The problem with drinking and driving is the mourning after - ANONYMOUS

Not too far from where I'm writing this article this morning there's a roadside billboard with the photo of a very vibrant smiling teen, 17-year-old Emily Watts.

Five years ago this coming week, on Sept. 10, Emily lost in her life in a tragic car accident after the vehicle she was in was hit from behind by another car driven by a 28-year-old female who was critically impaired through alcohol. The billboard says "REMEMBER EMILY," followed by the ominous yet often ignored warning, "DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE."

It is estimated by MADD, 'Mothers Against Drunk Driving', that somewhere between 1,250 and 1,500 people lose their lives in Canada each year through impairment related deaths. According to the agency, that equates to somewhere between 3.4 - 4.1 deaths each day. Add to that a conservative estimate of 63,821 people who are injured each year as a result of car accidents where alcohol was involved and you have a fairly grim picture of the repercussions of drinking and driving.

In Emily's case it would be fair to say that the impaired driver of the other car was literally 'blind drunk.' It was many years ago, prior to becoming a pastor, that I was working as a gasfitter in downtown Toronto in the district known as Chinatown. Driving a company van around the city in the early hours of the morning during winter, dealing with emergencies, I received a call over the two-way radio to go to a home that had no heat. Arriving at the front door I found it open, and when I knocked and shouted "gas company" a voiced responded from the downstairs basement, "C'mon down!"

Descending the stairs with my tool-kit in hand, and arriving at the bottom, I found myself looking into the face of a gentleman about my height about 25 feet away from me in the dimly lit basement. Before I could say another word, out of the blue, he said, "Now let me see, you're about six foot two, and I would say, weigh about 155 pounds."

"You're right on the nose," I responded. "That's exactly what I am!"

Then there came an added statement that literally floored me. "What would you say," said the gentleman, "if I told you that I was blind?"

Sure enough, as I came closer to my new-found friend, and looked into his eyes, I could see that indeed, he was blind. Dumbfounded I asked with a stutter of amazement, "So eh, how did you know my exact height and weight?"

"I've been blind for so long," he responded, "and have been working down in this basement for years so that my hearing capacity has improved tremendously. I'm able to tell by the sound of your footsteps on the descending stair, your weight, and when I speak to you face to face I'm able to tell by the voice waves as they hit me, your height. Most times with people who come down here, I can get it right on."

His words silenced me as I stood there in the early hours of the morning, in awe. "If you don't mind me asking," I said, "when did you become blind?"

"It's a long story," said my friend, "but I used to be a pitcher with the old Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team, a triple A franchise," he began. His story went on. He was an aspiring young pitcher, like every young guy he had an eye on the big time, the major leagues, and one day a scout from a professional baseball team came to check him out. He was struttin' his stuff on the mound, fast balls, sinkers, knuckle balls, and that day in Toronto the scout for the major league franchise signed him on for the upcoming spring training camp. He was in seventh heaven. Needless to say, it called for a celebration, and that night he and the boys got together for a party, and wasn't it a party! The booze flowed 'till late on until they ran out, and then someone suggested that they would go and get more from the 'back alley bootlegger.' Sure enough, sometime later the messenger returned with more of the stuff. One-hundred proof whisky contains 50 per cent alcohol, but this stuff from the bootlegger had far more alcohol than that, and it had a kick like a pack of mules. It was some kind of party, and in the morning when my friend awoke with about as big a hangover as he had ever had and tried to open his eyes, he discovered to his absolute horror that he was as blind as a bat! He would never see again! There would be no more struttin' his stuff on the mound, no more fast balls, no more sinkers, no more strike-outs. His dreams and big league aspirations drowned that night in the sea of raw alcohol!

I never saw my friend again. I fixed his furnace and I left his basement that morning in Chinatown, saying "take care my friend," and walked upstairs, with each step remembering the words..."Now let me're about 155 pounds!" That day 'blind drunk' took on a whole new meaning. His self-inflicted tragedy harmed no one but himself, but that is hardly the case for those who get behind the wheel 'blind drunk' and cause incredible heartbreaking carnage.

"The problem with drinking and driving," said some anonymous writer, "is the 'mourning' after!" To the family and friends of young Emily, in these days prior to the anniversary of her passing, we extend our heartfelt sympathy and pray that God will hold you in His strong mighty hands, and sustain you during these days of remembrance.

Rev. Eric Strachan is the pastor of New Life Community Church in Petawawa

Source: The Daily Observer



Last updated on: 2014-09-07 | Link to this post