By Samantha Gaylor
I opened my eyes cautiously, and confusion flooded my mind. Shortly following, the pain set in. The last time I laid in a hospital bed was when I gave birth to my daughter nearly a year prior. Although, that time, I didn't have a neck brace on or my body throbbing in pain. No one familiar was in sight, I didn't have my baby, and I didn't know what hospital I was in...
I had spent many days with my best friend Emily and her family. Her son, siblings, and parents; they were always so very welcoming. We had an eventful summer full of trips to the lake and having girls’ nights on some weekends. I didn't know our last girls’ night was going to be so dramatic and traumatic.
It started like any other time, singing loudly in the car on our way to Wichita from McPherson. Laughing, calling people, just a few girls having a good time before the weekend ended and it was time to go back to work. Emily, myself and another friend went to a club and met up with some recently acquired new friends. We had a great night, saw some familiar faces, and planned the rest of our night in town.
So much for plans... It was a dark night. It was a dark time. But the darkest part of it is my memory. I only remember going as far as a block away from where our dancing shoes stopped twirling. Emily, myself and 3 friends decided to go hang out at another friend’s house in town, but first wanted to get a bite to eat. That bite to eat lined us up directly for that drunk driver. Another couple hundred feet, clueless, and enjoying the night with my best friend; tragedy struck.
A drunk driver came upon our same intersection, ran the red light at twice the speed limit and barreled into the side of my car with no remorse. One friend remained conscious and coherent. She suffered some injuries, but was mostly internally scarred by memories. I lost consciousness and blacked out. I suffered bleeding on my brain as well as some additional injuries. Emily and our two other friends didn't necessarily suffer, but sent many others into suffering. They didn't survive. And it wasn't one of those, "Oh no! They died on impact," sad stories. It was much more brutal, violent, and stomach turning than that.
Two days later, I opened my eyes cautiously, and confusion flooded my mind. I didn't know why I was in the hospital, I didn't know I was in an accident, and I didn't know that three people died inside of my car; one of which was my best friend. I was forced into an uncomfortable position when my mom came to see me, and told me my 'bestie' was no more and that I'd have to come stay with her and my dad because I couldn't take care of my daughter, Scarlet, whose very first birthday was in a week.
Over the next year I spent a lot of time in silence, blaming myself for the carelessness of someone else's inattentive driving. I lost touch with Emily's loving family. The other survivor and I turned our separate directions in the most ugly of ways. And I managed to hurt my family emotionally, lashing out at my own distraught emotions, that they didn't have much to do with me for months. Isolation and heartbreak was enough to kill me this time; and it almost succeeded.
More recently I've been granted the serenity of being in the presence of Emily's family again, as well as my own. I cut all my other losses. And I'm still trying to get through every day as peacefully as I can. There are still many unspoken feelings and thoughts, so much heartache with every waking moment, and so many tears shed at the beautiful sight of memories made visual.
Each day feels like a chore, when before it was an opportunity awaiting. There's nothing more troubling than wishing to trade a beautiful angel’s place so others would hurt less.
My name is Samantha. I'm told that I'm a 'victim' of a tragedy. But every time my eyes open upon my wake, I don't feel like a victim. I feel like a lost, wandering soul, questioning my own existence. And if that's not pain and suffering....
Samantha Gaylor is a volunteer at the Kansas DUI Impact Center in Wichita