HEALING THE GRIEVING HEART
Drunk Driving: Forgiveness with Prevention
Host: Dr. Gloria Horsley
With guest: Lt. Carl McDonald
May 18, 2006
G: Hello. I’m Dr. Gloria Horsley. Welcome to Healing the Grieving Heart, the show of hope and renewal for those who have suffered the loss of a child. Today, I’m on with my co-host, Dr. Heidi Horsley. Hi, Heidi.
H: Hi, Mom.
G: I’m in New York and Heidi’s in New York but we’re at different locations today and our guest is in – where are you, Carl?
C: I am in Dallas, beautiful Irving, Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.
G: Okay, and we’ll be introducing him in a minute. First, though, Heidi, we got an email regarding last week’s show. Last week, Rick Yotti was on our show and we did a show called Parents With No Surviving Children. Rick had two children die of a rare neuromuscular disease, and we got an email regarding that show from Mary from Newport, Rhode Island. Mary says:
I was very interested in hearing Rick Yotti talk about being a parent without children. He and his wife showed such courage, however, one thing struck me when Rick said that as he got older, one of the things he would miss is not having children to take care of him. It is a nice thought that children will take care of you in your old age, but it does not always happen. My daughter died of cancer four years ago at age 19. I am divorced and have a married son, 35. He lives 2,000 miles away from me and I am lucky if I hear from him on my birthday. He is very close to his wife’s family, and I do try to visit once a year. I think that if my daughter had lived, we would have stayed close, but you never know. I think you have to take life as it comes. I’m sure Rick still knows a lot more about it than I do. Thanks so much for your show. I love the way it makes me look at all aspects of my life. Mary.
H: Thank you, Mary. You know what’s interesting about that email, Mom, is that after the show last week, if you remember, you and I talked about this. We said that I live in New York City and my mom lives in San Francisco and we live 3,000 miles away so we don’t even see each other as much as we’d like to and, like Mary points out, you don’t know if your kids are going to, even if they’re living, you’re not sure if they’re going to be there and be able to help you in your old age.
G: Absolutely, you never know. Well, we want to tell you that our show is pre-recorded today so you’re not going to be able to call in, unfortunately, but please keep sending us your emails. Mary, we really enjoyed your email, and Mary did tell us where she’s from, and that’s one of the things we’d like you to do is to tell us where you’re from when you send an email. We want to remind you that this show is archived on our website www.healingthegrievingheart.org as well as www.thecompassionatefriends.org website and that you can download it seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and Heidi and I have also produced a new demonstration CD of some of our shows. We have four spots, seven minutes a show, and those are free, and if you would like one, you can call The Compassionate Friends at 877-969-0010, that’s a toll-free number, and get one of our demonstration CDs. I also want to remind you that this show is sponsored by The Compassionate Friends and also The Library of Life. With the Library you can do a website either a memorial or a celebration website for your loved one and for $55 a lifetime.
H: Once you pay the $55, your website is up forever.
G: Forever. And you can go on our website and we have one for Scott. Go to Library of Life and you can go directly to them or you can go to our www.healingthegrievingheart.org and hit on Library of Life for that website. Please do that and you can also download these shows to your Ipod, which is a great thing. Heidi, do you want to introduce our guest today? We have a guest on today who is a good friend of both Heidi and mine and we’ll get into that a little later on in the show.
H: I’d love to introduce him. Okay, our topic today is Drunk Driving: Forgiveness with Prevention, and our guest is Lieutenant Carl McDonald. Lieutenant Carl McDonald has had a twenty-year career with the Wyoming Highway Patrol. Carl was the recipient of the distinguished service medal and numerous director’s commendations. Carl has recently retired from the patrol in order to accept a position as the National Law Enforcement Initiative Coordinator with MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving. In January 1998, Lieutenant McDonald’s five-year old daughter, Carlie, was tragically killed in a drunk-driving collision near Green River, Wyoming. It was especially painful for Carl as his ex-wife was the driver of the car. In the aftermath of this horror, Lieutenant McDonald put his energies into a heart-rending public service announcement about this catastrophic event. The work on the public service announcement led into an award-winning 20-minute documentary about the crash called, “Carl and Carlie’s Story. We have to make it stop.” Lieutenant McDonald continues his work and shares his heart in honor and memory of his precious daughter, Carlie. Welcome to the show, Carl.
C: Thank you, Heidi. Good morning, Gloria.
G: Hey, Carl, it’s great to talk to you, great to have you on. Well, Carl, Heidi and I have known you what, for about four years now?
C: Yes, probably four to five.
