Today, I talk with Tara, Alec’s mom, whose story is actually more similar to mine when compared to any of my guests so far. Alec, like Andy, was an energetic, emotional, full-of-life middle school boy who died as an 8th grader (although Andy was only 5 days from 9th grade). Alec was an extremely athletic kid who thoroughly enjoyed his one mile walk to the middle school each day. Never in a million years, did his mother think that one day while on this morning walk, Alec would be hit and killed by a mother driving her kids to school while drunk.
This nightmare that started this past fall continues every day. The legal system is painfully slow, and the woman is currently out on bail. Tara feels so much anger which many of us can understand. She is angry that her son is dead, but even more so, she is angry at the circumstances behind this death. The woman who destroyed her family’s life is still in the community able to attend sporting events at school, go out to the store, and celebrate birthdays and holidays. Tara, on the other hand, feels almost paralyzed. She avoids the school and school events and now even grocery shops out of town. The fear of seeing the woman, her family members or just others who know the story is just too strong.
Although this story is a painfully horrific one, the strength that Tara shows is amazing to me. For me, when I was only a few months along after Andy’s death, I couldn’t even say his name without crying. Tara, on the other hand, talks about Alec and is able to share inspirational stories about him in such an admirable way.
When doing each episode, I like to have a takeaway lesson, something that I will think about differently or do differently moving forward. Today, the lesson revealed itself over halfway through the episode. We were discussing how we miss the everyday things, the busyness that we used to experience. Alec and his dad had a little ritual that they would do most days in the car while going to or from practices. They would ask each other, ‘What made you smile today?’ and then answer the question.
What an amazing little thing! I’m sure that neither of them thought at the time how much that question could help their family or others. Even in the midst of the tremendous pain of grief, we can, and should ask and answer this question daily. Some days, it might be difficult to even come up with an answer, but on other days, an answer will come quickly. My prayer for all of us grieving parents, is that some day there will be so many answers that it will be hard to pick just one and that at least some of those answers will involve thinking of a memory of our late children.