Today marks 7 years.
Seven years ago I was in a meeting at work. I remember the phone ringing (why? the phone was always ringing) and the secretary coming into the room to tell me I had a phone call. Walking to the phone, I was guessing who it was - one of the kids forgot to get a paper signed, somebody forgot lunch money, wanted to go somewhere after school... I was surprised by the unknown man's voice on the other end of the line. I was horrified when he identified himself as from the sheriff's department and that he needed to see me. I told him what time I got done with work and tried to arrange to meet with him then, but he insisted it be right away and asked me to wait in the office. I told him I'd be waiting outside, that I didn't want to speak with him in front of my co-workers.
Outside I paced and prayed while I waited. My faith is a big part of who I am and I knew God knew what he was about to tell me and I needed to rest in His perfect peace and remain calm. The white front of the car came around the corner and I remember telling myself, "okay, here he is." Then I saw the second car. I had no idea what I had done, but if they needed to come in two cars - I was sure I was about to be taken away in handcuffs.
I tried to remain patient as they parked and walked across the street to where I was. As they began speaking to me I found my brain splitting into two pieces. One of them trying to make sense of what was happening and the other trying to answer their questions as they began to ask me about my family. As one part of my head was screaming why couldn't this wait until after work (embarrassed that the police had come to my workplace) the other part was somehow hearing them say that Amanda had been found dead that morning.
Much of the next few hours is blank. I know where I went, I know what I did. I had to go to my husbands' work and I had to tell him his first born had died. We went to her other family (we were a blended family), together we went to make her funeral arrangements, we had to go back home and tell our children. We had to find a way to take the 21st birthday celebration that had gone horribly wrong a fact of life for the rest of our lives.
Manda was the oldest with 7 siblings between her two families. I can only speak for my children, but they adored her. She had never found a way to tell them no. She would crawl around for miles on her hands and legs giving horsey rides, endless hair designs as her little sisters played hairdresser, reading story after story to and with her little brother. Manda was not perfect, none of us is, but she was lovely. She was lovely to be around, lovely to think about, lovely to love, and it makes missing her feel so impossible. But somehow it's been 7 years.
Manda died from acute alcohol poisoning with a BAC of .46; nearly half her blood was alcohol. She had gone out with friends to celebrate her 21st birthday - but it was no rookie drinking mistake. She had chosen the binge drinking life style for a while by then. She assured us we were too worried as parents, nothing could go wrong. She didn't drink alone, she wouldn't drink and drive, her friends would look out for her and they wouldn't let anything bad happen to her. We needed to settle down and back off. So we did. We were there when she went to court to hold her hand and not make her face it alone. We did not shield her from her consequences, but did sit beside her letting her know we would always be there. We quit badgering her about her choice to party and get plastered. We told her she could not be around her siblings in our family when she was intoxicated, that she needed to be sober to be at our house. We had decided to hold her hand while she picked up the pieces and to not alienate her during the process.
Now I live with "what if... what if we had kept trying." What if I had called her one more time before she went out that night, begged her not to go. What if I had done anything else - what if. I know I didn't make her choice for her. I know it was an unintentional consequence of the amount of alcohol she consumed that night. I know these things in my head, but not in my heart. And it's my heart that aches. It's my heart that aches so badly it causes the rest of me to feel physically sick. It causes the vice-grip type headache with a 2x4 smashing me right at the base of my neck.
For anyone reading this who participates in binge drinking - please stop. The next time you are going to go out drinking, think of every one you love, think of everything you love, think of all your dreams and desires, think of all your accomplishments, think of all those who are counting on you.
Manda didn't plan on dying that night but she did. You may have the best of intentions - but when you let the alcohol become the author of your story, your intentions do not matter even a little any more. Please do not do this to your family. Please do not make your family miss you so terribly that even after 7 years, the nausea and headache and heartache can come back and completely envelope them. I know I'm rambling - but I cannot sleep again tonight. Manda would never have wanted to hurt her families even a little bit. I'm glad she never knew how hard it has been to live without her.
Amanda - you were so many things to me, I love you so very much and I miss you so very much more. Forever in my heart - my Manda <3
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