Friday, May 4, 2012

The "Purpose" part of Peace, Purpose, and Joy

My last post was on my daughter’s birthday. Yesterday was the anniversary of her death, just before Mothers Day. The weeks from February to May are always fraught with emotion, for me, and when I finally reach May 4 my gut relaxes, and life becomes a bit easier again, until the next February.
I spent today addressing the juniors and seniors at another local high school following a mock car crash staged on the grounds by the field house, in a car that had obviously been wrecked in a serious road mishap. Kids, police, firefighters, paramedics, and a funeral director all played their roles as a drunk driver, victims, and the people whose job it is to come and assess the damage, arrest those who seem responsible, make the death pronouncement, and remove the “body” to the morgue and the “drunk driver” to jail. The “victim” was a pretty young girl dressed the way my daughter had been on the night she was killed . . .  jeans, white shirt (covered with blood – in today’s instance, fake) . . . who introduced herself to me before the enactment. Her real-life mom participated in the activities by showing up at the scene of the “crash” and bursting into tears. I was so moved that I wanted to go over and put my arms around her, but reminded myself that this wasn’t real, just a demonstration, and they were acting their roles.
After the “body” had been driven away in the hearse and the driver “hauled off to jail,” we all trooped into the field house where a police officer de-briefed the students about what they had witnessed, and then I was invited to speak to them.
I introduced myself, told them a little bit about who I am, and asked them about themselves (“How many of you are, were, or know someone who is seventeen?”) and a few more questions like that, and then asked how many of them hoped to live to celebrate their twenty-first birthday.  All hands went up. Then I introduced them to my daughter, whose photo, taken when she was seventeen, was projected onto the screen behind me. I told them what it has been like to be the mother of a real victim, and described the impact of her death on me  . . . my trauma, my illnesses, my grief.
I talked for forty-five minutes and had their rapt attention. At the end, when I opened it to questions, they asked great ones. Had I ever met the driver who was responsible for my daughter’s death? (No, I was afraid to, didn’t think I could bear it, although I would have welcomed an apology.) What was her funeral like? (Hundreds of people came and formed a circle around me. I sang to her under my breath as I tossed handfuls of earth onto her casket, “Bye, bye, Baby, Remember you’re my baby . . . ,“ and then I went home and waited for her to come through the door, because I couldn’t believe she was dead.)
At the end, I wished them all a happy twenty-first birthday and a long, happy, and productive life. They gave me a standing ovation. I gave them a heart-salute and delivered a kiss via my fingertips to my daughter’s picture, and walked back to the cluster of students who were waiting to hug and thank me.
I had the feeling that these kids got the message, that they will go to their junior prom tonight, and their graduation parties next week, knowing the importance of making good decisions, and staying safe.
Let’s hope so. I pray for all of them. My daughter would have wanted them to stay safe, and live out their lives, as she had planned to.