I drove an hour

and a half each way to give a pre-prom speech to the juniors and seniors at

Coyle & Cassidy High School in Taunton, Massachusetts yesterday. The idea

was that, as the mother of a boy, brain-injured by a drunk driver, I might be

able to impart some wisdom to these teens, share some lesson gleaned from our

difficult journey.

     I listened to Tom

Ashbrook’s radio show On Point as I

drove. His guest was Paige Williams whose article in O Magazine, titled “We Thought the

Sun Would Always Shine on our Lives”, detailed a horrific accident in which

5 of her sorority sisters perished over 25 years ago. With her to discuss “grief

out of season”, as the host called the loss of the girls, was a therapist and

grief specialist from Healing Circles, Inc.

     As horrific as

the story was (five sorority sisters killed on a charity walk when a hay-baler

plowed into them on Highway 6 in Mississippi,) what struck me most were the

listeners who responded, each calling in to share their own unique tragedies,

suffered at young ages.

     One call in particular

jarred. A middle-aged woman recalled an 11-year-old classmate who died of

leukemia more than 50 years prior. She didn’t even know the girl that well, but

her death somehow shaped the caller’s formative years and stayed with her on

some level through her entire life.

     “If even one

person remembers you for something you did with them or for them then that was

what the meaning of life would be about,” she said.

     I turned off the

radio at that point, my heart full. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I

focused on the kids I would be speaking to in just a matter of minutes. I have

given this talk many times over many years. I relive for the audience how I

learned about the crash. I describe the days in the ICU, the months of physical

therapy, the years of depression. I try to paint a picture of Trista: her

intellect, her wit, her sense of humor, her smile, her grace. My mission, my

goal, is to discourage them from drinking and driving. To see that perhaps they

can have fun without intoxication.

     But as I pulled

into the parking lot, the caller’s words still echoing in my brain, I wondered

if I might not have another opportunity here. I wondered if the juniors and

seniors at Coyle & Cassidy High School might just have an opportunity not

to simply avoid tragedy but to find the meaning of life. If I could truly paint

for them a vivid enough picture of Trista, might they not remember her enough

to not drink, to not drive this prom season? And wouldn’t that be the same as “doing

something for her?” And if just one of these students did something for Trista,

wouldn’t they then come to know the meaning of life?