G: Four to five years, and we get together at Compassionate Friends, and Carl does the professional day and Heidi and I do that. As in the past, you’re not going to be able to join us this year, unfortunately, or fortunately for you, you’ve got an interesting new job. But we’ve gotten together and Carl has been the first responder, which we want to talk about a bit, too. Carl, so Heidi and I have never really heard your story completely, and we would love to figure out how to watch this tape sometime.
H: I’d love to get a copy of that tape.
C: Yeah, I can get you a copy of that, Heidi. That’s not a problem.
G: Because Heidi teaches on grief and loss at Columbia that she’d love to have that for.
H: Now, Carl, what about our listeners? If they wanted to get a copy of that, how would they do that?
C: They are still available through the Wyoming Department of Transportation. Their website is fairly lengthy and convoluted so if you google the Wyoming Department of Transportation, you will find links to their home page and then contact numbers are there.
G: And the name of that is, again, “Carl and Carlie’s Story. We have to make it stop.” Carl could you tell us about the whole event in your life and we’ll get on to what’s happened to you now but that early experience. You were a highway patrolman?
C: Yes. I had a career going in law enforcement at the time. I was divorced from my ex-wife and I had sole custody of my five-year-old daughter, Carlie. It was kind of a difficult path in the divorce because I found out in this relationship that my wife had an addiction to alcohol. I took some steps to get her treatment and she declined so I pulled out the only option left and that was to try to remove my daughter from the situation. I had great concerns about this so a divorce ensued. Ultimately, my ex-wife forfeited parenting for this child in order to keep drinking. That’s how deep the addiction was at that point.
G: And how old was Carlie?
C: She was five years old. She was only two-and-a-half-years old when the divorce was finalized. That’s just a horrible deal but I was trying to make the best of it. There was a period of time when we shared custody. My ex-wife moved to Green River, Wyoming, and I was living in Rawlings, Wyoming. I was the division supervisor for 14 troopers over there. I was a sergeant at the time and there came a time in the visitation schedule where less and less contact was had with my daughter, which is a pretty sad thing to watch, and what was taking place behind the scenes was that this addiction was getting a little bit worse, very much worse, and Susan had neglected her visitations. There came a point around the Christmas holidays where she finally called and asked for my daughter on a visitation and I granted that. Although I was concerned about her safety, I was under the orders of a court to allow visitation and to encourage visitation and I was trying to be a citizen and so my daughter went off for a Christmas-time visit with her shortly after Christmas. On January 2, she was due back at my home in Rawlins, Wyoming. On the evening of January 1 at 6:30 p.m., my ex-wife was driving a car with a very high blood alcohol content, .22%.
G: And what’s the legal?
C: Legal at the time in Wyoming was .10. It is now universally in the contrary at .08 so that would have been almost three times the legal limit of what we have today. This is a level of intoxication where most people have blackout experiences, where they forget things that took place. The collision that resulted from her driving in this condition was severe to say the least. She was driving from one town to the next, a distance of 12 miles, and she got onto an entrance ramp of Interstate 80. On that ramp ahead of her was a slow moving tractor-trailer. He had his four-way flashers operating and he was looking for a place to pull over running about 20 miles an hour. Susan’s car overtook this tractor-trailer at a speed of about 75 miles per hour and she collided directly into the back end of this trailer. The right front side of the car was involved in the collision. It was a severe collision and the right front seat was an unsurvivable place in the car and that’s where my daughter was seated. She was in that seat. She was seat-belted in. There was an unused booster in the back seat. And at the age of five, she should have been in the booster. She should have been in the back seat.
G: It wasn’t even legal for her to be in the front, right?
C: At the time it was not against the law, no.
G: Now it is, isn’t it?
C: Yes. It is now, and it was certainly well advertised that we put our children in the back seat and use boosters until the age of eight or nine years old. So to sum the whole thing up as a state trooper, this was the fabric of a nightmare.
H: It’s so ironic that you were a state trooper and this is how your daughter died.
C: Yes. It was just a horrible experience.
G: Now how did you find out? You were how far away from the accident?
C: I lived 100 miles away and it was New Year’s Day. I had the day off and I was in a small town called Saratoga, about 45 miles away from home. I had to keep 24-hour-a-day contact with my dispatch center because of my job duties and in that particular area where I was, I phoned in first and told them I’d be in Saratoga where there’s limited cell phone coverage at the time, and I told them that. The crash took place at 6:30 and I phoned in again at 8:00 pm and told them I was on my way home. It was one of those experiences that bereaved parents unfortunately have. When I phoned in, I asked is everything quiet. She said, yes. She said, where are you? Which is a strange question. I said well I’m just outside of my house. I’m coming up the street now. She said, okay, and hung up the phone. There was a state patrol car there waiting for me, which is not an unusual event because I had fourteen troopers working for me and they often had questions. The notification was one of those things that burns in our memories forever, fortunately. I remember this and will always remember this as though it just took place. The trooper came up to my window and said, there’s been a crash. There’s been a bad crash in Green River and you have to go with me right away. I was thinking at the speed of light and I hung my hopes on his words and I thought in Green River means in town. Speeds might have been slow. I have to go right away. That means my daughter’s injured but she’s probably surviving.
