“Things We Don’t Often Speak About.”

It’s quite an intricate process, indeed.

There are things we don’t often speak openly about. Our darkest times. Times when we are not beautiful or lovable. The mistakes that we’ve made, the times when we’ve lost our way, forgotten our true selves, and the moments we most certainly are not proud of ourselves for.

There comes a point in every person’s journey where, if you truly want to grow into a better, stronger version of yourself, you have got to stop lying and denying. You have got to be completely open and honest with yourself. You have got to acknowledge the role you’ve played in your own suffering – and you have got to get out of your own way.

I finally reached this point for myself a little over a year ago, and I’m finally ready to share a few of those details with you now.

You see, the past five years of my life have been tumultuous, to say the least. Losing both of my parents so suddenly and unexpectedly threw me into a loop unlike any I’d ever experienced before. For three straight weeks, I consumed little more than coffee, whiskey, and water. I was shaken to my very core, but I refused to adequately acknowledge it.

A few weeks later, we received the news that the man driving the commercial vehicle that struck and killed our parents had tested positive for cocaine at the time of the incident. He was subsequently charged with D.W.I. and was set to appear before the judge six months later. The news of this finding struck a nerve with me. You see, in all the chaos of that very first day, when we received notification of the accident and our parents deaths, my first instinct was to reach out to the other driver and to make sure that he was okay. I was advised by the Ohio State Trooper not to do so, and it haunted me that I had listened. As if losing my own family wasn’t enough, I was also self-inflicting guilt upon myself for not checking in on the wellbeing of the other person involved. Yet, in this moment, as the proverbial smoke was clearing and the details of the actual incident were being made known, the burning flames of anger and indignation began to take hold inside my heart. To think that I had ever felt sorry for this man! From this moment forward, I became more and more invested in the case. I began to stalk this man, his family, and his business through social media accounts and pubic records.

I have never felt so invisible, or completely disregarded, as I did that day in court, as my sister and I sat quietly, unable to speak. The Assistant District Attorney not only arrived late, but also, disheveled, wearing sunglasses, and slurping on a Starbucks iced coffee. Our case was the first to be called, and this A.D.A. immediately moved to dismiss the case of the man who drove the truck that collided with and killed our parents, despite the discovery of that perfectly acquired positive drug test.

“Your Honor, the Hudson’s vehicle made a left turn, across traffic, directly into the path of the defendant’s truck.”, he said. “The defendant has subsequently provided his own negative drug test to counteract the initial drug panel that was taken. It is not worth the court’s time or money to pursue this case any further.”

Whose side was he on??? Was it not his job to defend the truth, on behalf of our deceased parents, and the by-the-book operational procedures of his very own Ohio State Troopers at the scene of this accident?

We had entered the courtroom at 9am. We were walking out and getting in our personal vehicles at 9:09am. I was heartbroken… and livid – hot tears stinging my eyes, threatening to pour down my face. I tried to remain calm when speaking with our attorney. I told him that this wasn’t right. I asked him what more could we do? My sister and I made the decision that day to open up a civil case in order to preserve the drug tests and freeze all evidence involved in the case. We issued a subpoena and obtained all of the details regarding both drug tests, chain of command, as well as, every minute detail of the vehicles and the collision itself. Unbeknownst to us, the defendant and his family’s business were in the process of making large monetary donations to the emergency and public service agencies involved in this case, as well as, the general area.

Over the course of the next year and a half, the symptoms of PTSD stemming from my life’s personal and professional experiences, as well as this ongoing investigation and pending civil trial began to intensify, forcing me to make a conscious life change. I “retired” from my E.M.S. career just shy of 20 years working in the field. I chose to walk away from my professional passion as a Paramedic and opted to begin a new career in a stable environment with a group of spiritually enlightened individuals focused on higher levels of consciousness and individual personal growth. From that point on, things began to get better… but I was still far from living “happily ever after”.

