Can you imagine the utter pain of losing a loved one to a senseless act? I often struggle to wrap my head around this when writing about victims of crime, or loved ones of people who die in car crashes.
Most recently, I sat down with Raylene Wallace, the impassioned mother of Kylee, a 15-year-old who died in a crash on June 26, 2010. I’ve written many stories about Kylee, but yesterday I was writing about Raylene’s plan to offer a safe ride home program in her daughter’s memory. Volunteers will drive to parties in the Saint John area and make sure kids get a safe ride home for free.
Raylene has been through hell and back. She’s still going through hell as she wades through the court process, awaiting the fate of the 20-year-old driver who crashed the car Kylee was riding in when she died.
But in all her pain, she wants to do something good. She wants to stop another parent from losing a child.
It amazes me when I think about it. I don’t have kids so I could never understand the depth of her loss. But I have, unfortunately, written about quite a few people who have died before their time, and I’ve spoken to a lot of bereaved families. The loss is horrible, the pain indescribable, and the only way to keep living, as Raylene told me, is to imagine Kylee is just in the other room.
So how does she find the strength to organize a ride home program? In her grief, she is making a difference.
It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed this.
Take the Higgins family. When 46-year-old Caroline Higgins died after being struck by an inexperienced motorcyclist while jogging near the Reversing Falls bridge, her brother and sisters – smart and practical as they are – starting researching the laws. They found that New Brunswick is utterly behind the times. We’re one of the only provinces to not have a graduated licensing system for new motorcycle drivers. There is also no mandatory inspection program for motorcycles. Both rules, they believe, would reduce another senseless death from happening.
Now, the provincial chief coroner has made recommendations to this effect, and New Brunswick politicians have promised to run public consultations on changing the rules.
Instead of wallowing in misery, as I believe I would do, they are acting, and making the world safer for the rest of us.
For families who have been needlessly victimized by tragedy, the public benefits. How selfless of them, and how grateful we should be.