On the night of December 6, 2007 we had celebrated my father’s birthday with a dinner and each of us had went our separate ways home. At approximately 9:00pm that night I received a phone call that would change so many lives forever. My mother called to tell me that someone had drove their vehicle through my aunt’s living room and they could not find her. My parents were on their way to her house. So many things went rushing through my head at that time but never once did I think she would be found dead. Shortly after I received a second phone call that her body was found pushed from her living room straight through to the other side of her house by the vehicle and in fact she was deceased. From that point on things would never be the same for our family. I drove to her house where I met the rest of my family. In disbelief there we stood in the freezing cold in several inches of snow looking at an SUV that had come to rest in her house. That night my aunt had gone home from work early she was not feeling well and was killed while she sat on her couch by a drunk driver. Never before had I seen my father cry and fall to his knees in such helpless pain before. This was his baby sister that was gone, killed in such a tragic way and his birthday would never be the same. We did not know the name of the driver and his passenger right away. Once we found out I was made aware it was a person who I had just came into contact with two months prior. I had signed the person up on probation for an OVI and I was in fact his probation officer! I was supposed to be the person who monitored him and who tried to keep him in line from committing new offenses. My guilt was overwhelming at times to say the least. Also after finding out who was driving the vehicle my family and his family knew each other and had grown up in the same area of town.
The man that killed my aunt had known he was not legally allowed to be driving and had prior OVI convictions. In fact I was the one who told him two months prior what rules he was to follow! In the months leading to his trial for Vehicular Homicide I was subpoenaed to testify against him. I met with the prosecutor and told him I was not sure how I could get through this in a professional manner. I was told I had no choice and they needed me to help prove that the man that killed my aunt knew he was not supposed to be driving. Thankfully a couple weeks before the jury trial was to be held we received a call that the man who killed my aunt wanted to change his plea. Our family went to the change of plea hearing where he was sentenced the same day to 9 years in prison with out the possibility of being paroled or released early. The story however does not end there…
Approximately 7 years into his sentence I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to write this man and tell him what pain he had caused my family and what a wonderful person we now have to live without. My immediate family and I had forgiven him long before I had the courage to send him a letter. I personally needed to hear from him if he was truly remorseful and find out what he has done while in prison to better himself. We began communicating via letters and in fact it helped me in a way to heal, hearing in his own words how this has impacted his life as well. Over time there has been a strange bond between us that has grown and finding out that he is not the horrible monster we believed he was initially has helped my family in the healing process. We have been in contact over the past two years and I have gone to visit him a couple times. The first time face to face with the person who took such an important person from me and my family was emotionally overwhelming for me. I have since learned about his family and children and what guilt he lives with. I truly want to believe this will change his life for the better and once he is released he can be productive member of society. He has a life to finish living and it still hurts my family everyday knowing my aunt’s life was cut short at the age of 47 by his selfish actions. This has been a lesson in forgiveness; one that I never imagined would end up this way. Him and I have talked about sharing our story together someday if it can stop just one person from making the decision to drink and drive then it would be worth it.
My aunt was more than just my aunt she was a friend to me my entire life whom I could tell anything to and receive advice from. She had no children and we had a deal that once she was old and could no longer take care of herself I would make sure she was taken care of. She was loved in her community and was known for the love and compassion she showed to those she loved and strangers as well. She is missed everyday.