We knew at some point there would more likely than not be a plea bargain from the driver who hit our brother and his best friend. And we knew once it happened things would move quickly. But since there is no warning, it took us very much by surprise when we found out a plea was being reached this month. Today, the driver has pled guilty to one count of leaving the scene of a crash involving a death and agreed to 132 months in prison followed by 36 months of probation.
Even from the time the driver was arrested, although I was thankful he was found, it never alleviated or lessened my pain. People would say thing like “You must be so relieved/happy to know he’s been caught.” And honestly, I’ve never felt those emotions. Likewise, I don’t feel any relief or happiness or justice in his sentencing term. Could it be worse? Absolutely. There are horror stories of drivers who get just a few months or who are never found after leaving a scene. So I’m not discounting the additional pain those families must have, because I cannot imagine that extra burden. But having the driver in jail “paying for” his crime does not lessen the pain I do have.
The lives of my brother and his best friend were taken away. The life of the driver has been changed forever. Countless other lives were affected in one moment. I don’t have any idea how to measure what length of jail time would be considered “justice” for the mistake that was made. No amount of time can bring them back, or reverse the damage done to our family. And at the same time, no amount of time can erase the guilt I imagine the driver feels or change the course his life is now taking. All around, the situation cannot be repaired by any specific length of sentence.
So no, my grief is in no way lessened by the news of the driver’s plea. My heart does not feel lighter. I actually feel heavier knowing his decisions continue to tragically alter lives. Because of his own choices, his life will never, ever be the same. However, I do not believe his choices were done out of malice. Because of what he did, his family and friends are suffering too. Their pain is real and raw, especially today; I have empathy for all of them and what they are enduring. But because our grief is enough for me to shoulder, I prefer to keep them faceless and nameless. It may be selfish, but I don’t want to know anything about him. It is better for me to paint my own small picture of who he is and try to let the rest of it go.
And I have to let it go because I need energy to focus on our love for Rob and how we can channel that love into great things. He had beautiful dreams and hopes that we’d like to carry out, if only in a small way. But since this day is a particularly heavy one, I’ll give myself extra room to be in pain and grieve for our families. For the driver’s family. For the hundreds, if not thousands of people whose lives were changed that day.
***Please note that, as with everything on this blog, these thoughts and opinions are mine alone. I do not speak for my whole family; I can only speak for myself.