October 7th is the anniversary of the day my grandmother was killed in a car accident. It was 4 years ago yesterday. It's strange, it is the event that has basically split my life into "before" and "after", and yet, I didn't remember til noon that it was "the day." Now, to be truthful, I was sick yesterday, so that probably played into it, but I think, after 4 years, it's easier to remember the joy of my grandmother's life and not the thoughtlessness that led to her death. How she loved pansies and dogs and how crestfallen she was when, at the breeder's, picking out my puppy, I told her we couldn't get Robbie because he was already sold; she liked him better than Chancey because his ears stood up while Chancey's hadn't quite gotten there yet. How she cooked to feed the third army; I never realized til I had my own home how much effort it takes to fry chicken and make mashed potatoes, and that was a normal dinner, WITH GRAVY. How she looked the night I walked in to find her feeding my new kitten from a bottle, and how absolutely delighted she was with him, and him with her. Most people have grandmothers who they only know as sweet old ladies who get their hair done; I knew my grammy made moonshine, but then again, that was a time when everyone had a still. I was blessed to be her grand-daughter; I hope she's proud of me.
Because of the way she died, and because it shattered our family, I have made it one of my goals to do what I can to keep any other person from having to go through this. Please drive defensively. It's fall, the leaves are falling and it rains, a cocktail for disaster. SLOW DOWN. If you feel your car start to skid, steer into the skid, not against it. Don't worry about your car. They make more. My grandmother died because the boy in the other car didn't want to hit a guardrail. He overcorrected, lost control, crossed two lanes of traffic, the median, another lane and his back end slammed into the car my parents and grandmother were riding in.
Since you can't really control how other people drive, the one single thing you can do to help in an accident is to wear your seatbelt, no matter where you sit in the car. Make your passengers wear one, no matter where they sit. Gramma was an unbelted rear seat passenger, no one ever wore their belts in the back seat, we figured the seats would protect us. If an accident ever happens, which we assumed never would. And then the sky fell down, and, all of a sudden, it seemed like such a stupid selfish thing to think. And maybe that's her legacy, so that people will know how much it damages a family to lose a loved one over a seatbelt click.
And most of all, cherish your family. Keep the memories of the good times in your heart. No one is ever gone as long as someone who remembers them lives. Tell them that you love them, every day, even if you're angry at something they did. You never know when it will be the last time you get to tell them that.
Saturday will be my grandmother's 92nd birthday. The last promise I made her before I left on the day she died was that I'd get her flowers for her birthday, and so we take her pansies every year. Purple ones, her favorites. HTB understands my need to do this. It's the closest I get to her on earth, and I feel her there. I can give her flowers, and I can hope to make her death a lesson.