heart piece. She wanted a custom design in memory of her sister. Her sister was killed 2 years ago by a drunk driver.

My heart broke.

We worked together to create a memento of a phrase that helped Mandy get through the loss.

But I was angry because this hurt was different. This was a senseless loss that could have been prevented. The battle was different. This was one I could try to fight.
The activist in me couldn't leave it alone.

My tag line for a couple years in my previous activism work was:

"Be aware | Know their stories | Send their message."

I keep finding that this still applies in other areas of my life, and knowing people's stories can be life changing. If we know them - we will live differently. We will live more aware.

I felt the same way when Oprah launched her campaign against texting and driving. I felt for the parents that lost their children. And I felt that - now that I am aware, if I continued to text while driving I would be disrespecting the memory of their child. And if it had been ME that lost a child because of this, and I saw a friend of mine texting while driving - it would feel like a slap in the face.

So.... when we know better, we do better. Right?

So this week I asked Mandy if she would be willing to write a guest post for me.

To share her story. To share the story of Ashley - her sister.

Today I'd like to honor Ashley, and ask you to not forget it. I hope that it will make all of us think a little longer before making potentially foolish (life-altering) decisions.

To put a face to the pain of what these actions can cause. And maybe if we cannot relate to Mandy or Ashley - we can hurt for Ashley’s young daughter that is missing her mama since the age of two. We can respect her by thinking twice.

When Mandy typed these words back to me...

" I'd love to share a picture of her too, she was a gorgeous girl!"

My heart broke in two. Because I instantly felt it - could I bare saying those words about my brother? How handsome he was...

I could not. I could not bare that. But Mandy has to.

For those of you that have to bare those weights - I cannot even express it. I can't explain how much I wish I could take that from you. How deeply sorry.

And for those of us that get to live with our heart people still.... let's please honor those that do not.

This is from Mandy:

You always read stories about drunk drivers in the paper or see it on the news. You think to yourself "how tragic" and then usually don't give it another thought. I was always fully aware of drunk drivers and what their actions could potentially do to others. Never in a million years did I think it would hit close to home. I think we all think "ah, it will never happen to me". Think again. It happened to me and my family. On June 12th 2009 I got a message from my uncle telling me to call him.....not out of the norm eh? But we always chat via fb, saves on long distance calls etc. So when he said "You need to call me and you need to do it now", I just sat there and was like ok, what's up, like this is totally odd..... I did not have a good feeling about it at all. Little did I know that early that morning my sister was involved in an impaired accident. She didn't make it and to top it off, the car she was in, flew off the road and into a fast flowing river. They never found the car or her for that matter. So not only was she taken from us in a very senseless and totally avoidable accident, she, to this day, has not been found. I cannot even express the emotions I went through. Anger, frustration, hurt, disbelief. I imagined for a long time that she just up and ran away and she'd be home soon. But I knew she'd never leave her little girl. I still feel all of those emotions, as I sit here and write this, tears are streaming down my face. Ashley was 24, had the most beautiful 2 year old little girl who was the love of her life and had her whole life ahead of her. She had just started back to school and was aiming towards a border crossing agent or an EMT. I remember when she talked to me about this 36 hours before she died, I remember feeling and being so proud of her. My little sister was going to do something with her life and go somewhere. Didn't say that though and looking back on it, I should have. You think of all the should have's, could have's and would have's. But the main one I come back to is, why get behind the wheel. What makes someone decide and think "I'm ok to drive". I know when I go out, I won't drive after one drink. It floors me sometimes how people think they are invincible and it won't happen to them. Why would you risk your life and other's as well? Could you live with yourself knowing you killed someone? Knowing that person's family and friends will be hurting and struggling with their death likely for the rest of their lives. Could you leave your own family behind beyond devastated by your death? You need to ask yourself "Is it worth it". For me, it's an answer that stares you right in the face. It's not worth it! Did you know if you dial #TAXI it will connect you with the closest available cab company in your area? No need to remember company numbers, just that one, #TAXI. Works all across the US and Canada thanks to MADD. I miss Ashley more than I can ever put into words. I know the rest of her family and friends feel the exact same way. She was a force to be reckoned with, loved and lived life to its fullest. She had so much to live for and so many people loved her. I hope next time you go and have a few drinks you remember my sister's story, my niece's story, my story and find another way home. You may save someone’s life that night, you might just save yours too! I can't say it enough "It's not worth it" #TAXI! Remember it! USE it! Pass it along!

I asked Mya Bruce Designs to come up with a necklace for me in memory of Ashley. This quote got me through some very rough times and reminds me of Ashley every time I read it.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together...

there is something you must always remember.

you are braver than you believe,

stronger than you seem,

and smarter than you think.

but the most important thing is,

even if we're apart...

i'll always be with you

~ From Winnie The Pooh


Don’t drink and drive, sounds cliché but it’s not!

Thank you Mandy, for your courage, and for sharing your heart and your hurt, and your dear sister. She has now imprinted me as well.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Oh my goodness, what a sad and senseless tragedy. Now a little without her momma :( In tears reading this. I visited your blog from a comment you left on The Wiegands and glad I did. I will be praying for Ashleys family