Almost four years ago, in the early morning hours of December 27, our lives changed in ways we would never have expected. It was about 4 AM, and I was actually awake feeding our newborn. We had celebrated a second Christmas with my family earlier that evening – exchanging presents, eating appetizers and desserts, and just hanging out. It was Lyla’s first Christmas, and being the first grandchild on my side, she got way more presents than a 6 week old really needs. We ended the night with hugs and kisses, bundled up and headed home.
Lyla was still on that newborn “eat every 2 hours” streak, so I’m sure I woke up at least once before that 4 AM feeding. It’s all kind of a blur now.
But as I sat in bed, cradling Lyla and trying not to drift to sleep, my phone started to buzz. My mom was calling. I don’t really remember my first thoughts, but I answered it.
No one was there. I could hear voices in the background.
I tried to hear what the voices were saying…
“Do you have someone you could call?” I didn’t recognize this voice, and I don’t remember much else. I remember thinking, Uh oh – someone is in trouble. What happened? But I never actually imagined…
“HELLO? MOM!?” Still nothing. So I hung up and called my mom back.
“Nicole??” My mom was basically hysterical. “Ali’s dead.”
I heard her, but I pretty much flat out refused. “What? No.” I literally told her, “No.” That just didn’t sound right.
“Ali’s dead.” She repeated – again, with lots of crying and hysteria, I think. “Dad’s in the hospital.”
I don’t really remember the rest. We got dressed and met my mom at the hospital. The whole few weeks following is kind of a blur, but just a few moments stick out.
My mom, crying: “What are we going to do?”
My dad, beat and bloodied up in a hospital bed and finding out the news. “No… My baby.”
Our lives changed forever.
After our family Christmas celebration, my sister met her friends downtown – friends from high school and college who were home visiting their families, a boy she had just started talking to, the people you hang out with when you are 24.
She called my dad around 1 or 2 AM to pick her up. She had been drinking, and she wasn’t going to drive. She made the right choice.
Someone else didn’t.
Just a block from our house, a drunk driver ran the red light of a major intersection and slammed into the passenger side of the car my dad was driving. He ditched his car and fled the scene. My sister died on-site, and my dad spent time in the ICU.
A Christmas Story I Never Wanted To Tell
I know this probably isn’t the Christmas story you expected to hear – or even wanted to hear. I can say it’s one I would never have wanted to tell. But as you move into the holiday season, as you join in festivities and get a little tipsy (no judgment here) – I hope you will make the right choice. Please don’t drink and drive. Please don’t let your friends do it either.
Our society laughs at drunk driving. We laugh in the movies when the drunk driver swerves all over the road, we joke about DUIs, and we tell our friends where checkpoints are and how to avoid them. We don’t speak up when a friend picks up the keys when they shouldn’t. We don’t see them as the a$$hole — rather, it’s the person who might say something that’s the stick in the mud, the jerk, the party-pooper (hah). We don’t take drunk driving seriously in our culture, and because of that, over like 10,000 people die as a result of drunk driving each year.
I wish I could change our culture. I wish I didn’t see the jokes in the movies or on TV. I wish I didn’t have to sit awkwardly through them while people around me laugh, knowing that a drunk driver like that on the screen was the reason I’m now an only child.
But I don’t see that happening.
I don’t know. I hope this post maybe changes your mind.
In Remembrance of Ali Michele Fuhrman:
I’ve said before that if we hadn’t been sisters, we may not have been the best of friends because we are incredibly different. She was athletic and cool, and I am awkward and nerdy. Considering that, I’m really lucky she was my sister because otherwise, I would have missed out on someone really special.
Ali was so kind, generous and thoughtful — I look back at the Christmas and birthday gifts she’s given me — picture frames, homemade crafts, customized purses, nice clothes, a whole stack of gift cards to all our favorite restaurants — she put her heart into all of them. And that’s how she was about everything.
Lyla was our little 2015 surprise, and she could not have come at a better time. She grew our little family when we needed it most (even though we didn’t know it yet). She brought into our lives new sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, and grandpas. She is a ray of hope and a joy for us all as we deal with Ali’s loss. But for me, most of all, Lyla came just in time to bring me and Ali closer together.
While Ali and I had grown up playing (and fighting over) Fisher-Price dollhouses and basketball games, as we got older, we, unfortunately, drifted apart. For about 8 years while we were both cycled in and out of college, we didn’t hang out or talk as much as we would have liked. After she graduated and moved home and we started talking more, we started getting closer again. I still never expected her to be so excited when we told her about Lyla.
She went shopping right away and talked about how I better have a girl so she could be all anchors, a DG girl. Ali worked with John’s sisters to plan me a beautiful baby shower – like something you’d see on Pinterest – and she was at the hospital the minute she got off work.
Ali loved Lyla so much. She told me once we had to FaceTime one weekend when she was in Cleveland because she missed her, and she “wanted her to know-her-know-her.” I told her she had to stick around nearby, and she answered that she would never go far. She was constantly posting pictures of Lyla and calling her “my baby” – to the point that an old high school acquaintance actually asked her if she had had a baby when they crossed paths over the winter.
Even though Lyla only got to know her aunt and godmother Ali for a short time, we know that now she has a guardian angel watching over her always. And though I wish Ali could be here to see Lyla grow up, I know that we will make sure our little girl gets to “know-her-know-her” through us.