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Everyone who ever knew her would say my mother had the most dazzling, gorgeous smile. She loved to have fun, always started dance parties in the kitchen, screaming along to Queen with all of us, car windows rolled down, the wind in our hair and not a care in the world. Adventures like camping, thrift shopping, and summer beach days filled with laughter and joy I will always cherish. Even so, her fun-loving, reckless nature got the best of her that night. By the end of Mother’s Day she was dead. My life, my upbringing, and our family would be forever altered.

At nine years old, I had to come to the realization that my mother had died in a self-inflicted drunk driving accident. My father was so distraught ‒ four officers knocked on his door that morning and told him his wife was dead. He had to be the bearer of bad news to his oblivious kids and watch them fall apart before his very eyes. When he picked me up from school early that day (something he never did), I knew something was wrong. His baggy eyes, haggard appearance, and the solemn look in his eyes told me I was right. She was five minutes away from our home when she hit an oak tree. Nearly every day I have to drive past it. I know exactly which tree because it has her tailpipe sticking out from the roots.

Everyone always tells me, “You’re so mature for your age.” I never wanted to be mature. I never wanted to grow up so fast. I was a child. I just needed to be loved and taken care of, but I didn’t have an option to be a kid anymore. Without her, there was a gaping hole in my family. My father didn’t rely on anyone besides his whiskey. My brother didn’t care enough to talk to me unless he needed something. My lovely mother, best friend, and partner in crime had been our glue that held us together. Like everyone, however, she had her flaws. Her recklessness sealed her fate.

Sometimes I question whether she truly loved me enough. Did she not love me enough to take care of herself that night? She could have called and gotten anyone to give her a ride home. She had and still has so many people that love her and would’ve dropped everything to go help her. How could she have been so careless in her state? What made her think she could get home safe? How could she leave me before she even got the chance to see me grow up? To see me graduate? To see me walk down the aisle? To see her future grandchildren? I don’t know and I never will. This forced me to not fear the unknown and to accept and let go not ever knowing these answers. She’s just a beautiful, foggy memory I still linger into when I feel cheated from the whole mother-daughter relationship I will never experience but will forever crave.

Because tomorrow is never promised, it was better for me to let go of my worries and just live. I want to live freely, bravely, and gratefully while I still can. To not let my fears tie me down. That’s what I learned from my mother’s death. No matter how much I’d like to go back and change the past, to beg her to stay that night, so she would be safe, I can't. I wouldn’t be the independent, thankful, and kind person I am today without going through this. I miss her, some days more than most, but it made me stronger in every way. I have learned to be my own individual. I hold myself accountable for all my mistakes. I will live everyday like it’s my last, in honor of her. I like to think she’s looking over me, watching me. I hope I’m making her proud.

© Natalie Beane. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.