by Sandy Olmsted -Mom
The day was August 6, 1997. A bouquet of flowers had been delivered to the maternity ward a Palos Hospital. Each new mom, on that day, was to receive a flower with the "remembrance card" I had made and carefully attached with a purple ribbon to the stems...my gift to Erin. I headed to the cemetery where I replaced the flowers in the vases on her headstone, trimmed the grass and straightened up, as I did this the tears fall, with all the memories of the days and years we had together.
That day would have been Erin's 18th birthday. Most people acknowledge their children's "special day" with a card or gift...a phone call...dinner or maybe even a party. That is what we SHOULD have been doing. Instead, I think about the life we SHOULD be having...what we SHOULD be doing today. We should be celebrating with dinner or a party...with her boyfriend or maybe even a husband. Children? Most of Erin's friends are married and have children. My heart breaks each time I think of the children that will never be born. Our oldest daughter, over the past 26 years, became our youngest child.
I can still see as clearly as if it were yesterday, the look on Erin's face the evening we celebrated her 17th birthday. We were in Arizona on a family vacation. At dinner, we toasted her and sang the traditional Happy Birthday Song. She had a huge smile on her face and said "NEXT year, I'll be 18!" Little did any of us know that we would never celebrate another birthday with Erin. Erin died 5 months short of the birthday, she thought, would mark the beginning of her journey into adulthood. On March 2, 1997, not only was Erin's life cut short and that journey never taken, but I feel that we began a journey of our own -- serving a life sentence for something we had no control over...all because someone ELSE chose to drive drunk.
Life goes on. We've all heard it and we all know it to be true, but unless you've "been there, " you couldn't possibly EVER imagine just how difficult it is for...just that...life to go on. The challenges that each day brings, the milestone events in our family, everything has a level of sadness that prevents us from being totally happy. There is a hole in our hearts that will never be filled, an emptiness in our lives that can never be restored.
As I left the cemetery, I kissed Erin's picture, told her I loved her and miss her...and, as the tears fell, silently whispered...Happy Birthday, Honey.
That birthday was 26 years ago. I no longer send flowers to the hospital where Erin was born, but I still think of that day we celebrated her 17th birthday in Arizona. The look on her face. Such anticipation for the future. She couldn’t wait to graduate and begin her new life as a college student, getting ready for the life she envisioned………..a job she loved and a family
she loved even more. I think back on the dreams we talked about during our Mom/Daughter chats. I watch the sister and brother she loved so much living their adult lives and think “Erin should be part of all this. She should be part of all the joy and love they are experiencing and sharing in their lives. It’s heartbreaking that she is not.
So on this day, August 6, 2023, all I can say is HAPPY 44TH BIRTHDAY, ERIN! Your family misses you more than you could ever have imagined.
In Memory of Erin E. Olmsted