I not only found myself adapting to a major professional transition, but also a drastic personal shift in my social circle as well. I began to drift away from the people and friends that I’d spent my E.M.S. years with and, in turn, began to develop new and meaningful relationships with an entirely different group of individuals. It was, equal parts, exciting and overwhelming – and, in times when I needed deep emotional support, incredibly lonely. No longer comfortable turning back to the familiarity of my former friends, I found that I was also not comfortable enough to lean upon my newfound friends in such a vulnerable way. For a time, I didn’t feel safe in anyone’s company. I felt stuck, isolated, and very alone.

Meetings and phone calls with our attorneys continued every week for the next three years. We were all in on this case, reliving and re-enacting every second of every minute, leading up to and including the moment of impact, as well as, tracing the steps of the defendant and the Ohio State Police in the hours after.

The defense tried, multiple times, to have the drug test evidence withheld from the case. Time and time again, the judge overruled their motion, stating that “the jury has the right to decide”, which gave me great confidence that the truth would finally be heard in its entirety.

Nearly three years after the actual incident, in August of 2020, the case finally went to trial. We had a difficult time selecting the jury – too many people knew this man, his family, and his company. A few of them had actually worked for him. Once the jury was secured, we spent nearly two weeks in that courtroom, as expert after expert testified to the details with which we had discovered. When we arrived at the point of addressing the results and details of each drug sample, the defense (again) moved to have the information withheld. This time, the Judge called for a recess. He dismissed the jury and, now, decided to withhold this evidence from the court. My heart sank. We’d come so far, had discovered so much, and were still being silenced and told that “it didn’t matter.”

On the final day of prosecution, I took the stand. My voice was shaking and it felt so hard to breathe. I answered the questions prepared by my attorneys, but my heart was screaming inside. I wanted so badly to get off of this grid – to skip the script and speak freely instead. I wanted to look at that jury and tell them the truth. That we did not come here in search of a million dollar settlement, nor did we wish any ill will for the defendant or his family. We simply wanted the truth to be heard. More than anything, I wanted this man to simply acknowledge his own mistake – but, time and time again, in the pre-trial interviews, he refused to ever do so. Therefore, we went to trial. Because right is right and wrong is wrong, and what point is there in having laws if we are not going to hold people accountable for obeying them? The incident on trial was, indeed, an accident. The man on trial did not personally know my parents. He did not intend to hurt them, or kill them, that day. But he did test positive for cocaine. He was driving that commercial vehicle way too fast. The antilock brake system had not been maintained and was not operational at the time of the accident. Had he actually performed a pre-shift truck check before starting his shift that morning, as he is required to, he would have realized that this particular vehicle should not have even been out on the road that day. And, while under the influence of drugs, his response time was most certainly impaired. He did not apply those brakes until the exact moment of impact, and he made no attempt to swerve.

The defendant, himself, took the stand. He refused to make eye contact with me or even look in my direction. When our attorney presented a photo of my parents and the wreckage which used to be their car, he squeezed his eyes shut like a child and refused to acknowledge either image.

It’s one thing to come to terms with such a tragic incident… it’s a completely different ball game when you’re trying to forgive a man who very publicly behaves like this, and refuses to simply admit that he was wrong.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours. Without the critical drug evidence being revealed to them, what more did they have to go on than that it was simply a tragic accident, and that we were picking apart details in an attempt to create a case? I can not blame them. But I do blame the Judge, and the court system, as a whole, for standing in the way of actual JUSTICE that day.

Once again, I found myself getting into my car for the 2-hour drive back home, feeling like the truth just doesn’t even matter – like my parents lives just don’t even matter, and I had wasted the past three years of my own life fighting for a truth that was never going to be heard or allowed to be seen. It’s a whole new level of low that I wouldn’t wish upon the devil himself to ever have to feel.

A few weeks after the case was decided, we received a phone call from our attorneys. The review of the case revealed that the Judge’s decision to withhold the drug evidence was confirmed to be “unlawful”. We now had to decide whether we wished to appeal the case for further review, and begin the entire process again? We had two weeks to decide.

In the time since the trial, my sister and I had the opportunity to allow the failure of the court to sink in. We were no longer writhing in pain over this loss. In fact, we were already beginning to heal. There’s a gentle sense of calm that envelops you when the heat of the battle is no longer bearing down upon you. When you’re no longer forced to look at the photos, or replay the videos, or re-hash every play by play detail of an incident that took a piece of your soul right along with it, you slowly, almost imperceptibly, begin to heal.

