Every now and then as we stumble along the path of life, people will make a profound impact on us. They may not always know it. We may not always know them. Those that are powerful enough to reach into our hearts without ever having come in contact with us are gifted.
I can say that there are two families like that who have impacted my life and neither of them have I ever met. The first, was a family that I came to know from an online parenting community called CafeMom.com. One of the members was a mom like me who had an infant only six months old. At the time, my daughter was 5 months old. I felt we shared something in common. On New Year’s Eve 2007 The Griffin’s & Burkman’s (a blended family of eight) drove their van through Ohio on their way back to Maryland after a holiday visit in the Michigan area.
Around 11 p.m. a drunk male was allegedly driving a large F-350 Ford pick-up traveling in the wrong direction on I-280 going northbound in the southbound lanes. He struck the family’s Chevy Astro van nearly head-on, sheering the right side off.
In one instant, five members of the eight-person family were gone forever. Killed were 36-year-old Bethany Griffin, 10-year-old Jordan Griffin, 10-year-old Haley Burkman, 7-year-old Lacie Burkman, and 6-month-old Vadi Griffin. Injured in the crash were 36-year-old Danny Griffin, 8-year-old Sidney Griffin, and 8-year-old Beu Burkman.
The crash rocked online communities everywhere, but most of all, the friends and the family of those lost. For days I cried spontaneously at the thought of that event. I didn’t know those people, but the accident was a horrific waste of lives so precious and so innocent. It wasn’t fair. Why did they have to die? The drunk driver lived.
For some time after the crash there were fund raisers for the surviving family members. I participated in one of them and also purchased an ornament (one of the ways that was used to raise money) with the family’s picture. For the last three years, I have hung that ornament on my Christmas tree and I say a little prayer that they are all in a better place. I also hope that their lives were not taken in vain. Today I hope this post somehow preserves their memory and shares their experience with the world. However that may help, I don’t know. They deserved more.
The second family that I think of often is one who also recently lost a family member. However, their experience was much different from the one above. The Carmical’s were introduced to me virtually through a friend on Facebook. I don’t know them personally and probably will never meet them. But after I began to follow their journey, I became connected to them and their little boy, Declan, who suffered from Cancer.
For months I read the blog posts of Declan’s mommy and daddy as they described the painful mental and physical battle their family endured. They asked for collective prayer to keep their little boy alive and find a way to beat this terrible disease that haunted them.
Declan was a twin and had two other siblings. The entire family was affected. They too, needed to raise money in order to offset medical expenses and to further the research necessary to find a cure.
At first when I began reading their blog, it was a depressing, sad story that no one should have to go through. I cried and was inspired at the courage they and baby Declan showed amidst impossible odds.
After a couple of months, Declan’s condition seemed to be improving. I was glad. Somehow, I stopped reading. That was around Easter. I got busy.
In the summer, something made me go back to the blog and much to my shock and deep disappointment, little baby Declan lost his fight to Cancer just shy of his one-year-old birthday. My son was also one at the time. How did this happen when he seemed to be doing so well not long before? How did I get too busy to notice?
Again, another person who touched me was gone—way too soon. It made me (and still makes me) terribly, terribly sad. I still cry for them.
Last week, I got a Christmas card from the Carmical family with an update on how they are doing. I couldn’t believe it. This family who must be going through one of the hardest holidays of their life is sending me a card?!
One of their Christmas wishes is to spread the message of Declan’s Journey so that his spirit can always live on. His legacy is Journey4ACure. The organization is very involved in finding a cure to pediatric Cancer. I encourage you to learn more at www.Journey4ACure.org
The holidays are a time to be with those close to you. It is also a time to remember those who are no longer with us on Earth but remain still in our hearts. Both of these families remain in mine. I am blessed to have known them – even peripherally.
Thank you for touching me in a way words can’t express.