On the evening of December 26, 2005 while celebrating Christmas with family, I got that call. Jake had said his goodbyes hours before and was headed to his father's house. He never made it.
Although we will never know what went through his mind, the end result was no less real. At 18 Jake already had a couple of speeding tickets, had been grounded, and we finally warned him that one more time meant the loss of his truck.
A car or truck is a young man's life. Jake was no different. He put all his money into it - lights under the dash, lights in the air vents, and a sound system that would shake the earth beneath your feet.
The highway patrol tried to stop Jake from speeding, but he did not stop. He ran for about seven minutes. In the end his truck flipped, and he was ejected.
JAKE WAS NOT WEARING HIS SEATBELT.
Although I know there were other circumstances that contributed to this awful event, the fatal one was that he was not wearing his seatbelt.
So here I am, Jakes mom, to make you aware, to put it in your face - THIS CAN HAPPEN TO YOU.
Amanda was three weeks past her 19th birthday.
She was a hard worker. Between the time she finished high school and started college, she held two or three jobs at a time. At one point she worked two full-time jobs.
Amanda did not go to college until January, so she was a semester behind. To catch up, she took a class during the summer.
The day she died, July 6, 2006, I worked late. She called me as I was leaving and asked what the best route to class was. We talked for just a minute because she needed to finish getting ready and get out the door.
Our paths should have crossed in only 10 minutes, but nothing. I tried to call her cell phone to find out where she was. I was afraid she was driving too fast.
As I came around a curve in the road, I could see her truck sitting sideways in the road. There were a few other vehicles there as well. When I got there, she lay on the side of the road, a man over her. He said she was conscious when he got there, but when I took her hand and talked, she did not respond.
When the fire department arrived, I begged them to call the helicopter. In my mind I knew she was already gone, but my heart would not listen.
At the hospital we found out she had been ejected from her truck. She was dead on arrival.
Amanda was a very strong willed, self-reliant individual. Just days before the accident she told me she did not care how many tickets she got for not wearing her seatbelt; she would pay them all. The deputy sheriff at the scene removed a seatbelt ticket from her truck.
I began dating Kent, Brent's father when Brent was just six months old. Kent and Brent's birth mother were never married. Kent was granted full custody of when Brent was 2 1/2 years old, and Kent and I were married the following year. Though I did not give birth to Brent, he was my son and I his mother. Brent was the oldest of 3; his sister is now 16 and his brother 15.
On August 13, 2007 our family was forever changed in the blink of an eye. We too received that phone call from the military that every parent prays they will never get. The commander told Kent that Brent had been in accident and we should immediately come to California. Kent contacted me and within 2 hours we were on a plane to California. (We live in Pasadena - a suburb of Houston.)
I just never imagined that this would happen to our family. Brent was in the Navy and had served in Iraq and Africa. He celebrated his 21st birthday last year in Africa, and I must say I was comfortable with him being in California. The week prior to the accident I had spoke with him every day. That Sunday, August 12, Brent reported to duty at 11:00pm to prepare the weapons for a four week training camp. He was in charge of all weapons and ammunition for his battalion; therefore, he would go ahead of the rest of the group and prepare for them to come up at the end of the week.
After working ALL night, the convoy left base at approximately 4am, and Brent was a passenger in the second vehicle in the convoy right behind the trailer with the weapons. They were about two hours into their four hour trip when the driver fell asleep and the truck rolled over. Brent was ejected. The driver walked away with a few scrapes and cuts, and in my heart I feel that Brent really never even made it to the hospital. He was kept on life support until we arrived.
Because of the giving person he was and the decision that he had made when he enlisted in the service to be an organ donor, he was on life support for a few days and pronounced legally deceased on Wednesday, August 15 at 1:40pm. Through his great loss and love for people there are a few lives that will be much fuller because of his generosity. Brent loved everyone; he saw everyone as equal. Our pastor described him by these words, "Brent had a heart as big as Texas."
Kim was 18, a beautiful Christian young lady. She graduated in May, turned 18 in June, and started college in August. She wanted to be an optometrist or a chiropractor. She loved high school but did not know why college was causing her so much heartache.
Monday before her accident, she came to me that evening crying (and Kim didn't usually do this). She was so unhappy because she just couldn't handle the load at school. We talked and agreed that she should drop one of her classes and the lab that went with it. She did this on Tuesday and felt very relieved.
The day of her accident, October 10, 2008, she had to do a presentation that she really wasn't prepared for, but Kim was an outgoing young lady and could handle this challenge. When she got out of school, she sent me a text, but like so many other times, I didn't get back to her for a few minutes. She went on in to work. She worked in a day care with the little ones. Kim loved her job.
When she got off work, she called and said that she was putting her check in the bank then heading to her boyfriend's house. As always I told her to call me on her way to his house because he lived 30 minutes from us. She had to drive down Highway 36 to his house and home. I didn't like this highway because she drove a small car and on this highway there were 18-wheel trucks traveling down it, along with numerous deer.
I always expected her to call me on her way home. She had to call at the stop sign, then before she graduated she use to have to call me halfway home. It was 15 minutes between the first call and the second, and the second call and home. After she graduated she asked if she could cut one out, so we cut out the halfway home call.
She called me at 11:05 pm, and we talked about her money. The typical parent/child talk about spending and never having money, but she knew that she would always get whatever she needed.
After 35 minutes she didn't call and wasn't home. I was getting ready to go check on her (hoping that she was just down the road) when I got a text from her boyfriend asking if she was home. My gut told me there was something wrong. On my way to go find her, I called 911 and they said there was an accident on highway 36. When I got to the scene, they wouldn't allow me to go to the car but did confirm that it was her. She had a head on collision with an 18 wheeler. Her accident was just our side of halfway home.
Kim did not make it and passed 3 hours after the accident. My daughter was wearing her seatbelt, and thank God because if she hadn't, as hard as the impact was, she would have been thrown from her car.