We did notice more money being “donated” by this particular person, his family and his business, as such donations are recorded on public record. And, while we can not prove that any illegal deals had been made, these repeated monetary transactions have made me even more suspicious of the probable corruption to be found in this particular political court system. We decided that any additional time taken from our own lives was no longer worth the sacrifice, considering the odds which we would be facing. We decided to nurture our own inner peace, rather than continuing to fight this seemingly never ending external war. We made the difficult decision not to pursue the case any further.

In the months and years leading up to the trial, I had been drinking quite a bit. Not every day, not always in excess, and never when I was alone – but often enough for me to know that it had become a crutch. It was the only way that I could find to relax enough to allow my emotions to show. It was the only way, outside of a few personal one-on-one conversations with a close friend, my husband, or my private, in-person sessions with my therapist, that I could allow my tears of sadness and grief to flow. But now there was anger too – anger and regret, over the opportunity I’d had inside that courtroom. The opportunity to say everything I ever really wanted to say. The opportunity that I’d had, but was too afraid to take advantage of.

That particular courtroom scene is one that has played over and over again inside my mind, disrupting my thoughts on many nights, as I have tried to fall asleep. If I could go back in time and change just one moment, this (most likely) would be it. Probably, it doesn’t even matter. It, most likely, would not change a thing. It wouldn’t, miraculously, alter the opinion of the jury or change the outcome of the case. But it would help my heart to heal, knowing that I had fully spoken my truth and had done my absolute best to make them understand.

Throughout this entire ordeal, and especially in the months that followed, I did my best to return to “normal” life. I ran marathons and PR’d several races. I planned “adventures”, immersing myself in experience after experience with my friends, as well as, my husband – none, of which, are bad per se… but all of these things were simply distractions that I was using in order to avoid facing the actual depths of my own depression.

I had lost faith in our world and the “powers that be”. I lost hope that things would always work out, that justice would prevail, and that life would always be fair. I lost touch with what was real, and meaningful, and right here in front of me, as I stared into the proverbial abyss and wondered what it’s all even for?

I began to distract myself with adrenaline inducing activities and fill my time with alcohol based adventures. By the spring of 2021, I was enrolled in the Advanced Free Fall program, learning to skydive solo and attempting to earn my license. I put myself out there under the preface of wanting to learn how to fly… when, in reality, I was preparing to (someday) let myself fall.

It’s funny how the Universe just sits back and patiently allows things to play out. I was up there jumping, recklessly testing fate with my own inexperience and conscious incompetence, while using the enormity of the experience to process through a plethora of pent up emotions. Sometimes, I believe, it takes facing death to make you realize how much you really want to live. By the time I realized this, it was all over for me. My moment of clarity came just moments before the crash.

It’s actually quite funny, when you think about it. Human beings are the only species that knows of its own mortality and, I’ve got to say, we do a pretty good job of dealing with this fact – or at least distracting ourselves from ever actually thinking about it. When time or unforeseen occurrence forces us to face this harsh reality, we use alcohol, drugs, sex, food, work, gambling, exercise, extreme sports, or whatever else we care enough to obsess about in order to distract us from our own existential dread. But overcompensating for the fragility of our lives in any manner is like placing a bandaid on a bullet hole. It might, for the time being, and to the naked eye, cover the issue, temporarily distracting us from the damage – but it simply doesn’t fix the underlying problem. The gaping wound beneath the bandaid is still there. It’s real, it’s raw, and, without the proper attention being given, it’s steadily going to worsen over time.

The truth is, I was out of control. But, through the chaos of jumping out of an airplane at 14,000’ with gravity rapidly pulling my body back to this Earth at 100+ mph, I was learning to control the one and only thing that we ever really can in this Life – I was learning to control myself.

After just 15 solo jumps, my time in the sky was, most certainly, cut way too short. I’d be lying if I said the thought of never jumping out into that big blue sky again doesn’t make me sad, but it is now a necessary fact – one that forces me to channel my energy and focus on all the people and all the things that matter most in my life, right here, right now, on this great, green Earth.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

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