ďLord,Ē Diana prayed, ďHere I am again. God help me, itís another day. Help me get through it. Give me joy when I want to weep. Give me thankfulness when I despair. Give me strength when I want to give up. Give me an appreciation for what I have. Help me not to dwell on what Iíve lost. Iím so tired. Iím clinging to your promise of rest. Youíre all I have. Iím counting on that being enough.Ē
Diana stood with determined effort. She thought only about what she needed to do in the next moment. She knew if she thought beyond each step her resolve would crumble, her legs would buckle, and she would sink, weak with grief, back into bed. Each of the last thirty days had started that way. It had to be different today. The trial was today.
"A jury of my peers is going to tell me what I already know," she thought. "I killed my daughter." A sob escaped and she gripped the handle of her cane to steady herself. ďDonít think about it right now, not now,Ē she said out loud in an attempt to direct her thoughts away from the horror that was now her constant companion.
But she did not have the strength to resist the memory. The events of that day played like an old movie reel over and over in her head. The individual frames clicked past in agonizing slow motion leaving her gasping for breath.
The day had been uncharacteristically warm and sunny for mid-March. It was a perfect day for lunch in the park with her daughter. They loaded the car and headed out. Diana glanced in her rearview mirror. Sarah was looking out the window singing softly to herself. Diana smiled wistfully. She wanted to capture this moment and hide it in her heart. Things would change next year when Sarah entered kindergarten. Diana would have to share more and more of her daughter with the world.
As she drove, they sang their favorite song, taking turns on the chorus. The song ended with the words, "I love you!" Sarah always yelled them while pointing to her mother. Diana's response was, "No, I love YOU!" Back and forth they went until Sarah collapsed in laughter.
Diana looked at her daughter and said, "You're my best girl."
"Mommy, I'm your only girl." Sarah said.
"You're still the best," Diana said just as her cellphone chirped the text message alert. She picked up her phone to glance at the screen. It happened so quickly. Diana heard Sarah screaming as the cell phone flew out of her hand. She looked up and saw the tree. Desperately, she stomped on the brakes with all her strength.
Diana woke up hours later, dimly aware of her surroundings. She heard voices that sounded very far away and she struggled to open her eyes. She saw the doctors huddled together.
"Sarah?" she asked plaintively, her voice a whisper.
And that's when her nightmare began.
The jarring sound of the doorbell brought Diana crashing back to the present. Back to the world where, on a beautiful joy-filled day, she had lost control of her car and smashed into a tree, killing her daughter. In the month that followed, she was evaluated by neurologists and psychologists, interrogated by police, had surgery to repair a broken leg, and went home to find her husband had left her. She had crawled into bed, longing to die, and felt herself descend into madness.
A rotating group of family and friends made sure she was never alone. They held her, cried with her, fed her, and prayed with her. She lived second by second, then minute by minute until slowly and painfully, her fractured spirit began to mend.
The doorbell rang again. It was time to go. Today, both sides would plead their case, the prosecutor charging involuntary manslaughter and the defense claiming a tragic accident. The events would be replayed in vivid detail. She would sit in silence while her actions and her character were examined and judged. The verdict didnít matter. Diana would bear the guilt every second of every day for the rest of her life. With Godís grace she would endure. Diana closed her eyes, took a deep breath, steadied herself and took the first step.
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