We are making a difference, Dustin and I. The following is part of an email I received after speaking at Oregon Impact's DUII Victim Impact Panel earlier this month. The writer attended with her teenage son after he was in a drunk driving incident which did not involve police; this was her action as a parent to help him learn the possible consequences of his actions.
"...A. was very quiet at the meeting. He really didn’t want to go and he did not express much while sitting there. When the meeting was over, we left and on our drive home A. began to open up and we discussed you and Dustin. He related to Dustin as he too rides a bike and he never wears a helmet. He just could not comprehend placing blame on someone that has died. It completely blew him away that the young man that killed your son could “have the balls” to even worry about getting his license back. A. was appalled at the length of time that people were getting for killing someone when they made the choice to drink and drive; he said it was not fair. I do not feel that either of us will ever get the picture of you standing on that podium with your son next to you out of our heads.
|Thanks to Julia Flucht of OPB for the picture|
"You mentioned that you were saddened that only a few people remembered his birthday and that you did not want him to be forgotten. What you do not realize is that he is still alive through you, every time you share his story, every time his story saves a life. You allowed us to meet your son through you; it was obvious that he would want you to share his story, obvious that he would want to save people from his own fate. I will remember Dustin every time I look into my son's eyes. I will give credit to Dustin every time my son makes the right decision to call and to not climb behind the wheel. As parents all we can do is hope our children make the right choices, choices that will keep them and others safe from harm. Unfortunately as we all know, teenagers do not always make the right choices. I think my son learned that Mom understands what being a teenager is like, he understand that he can call me. If Dustin made an impact on A. and he never gets behind the wheel drunk again, then Dustin has made a difference in his life. If A. sees someone and says 'you can’t drive, give me your keys,' Dustin has made a difference.
KATU's coverage of Oregon Impact's MIP Victim Impact Panel (featuring me)
"I hope my email will bring you some peace that you will realize that Dustin may not be here in the flesh but that he is speaking through you. He is saving the lives of others and he will forever live on through you and everyone that his story touches."
I cried after reading this. Sometimes I struggle with confidence, wondering if anyone really hears me, if my telling of our story is compelling enough to capture anyone's attention. There are some other incredible real life "story tellers" at these panels, believe me. But this mother's words reassures me that my most fervent wish is fulfilled: Dustin's life is making a difference...even in death. He would be so happy!