I’m incredibly honored to be asked to share my story in a space where so many incredible people have been brave enough to open up about the immense and unjust suffering they have endured. I must preface up front that I am not one of those people. While I have experienced a fair amount of loss in my 35 years of life, I am not someone who is a victim of unjust suffering - I am the person who has caused it.
His name was Will and it was a seemingly ordinary Monday night in Los Angeles when our worlds and cars collided. I’ll never know if things would be different if I wasn’t paying attention to my phone. If I hadn’t had that wine with dinner. If they had only pulled their car out of the active lane of traffic when they ran out of gas…
I found out that night while in custody that he didn’t make it. My whole world crumbled. He was the same age as me. He had a family that loved him immensely. From what I have learned about him, he was an incredibly talented and vibrant individual that people loved. And it was because of me that he was gone.
I had taken a life.
I didn’t think I could ever be capable of such a thing. I cared about people. I loved Jesus. I was a pastor’s daughter…
The years following my accident were unlike anything I ever thought I would be capable of enduring. As I dealt with grieving and processing the reality that I had taken a life, I was also out on bail facing a potential life sentence in prison. In addition, it was in those challenging months prior to my incarceration that my Dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Ironically, the same deadly kind of brain tumor that had taken my mom when I was 17. It was Christmas Day at Chowchilla, my first Christmas in prison away from my family when I found out my Dadda had gone to be with Jesus.
Yet even in the midst of the darkest of moments, God’s light could not be contained. In the depths of despair, He brought radical hope and illogical joy. In my most undeserving of moments, God’s hand of faithfulness, grace and mercy covered me undeniably.
If I ever questioned that God has a sense of humor, I became a fire fighter while in the big house (which was a pretty major career diversion for a girl that has worked in fashion her whole life!). It was this incredible answer to prayer that allowed me to serve most of my time at a women’s fire camp in Malibu, close to my family and friends.
Today I am free, something I do not take for granted. I’m free in body as I’m no longer a ward of the state. I’m free in spirit because of the power of the Cross. Yet my life is forever intertwined with a man that I do not know, but who I will always hold close to my heart. I wear a Giving Key with the inscription “I Will” as a reminder of His life. I Will seek to honor Will’s life. I Will live with purpose and intention. I Will surrender my hopes and dreams for my life to God’s greater plan. I Will share our story.