July 7, 2011

Hello and Goodbye

I offer my gratitude to our outgoing President Laura Dean-Mooney. She has crossed the country - the globe actually - effectively representing all of us in MADD. Her dedication and sacrifice these past three years is deeply appreciated. You have been a powerful voice for us, Laura. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Today is July 7th, my daughter, Alisa's, birthday. She was killed by an underage drunk driver 15 years after her birth, just 3 months before she turned 16. It feels absolutely perfect to me that I connect with you today for the first time as your new president. The day she was born was the launch of new joy in my heart. She was sunshine personified. As a little girl she was delightful giggles and dance. As she grew up she was gracious kindness and graceful dance. Here you see a picture of her in a rehearsal.

Today she would be 35. I wonder how she would have changed. Would she have a career in dancing? Would she have children? Would her hair still be long? What would she look like now? My friend Mary Klotzbach's son, Matthew, was killed when they were hit by a drunk driver in 2001. She says she wishes so much she could have current pictures of him. The photos of newly created memories abruptly stopped the day they died. We wish so much we could update our photo albums with snapshots of new memories.

I called MADD for help when I was paralyzed with pain. The sorrow was excruciating and the anger overwhelming. What I received was not only help, but I began to see glimpses of hope. When I could not stop crying, I was offered a kind heart. When I could not speak, my MADD advocate became my voice. At the same time, I was watching others in MADD - others who had experienced similar loss or who had been severely injured. They were their own voice or spoke for those who couldn't. They modeled strength I didn't have in my most broken days - but I wanted it - I wanted to get there someday. They were my beacons of hope.

So, as time moved forward, so did I. The day Alisa died, a piece of my heart died. I am forever different. Now, though, I know she moves forward with me. Along the journey so many people in MADD were first my beacons of hope and became my heroes. I watched them support one another. I watched them fight to save lives. I watched them courageously turn their pain into power. They taught me well, for I followed their example.

Today I am humbled to represent you, so many of whom are my close friends, and knowing I will meet so many of you who will become my friends. I feel we already know each other. We will touch one another's hearts. We are bound as a family in MADD. We are together to save lives. We are together to honor and support those who have been vicitimized by this violent crime, to protect our youth from the dangers of underage drinking, and to eliminate this scourge of drunk driving. I know this is a noble goal. I know this is an attainable goal. Today, I am humbled, knowing we will move forward together.

Jan Withers

1 comment:

Laura Mooney said...

Thank you, Jan! Your story is powerful & will touch many lives. Best wishes!