I never thought I’d write about this – some things are too personal. But recently someone brought to my attention an article published this year concerning a tragedy that happened a long time ago, something that changed me, and the way that I viewed life http://www.times.co.nz/news/recalling-a-tragic-night-20-years-on.html. The article caused me to rethink my silence.
I was sixteen when a drunk driver lost control of his car, crashing into the vehicle in which I was a passenger. My left foot was crushed, my lip left dangling by a thread. I lost some teeth, and one of my cheekbones was smashed to pieces, requiring plastic surgery and a titanium plate. The fire department cut me from the wreck. Other than post-traumatic stress syndrome, and early-onset arthritis, which left me unable to compete at sport to the level in which I was accustomed, I survived. I was lucky.
Julie King lost her life in that same accident. Her siblings lost a sister, her parents their daughter. In her too-short and beautiful life, Julie had proven herself to be one of the few people who never spoke ill of others, who always had nice things to say, who acted with integrity, who was intelligent, artistic and passionate, and was motivated solely by the goodness of her heart. She shone brighter than most.
I sometimes used to feel sorry for myself, for never being able to sprint again. Then I would feel guilty for feeling sorry for myself. I was alive. Then I’d feel more guilt for feeling grateful to be alive. I simply didn’t know what to feel. If I could reach back in time and give myself some advice, I would tell teenage me to talk about it. Death is confronting.
I’m older now, and while I cannot know the pain that Julie’s family went through – to lose a child is unimaginable – I do know this: I have not, nor will I ever forget you, Julie. You are a part of my writing; you are a part of me, and the deep abiding sadness that I feel to this day is testimony to just how beautiful you were.