Mission Moment – Sep 2020

“She was a good person and was committed to making the world a better place”

A mother’s love: by Diane Rickard

Jen was born on July 7, 1986 in beautiful Estes Park, Colorado. She weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces and was 21 1/2 inches long. She quickly grew out of her newborn outfits and was clearly born to make a BIG impact in more ways than one! Jen was born around horses and in her later years her passion was spent caring for disabled horses in Michigan.

At age 3, Jen moved to Michigan. She was a very happy child and excelled in school. She enjoyed summer camps with her church, sang in the choir at school and played a lot of parts in her drama classes and she loved to read! If she was not swimming, riding her bike or playing with her friends, she was reading! She was a good person and was committed to “making the world a better place” at a young age. She wrote an essay for the “Dare to keep your kids off drugs” program in high school and it was selected out of the many submissions.

Jen graduated from high school early and wanted to start college to get her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She had an internship in the Federal Building in Detroit and was selected out of thousands to be part of training at the Michigan State Police. Jen made it 16 weeks at training but failed the firearms portion. While this was disappointing for Jen, my husband and I were relieved that she would not be a Michigan State Police Officer because we couldn’t help but worry for her safety.

This setback did not stop Jen. She landed a fantastic job as a Forensic Technician with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office. After a few years, Jen wanted more challenges. She started interviewing all over the United States and received job offers in Forensics with the Michigan State Police, the Virginia Commonwealth and agencies in Houston Texas. Her supervisor at the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office received so many calls for reference for Jen that he summoned her into his office and asked what it would take to keep her. Not long after, Jen was promoted to a Deputy, passed her firearms test and was given the position of Forensic Specialist. Jen helped solve many cases for them. She would accept extra on-call assignments for the over-time, traveled at night a lot and was often seen on the news. At her funeral, they joked that she still arrived on time to work after a late-night shift and never – ever yawned – what’s with that?

Shortly after Jen received her promotion, she married the love of her life, Todd, and they celebrated their one-year anniversary with her brother in Pipe Creek Texas in August of that year.

Less than two months after that wonderful anniversary trip, on Sunday, October 1, 2017, my precious daughter, who had a full life ahead of her, was killed. The weather was not the best that Saturday when Jen arrived in Florida with her husband Todd. But, my husband, Don and I felt we had a perfect bittersweet visit with her. We played miniature golf despite light rain, had a delicious dinner at Joey’s Restaurant and even had her favorite treat for dessert, fat free frozen yogurt because she was one of “those people” who ate healthy and worked out regularly.

Sunday morning, Jen was excited to go for a jog in my new neighborhood, wearing my shoes. I still can still hear her laughter as she made fun of my shoes and said they were “strange” because they had springs in them. After breakfast, we headed out to Orlando to meet their friends for a day at the water park. I was so very grateful that before leaving she took the time to pose with me outside on my front porch. Never did I expect it to be my last visit and picture with Jen.

That same night I was restless and for some reason worried about my daughter. A little after midnight, my phone rang, and I saw that is was Todd. I knew immediately this could not be good. He was crying hysterically and said that Jennifer had been hit by a car. I would later learn that Jen was walking a few feet behind the group in a crosswalk and a driver who had been drinking, brutally struck her going 57 miles per hour. Her body rolled over the hood, smashed into the windshield and hit the side mirror before flying and landing into traffic approximately 100 feet away. Todd rushed to her side and thought that she was already dead. Her lips were blue, and her eyes were open, but she was not responding. She still had a pulse, so paramedics did CPR all the way to the hospital and she was later placed on a ventilator.

Todd was sobbing so loud; he could barely breathe, and the sheriff took the phone to give me directions to the hospital. He said the medical team was doing everything possible for her and to come quickly. I gave the phone to my husband because I was trembling terribly and praying and begging God for a miracle.

About 10 minutes into our drive to the hospital, I got another call from Todd crying and he said, “Jen’s pulse stopped”. Her body had tried to fight back but the trauma to the brain was too severe. It took all my strength to ask if they would keep her body there until I arrived, and he replied “yes”. Now I was heading to the hospital to see my deceased daughter and I told myself to be strong for my son-in-law. At this point, I was numb. I looked over at my husband and saw him crying. He said that he was hoping that my son-in-law was exaggerating, and that it was not as bad as they thought.

Once we arrived at the hospital, a grief counselor was waiting for us and she escorted us to see Jen. I did not want to hug her cold body. I wanted to remember the warm hug I got on the porch that morning. We prayed and all I could focus on was the bruising on her pretty face that was so filled with life and happiness earlier that day. I did not like the “tag” on her finger that announced she was dead.

Since she was “one of their own”, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department posted honor guards at her side until she reached Michigan and then Oakland County took over. This was beautiful and very emotional. When they brought her body out with a flag over it, I cried heavily. She was not supposed to leave Florida this way. I cried just about every day for six months straight and now I can only describe it as if it is like a “limp” after a broken bone that becomes a normal part of your life.

A BIG Loss happened October 1, 2017 and it was 100% preventable. We lost a beautiful daughter in one split second. We lost the opportunity to meet and love the grandchildren our daughter would mother. Friends said they lost someone who kept them out of trouble and never judged them. I truly believe Jen’s heart could not stop when she was struck by that car because Jen was fighting to stay and HELP those who needed it. I think after a while, she was divinely reminded that WE can and will continue her work for her. I hope Jen’s story impacts your life, like she did mine. May you share it freely, ponder it wisely and know that she would want to leave a gentle footprint on your heart.

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