• Six Years on the Road to End Distracted Driving

    By TextLess Live More | Posted Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Grief and Recovery When Faced with Radical Loss

A mother shares what she's learned in the aftermath of losing a daughter to distracted driving. And why advocacy matters.

It’s true what everyone says that losing a child is losing your heart.

It’s true that life stops – literally – the second you hear the unimaginable words from a brain surgeon, doing her best to be unemotional, while standing outside a trauma hospital room door, where inside your first born is calmly breathing – on life support.

“There is no hope. I’m so, so, so very sorry.”

It’s true that you muster whatever courage, strength, sinew, fiber, energy, grit and belly-crawling, knee-walking, abject faith of the ancestors to walk back into that same hospital trauma room to sit calmly by your first-born’s side, to hold her hand and wait. Simply wait. And pray. And breathe. And whisper. Until.

Until.

Until your husband arrives from Boston with your sixteen year old daughter and  thirteen year old son so together the four of you can kiss Merritt – your daughter, sister and hope – your past and your future – your collective life as you’ve known it – kiss her and ALL of it goodbye. Right then. Right there. Forever.

An earth-shattering goodbye you expect to say to your grandparents in their nineties. Not to your vibrant, beautiful 18 year old daughter on a breathing tube.

When we talk to people around the country about TextLess Live More and the realities of preventable loss due to distracted driving, we talk about that very goodbye, the one no parent expects, no sister or brother deserves, no best friend should have to say only three weeks after the joyful celebration of a high school graduation.

But every single one of her adoring family members and many, many friends said good bye six years ago on July 3, 2013 when Lee Merritt Levitan died in a Memphis hospital from traumatic brain injury caused by a young driver who was texting behind-the-wheel. A cloudless blue-skied, perfect summer afternoon, one day before the 4th of July.

Now, I simply don’t say good bye.

Never, ever, ever.

Not to my husband Rich.

Not to our daughter Hunter and son Joe.

Not to my parents Judy and Ed.

Not to Rich’s parents Ralph and Phyllis.

Not to our family, friends or colleagues whom I cherish.

Not to Merritt’s many, many friends who still cry. Who still care. Who still miss her – everyday.

Those two words simply won’t come out of my mouth in the aftermath of losing Merritt.

Six years into grief recovery, a slow and winding, unending road with unknown curves, unpredictable stops, unintentional stall outs, and glimpses of rainbows ahead in the distance, there is too much for me to do. Because there is a lot I MUST do – we all must do together – so no parent, sister, brother or friend has to say good bye and travel down my grief road.

They say trauma lodges forever in our cells. Yes, I can attest to that. The trauma of July 3 has become a part of my family’s DNA. It’s there, waiting, watching, being still. And while it sometimes slips out and takes us back to our moment of profound loss and unfathomable grief, we don’t have to let trauma end us, as it ended Merritt.

We have to end distracted driving.

We have to do it right now in all fifty states. We have to take phones out of people’s hands when they drive. We have to educate and advocate. We have to tell people Merritt’s story. We have to TextLess to Live More.

Tomorrow, July 3, is National TextLess Live More Day and my family and I will turn off our phones to be present with one another. To be joyful with one another. To honor Merritt, her humor, vitality and enthusiasm for life.

To Live More.

Thank you for not driving distracted. Thank you for sharing Merritt’s story. Thank you for not saying goodbye to the work that must be done.

With love and appreciation,

Anna Cheshire Levitan