“Ok, I’ll see you in a little bit…”
That morning was no different than any other morning. The air was clear and crisp as I returned home from my overnight shift as a tow truck driver. When I got home my wife, Mandy was up getting our children, Ryan (3 ½) and Kaitlyn (11 months) dressed for the day. I headed off to my second job at a tractor dealership. I worked hard. I did it for them, my family.
The day went on and the first rainfall in weeks fell in the early afternoon. The hours ticked away until quitting time. I walked outside of work to head home and was greeted by one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. The clouds had scattered and were powered with traces of gold and a misty blue gleaming through. I stopped for a moment, snapped a picture of the sunset on my cell phone and headed home to wait for my family to return from their day’s activities. I had no way of knowing that cell phone picture would become one of my most cherished photographs. It was the last sunset my family would ever see.
Mandy called a few minutes after eight o’clock. She was on her way home from running errands and teaching a violin lesson. She had just picked up Ryan and Kaitlyn from her mother’s house and was driving home to me. She told me she would be home soon.
“Ok, I’ll see you in a little bit,” I told her and hung up the phone. It was the last time I would hear her voice. Just a few minutes later, a drunk driver blew through a stop sign hitting our family car broadside at 68 mph, instantly killing Mandy, Ryan and Kaitlyn. The force of the collision ejected the kids out of their car seats and the car.
Then the noise stopped. There was nothing but quiet. I was sitting there waiting for them to come home when I heard an accident report come in over my fire department radio. No it couldn’t be. I thought certainly that is not my family in that accident. I immediately called Mandy’s phone. There was no answer.
The things I experienced that night will be forever etched in my memory. As time has gone on I have realized that talking about my family allows who they were on this earth to continue to live on. The life they had, the love that they knew, and the way that their time here began, was spent and then how it ended, will forever have a profound effect on the people who knew and loved them. I have found hope in knowing that the lessons learned through their story go beyond age, time or distance.
I am honored and humbled now to tell their story and will continue to tell it to whoever is willing to take a moment to listen.