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What do you do when life as you know it ends?
When my baby was hit by a car, and then died, my life ceased to be as easy and carefree as it once had been. I asked “Why? Why? Why my baby?” The answer is so surprisingly simple, so basic, that it seems like a joke that no one listened.
We are taught that driving is a privilege, not to be taken lightly. Teenagers and adults alike are given hours of instruction on driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other organizations fill our airwaves with constant reminders about driving, and still we are human and we forget. Maybe we need better reminders and maybe that is why my baby, my Nick, died. Instead of the intangible reminders we see and hear every day, maybe my son dying will be the one story we will remember a little more. A more vivid reminder to slow down, pay attention, limit our cell phone use and, most importantly, don’t drive while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, intense emotion or lack of sleep. Whichever of these things impairs you, the result is the same.
Nick (Nicholas) Martinez was a great son, brother and friend. You always knew where he was because he was so loud. He often joked that he was in the halls at school because the teachers needed to “breathe.” He tried everything! Just to see, just to experience. He packed more into almost 15 years of life than most do in a longer lifetime. As the fifth of six boys, Nick was as rough and tumble as they come, but he had a heart bigger than himself. He considered his friends as family and was constantly expanding his “family.”
On Friday, November 28, 2013, Nick went with his friend Dillon to Utah to visit some of Dillon’s family. The boys decided to walk down to the store to get some soda and candy. The driver who hit Nick had just gotten into a fight and was on the phone with a friend trying to calm down. He told police he saw a car coming toward him and felt it was too close so he swerved to avoid the car, and in doing so, he struck my baby.
All the reminders say, “If he had been wearing a helmet, a seatbelt, if, if, if…” Yes, if Nick had been wearing a helmet he wouldn’t have died, but who the hell wears a helmet to walk down the road? No, the reminder here is to be smart. Know when you are safe to drive and when you are not. If only the driver had sat in his car to call his friend and calm down, instead of driving in a state of intense emotion.
The driver was young, only 19 years old. He had just gone through all the classes, seen all the books and corny movies about the consequences of bad driving, but they still weren’t real to him. It wouldn’t happen to him. But now it has. His failure to remember the reminders given led to the death of my son. The young man who hit my son now has to live life with the knowledge that he could have prevented it by sitting in his parked car, calming down and being free of distractions before driving.
My heart is broken not just from the death of my son, but also for the pain of the young driver. I worry how he will overcome this, how he will cope, how he will continue his life. I forgive him, but I worry that he may not be able to forgive himself.