i was 22 years old when i drove drunk. i was leaving my sister's high school graduation party. i had arrived in heels and was leaving barefoot. i remember this detail because i spent 20 minutes in the driveway in my rental car trying to figure out how to adjust the seat. that's the last thing i remember.
i drove to my in law's house. across town. in the dark. there were stoplights and stop signs along the way. and other people in cars. people. real live people.
i only knew i got home that night because i woke up the next morning and was there. my rental car parked by the curb. intact. me, head splitting, but intact.
i remember looking at the car out there by the curb and thinking oh my god what have i done? and then i puked for the next two days. more out of fear and shame and disgust than anything else.
i am not a stupid person. i cannot for the life of me figure out what possessed me. and there have been times in the past nearly two decades that i have literally dropped to my knees in thanksgiving that that stupid choice did not kill me or someone else.
i haven't driven drunk or even slightly buzzed or even barely tipsy since. not once. and i will not.
i tell you this story not out of some deep seated need to be confessional or sanctimonious. i tell you this because my dear cousin stella was killed by a drunk driver this week. a driver who also put my aunt in the hospital for the next 6 weeks with serious injuries, and badly injured my cousin's boyfriend, too.
a driver who, according to the police report, had no license at the time of the accident due to "habitual operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, driving while license suspended/revoked for DUI and inattention to driving..."
the thing about my cousin stella was that she was LIFE to all who knew her. she was LIGHT. she was LOVE. and the injustice of someone, and here is my judgment, who seemingly lived his life in darkness taking the life of someone who lived only in the light is so very very tremendous. unfathomable.
and *he,* the driver, did *take* her *life.* i don't consider it an accident. because an accident is something you did not mean to do. and when you get in the car when you've been drinking that is a choice you've meant to make. accidents are not borne of choices. mistakes are. and a mistake is only a mistake until you fix it. then it becomes a lesson. he cannot fix this. this cannot be fixed. this is broken. hearts are broken. he fucked up.
i fucked up, too. but i was "lucky." by the grace of god i was lucky because i didn't kill myself or someone else. lucky that i got the chance to learn that lesson, and have spent and will spend the rest of my life putting that learned lesson into practice. so goddamned lucky. and a lot of us have made this same mistake. some of you may have made this same mistake. not doing it again EVER fixes that. never ever again. EVER.
but 'this' cannot be fixed.
but maybe, just maybe, someone will learn a lesson here. gain some clarity. understand. get it. someone, even if it's just one someone. anyone. someone.even.just.one.person.
i have to believe that tragedies like this do not *just* occur. that hearts aren't broken for no reason at all. that lives aren't taken and lives aren't horribly altered and that there aren't so many people grieving the loss of such an amazing person for *nothing.* it may be a silly and foolish notion to some, especially when there is so much hurt and anger, but i like to believe that positive can come from negative. that hope abounds no matter what. that my beautiful cousin's life was not lived in vain. that the giving she did when she was living will somehow continue into her leaving.
people are writing on stella's facebook page and the common theme is about her infectious laugh, her unforgettable smile, her unfailing gifts of kindness, of spirit, and love.
she was an absolute treasure, the very best kind of person to know, and she will be more than missed by all who knew her and all who loved her.
stella means star. and my wish upon that beautiful star is that the people of this world respect themselves and those around them enough to make better choices, especially when alcohol and 2 ton weapons are involved. my wish upon that beautiful star is that the people of this world take to heart the words of another of stella's cousins and understand that drinking and driving doesn't just break the law, it breaks people's hearts, too.
be well, be safe.