This may just be one of the most personal posts I write. A topic near and dear to my heart so please bear with me.
Prom/Grad (depending on what your school calls it) season is coming up. Girls are all getting excited shopping for their prom dresses, finding the perfect style, discovering the right shoes and purse to go with it. Planning their makeup, hair, and nails. Booking a limo, maybe finding a date, basically a right of passage for most teenagers, the excitement leading up to prom is usually better than the actal prom itself.
This past weekend I was talking to a cousin and her mother and listening about all of her plans for her prom. I heard about the plans for the dress that she hoped to get, she already found the shoes that she loved, hoping to get her nails done, trying to think if she could get her makeup done, and it brought back memories of my grad. Listening to the innocence of her plans made my heart skip a beat and I couldn’t help but feel anxious for her and hoping that she would never suffer the loss that I did at her age.
I was no different than these girls. I spent months researching the perfect dress, I was lucky enough to get it on a family vacation in Hawaii, which meant my classmates (Montreal, Canada) had no chance of getting the same dress as me! I found the most amazing shoes, purse, planned a manicure/pedicure appointment with my best friend (as a grad gift from my Granny) had a friend of mine as a date to Grad and a great group of friends. I was excited and could not wait for my big Grad night.
Exactly one week before my big night, all that was shatterd by one drunken mistake. In essence, my childhood was ended and I would never be the same. I will never forget that day, I don’t really remember the next week, but I remember the day vividly. I was a junior leader in a Spark Unit (five and six year old girl guides) and was at a Spark sleepover that night. The other leader’s husband told me I had to go home first thing that morning and he would drive me home. All this was weird, where were my parents? Why weren’t they driving me? Why did I have to go home hours before the Sparks, meaning the other leader was left alone with the girls?
I soon learned my cousin Sarah had been killed the night before in an alcohol related car crash. Cue the worst week of my life. The next week is a blur as I went with my mom to my Aunt and Granny’s house to help with whatever we could for the wake and funeral, I don’t really remember any of it to be honest, I was only 16 and had lost someone I dubbed my “frusin” (best friend + cousin). Teens are not equipped to deal with such crippling grief, it was the worst summer of my life trying to come to terms with her death and put my life back together knowing I would never see her again or do any of the things we had planned.
My cousin Sarah and I were five months apart, we grew up very close, I had a younger sister as did Sarah, all less than a year apart from the next one. Our moms were close sisters, also close together in age. We went on family vacations together, had sleepovers at Granny’s, dreamed of our futures together and got into a lot of mischief together as most cousins will do. We had drifted apart over the years, we were very different and had super different home lives making it hard to always understand and identify with each other. I always missed Sarah and longed for the time when we would be as close as we used to be. We had plans to travel Europe together, get an apartment when we were older, even maybe be each other’s maids of honor (although now I am sure we would never have taken that honor from our own sisters, but you get the picture). We started re-connecting a few months before my Grad in 2001, we started talking again, and even one night while chating on MSN (we lived a few hours apart) she said she wished she could come help me with my makeup and hair for my Grad. Re-connecting with her was a blessing considering what was to happen.
One night Sarah and a bunch of her friends were drinking at a house party, they were walking home and misjudged the distance between themselves and an oncoming car. The four of them paired up and sang arm in arm as they crossed the street; the first two made it across, the other two did not. My cousin was brain dead instantly, but her friend survived, was seriously injured, but would recover in time.One drunken nights decision can forever shatter childhood for everyone else in your life. Click To Tweet
The driver did nothing wrong, he was just a young man coming home from work at 1:00 am and had no idea a bunch of drunk teenage girls would dart in front of his car in the dark. It stinks but there really is no one to blame for the accident. Impaired judgement, teenage stupidity, alcohol, the parents who threw the house party, none of it helps, it happened and nothing can change that, except perhaps to try and prevent it from happening again.
I am sharing this story as a cautionary tale, you want to protect your children from harm and keep them safe, but it is not just about your children, it is about the other people in their lives too. If your child looses a friend, that is a devastating loss that will change them forever too. It is not just about keeping your child safe anymore, it’s about doing everything you can to create a safe environment for all of these children, even if they are teens, they are still children.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes a village to watch over them and keep them safe too. Please do all you can to ensure the safety of your child, as well as her friends over this prom season, house parties, grad, there are so many events to go to and most parents do not even think about the impact loosing a classmate or friend can have on their child. Save your children from as much heartbreak as you possibly can by protecting their friends as well and ensuring they have a safe way home too.Protect your child's heart by ensuring all their friends get home safely too. Click To Tweet
I still went to my grad a week later, everyone thought it would be best for me to go and be distracted rather than stay home and be miserable, they also thought I would regret missing my own grad. I should have known it was a bad sign when at the father/daughter dance they played “Please remember”” which was the song played at Sarah’s funeral days before. I still got on the bus and went to the Laurentions (as was the custom for the Grad celebration at that time with my high school) but I don’t remember much about that night except how miserable I was. Luckily I had an amazing best friend who stayed with me all night and supported me. Throughout that summer I knew I could always count on her and I believe she made all the difference in me being able to handle my grief. I will never forget her support at the time I needed it most.
This June 16th marks the 15 year anniversary of my cousin’s death. She died at 16, which means I have been without her pretty much longer than I have been with her. I think about her all the time and what life would be like were she still here. I don’t know, but I do know life is unfair to take such a young girl in one night’s misjudgment. Safe guard your children, safeguard their friends, ensure they are safe and have a safe way to get home. Accidents happen, but if we can do everything in our power to protect our children during this grad/prom season maybe we can make a difference and save some lives.
Please pass this on to anyone you know graduating, going to prom, or has children who are. Together we can make a difference.
What were your grad/prom night traditions? Do you remember how you celebrated? Please comment below and let me know!