This is the story of a heartbreaking newspaper front page. It’s the story behind the cold, emotionless words of a journalist, written black on white on cheap, recycled paper. The paper you buy for $1. The paper that tells you what’s happening in your area every day of your life. The paper that makes you think, “It happened again.”
This story is also the story of a middle-aged woman. The woman, aged 45, was the youngest of a family of seven. She was living a quiet and peaceful life. She had two sons, aged 26 and 24, as well as a grandson aged one and a half. She was really proud of them. She had an apartment and cats. She was working hard to make ends meet. She kept smiling, despite difficulties. The woman also wore her heart on her sleeve, always available to help people around her as much as she could.
In a surprising way, she celebrated Christmas with her two sons, reunited for the first time in months. Saturday morning she invited them to have breakfast at a restaurant. As well, she invited one of her sisters and some friends.
After breakfast and under a light rain, the woman drove to meet a friend in the next town 100 kilometres away. She wanted to come back the next day, on Sunday afternoon.
Saturday night the rain changed into freezing rain, creating black ice on the roads. The temperature went from mild to freezing cold. Sunday was a really cold day, with a huge snow storm and strong winds, leaving the ice under the snow and making any abrasive useless. It was too dangerous to drive back home, so the woman decided to leave early Monday morning.
The woman left her friend’s place at 6 a.m. Monday, because she had to be home early. She took to the road and drove 95 kilometres safely. It was 7:15 a.m.
She was only five kilometres away from her home, five kilometres away from her town and her two sons. It was a safe, straight stretch, three lanes wide. The sun’s light was slowly starting to show up far away in the dark sky. What could happen?
But wait, what was that car doing in the opposite direction? She firmly pressed the brakes to slow down to prevent the collision. Because of the black ice, her car moved sideways and her driver’s door was now facing the other car’s front bumper. The other car was heading towards her at an astonishing speed. Before she had the time to realize what was happening, it was over.
The morning of the accident, the police escorted the woman’s two sons to the hospital, for her formal identification. They entered an empty room with white, cold walls and no furniture, except one hospital bed in the middle of the room. On that bed lay a woman, still dressed in her blue winter jacket and fully covered in a white blanket. Her eyes were closed, her mouth opened. She had only three little cat-like scratches on her left cheek. It looked like she was sleeping. She had to be sleeping. She could not be gone. She looked so calm, and peaceful. Restful. But, the touch of her cold skin and breathless body did not lie. She was gone, with no way to bring her back.
That woman left behind her two sons, making them orphans forever, 30 years too soon, with no chance to say goodbye. She left behind her grandson, who will never know her grandmother, other than by looking at her framed picture. She was the last born of her family, and the first one to leave, leaving behind six brothers and sisters. She also left countless friends, who will never be able to see her again, and she left behind an empty house, full of memories.
That exceptional woman was my mother. I lost her in what the coroner classified as an unexplained car accident, three years ago.
When I look at the picture from the front page of the newspaper, I don’t see a crushed car. I see my mother, seated in there, with nowhere to go. I feel her fear. I feel her pain, her very last moments. Her car was her grave. I’d do anything to have a single chance to give her a hug, to tell her how much I love her, but that will never happen. Someone else took her life away that morning.
This story is also the story of hundreds of Canadians, who lose loved ones every day on the road for different reasons.
I share this with you not to get sympathy. It’s simply to show that behind every newspaper story, there’s a real life going on. It’s not always just another accident. Sometimes, it’s someone you know. It might even be you. By your actions, you influence the life of hundreds around you.
If you decide to drive the speed limit or to stay home if you’re drinking or impaired, be proud of yourself. You may have saved one precious life.
Christmas is supposed to be happy and filled with joy. To me, it’s the painful remembrance of my mother’s funeral. It’s been proven that more accidents happen during the holiday season. Have a safe and joyful Christmas and please, drive carefully.
Editor’s Note: Mathieu Warnet-Pelletier is a relative newcomer to Peachland. He is a regular contributor of photos to PeachlandNews.com As English is not his first language, Mathieu asked that his heartfelt story be edited for grammar. We did so lightly.