G: So you got in the car and went with him. We’re going to have to take a break right now and when we come back from break, Carl, we’ll pick up on this conversation. Well, Carl, when we went to break we were just hearing your really, what can I say, heart-rendering, breathtaking story about being in the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the patrolman is waiting outside your house to tell you that there’s been an accident and taking you what, 100 miles to Green River.
G: And you had no idea at that time that Carlie was dead. Did he know?
C: He did. What happened as often happens is as I described, I was hanging on every word that he said and I was thinking at the speed of light that he said that there’s been a bad crash in Green River and I have to take you there right away. What I did is I told him let me run inside, grab a bag, and we’ll go. I was physically trotting for the front door, running for the front door, and he chased me realizing, oh, my God, I’ve got a mistake going on here. He grabbed my arm outside of that front door and he said, no, he said Carlie didn’t make it, realizing that here I was with some hope in my heart, and he needed to break the news. You know, of watershed events and big moments in someone’s life, I can’t imagine anything like this for anyone to experience and many of your listeners have gone through the exact same thing.
G: Absolutely. Heidi’s gone through it as a sibling, and I’ve gone through it as a mom.
H: And like you said, you can never prepare yourself. Even though you were in the highway patrol, there’s no way to prepare yourself when you’re the one that’s receiving that kind of news about your own child.
C: No. And there’s no good way of going through that.
G: Now I know I wanted human contact. Did you feel that way?
C: Well, unfortunately, I was stuck right there. I was standing on my front porch and inside the window, I could see my mother sitting in a chair just a few feet away from me through the glass. What I wanted to do was scream and I couldn’t because I didn’t want to frighten her.
G: Oh, yeah, because I remember screaming and falling on the ground. What did you do, Heidi?
H: I was going to say the same thing, screaming and falling on the ground was pretty much the response of my father and myself and our family.
G: And you wanted to do that, yeah, Carl, but you couldn’t.
C: Right, I couldn’t, and I have often said, you know, I still somewhere in me have that scream.
H: Well, you know what’s interesting, Carl, when you say you still have that scream is that two things come to mind. One is that my uncle went up in the mountains several days, I think it was about a week after Matthew died, my cousin who was with my brother at the time, and he screamed in the mountains as loud as he could and he screamed Matthew’s name over and over and over and he could hear the echo come back and he said it was very therapeutic, so.
G: And then we had someone on the show the other day. Mitch Carmody was talking about that his father had died and he did actual primal scream therapy because his father had died and he never grieved for him when he was 15 and then his son was killed and he had to go do this scream therapy and he said it really helped him because he felt like he had a lump in his throat forever, so I hear what you’re saying, that scream.
H: Just to get out that pain and agony.
G: Tell me about your anger, Carl. As I recall when we first knew you, you had a huge amount of anger against your ex-wife Susan.
G: And she actually ended up going to prison, right?
C: Yes. Ultimately, she survived the collision and she never did plead guilty to the crime. We had an arrangement where she plead no contest on an open-ended non-agreed sentence. To make a long story short, ultimately she served fourteen months in prison. The day she was sentenced, I often think about this because there’s such an issue in the media about whether or not the victims feel vindicated when there’s a verdict out of a court, and it comes up all the time, recently with Zacharias Moussaoui. It came up with the Oklahoma City bombing and Timothy McVeigh. Regardless of what decision comes from a court, at least in my experience, there is no vindication.
G: Yes, that’s very interesting because I do a workshop on anger at The Compassionate Friends conference, and that’s what I get, too. That people come in. They’re angry. They don’t feel vindicated even when it happens, and people will be there going to court and they’ll say, we’re going to court. We’re going to get these people. And then you’ll have a couple of people there who say, we’ve done it, we went, and I don’t feel any better.
C: Yeah. Yeah. I did have the privilege of making a victim impact statement. I think that’s a wonderful thing for our courts to do but the people giving those need to know, and I was cautioned by a very wise prosecutor, that the defendant will not hear you. They will not hear a word of what you have to say because that is a horrible time in their life and their minds will not allow your words to sink in. The judge, however, will, and that’s why you’re there.
H: And you’re also doing it for yourself, aren’t you, so that you can be heard?
C: Yes, absolutely.
G: But I think that’s a good point. Lew Cox says that. He’s a victim’s advocate. I don’t know if you’ve met Lew, but he says that they don’t care. They’ll never care. Maybe it’s a little different where it was your ex-wife’s child but a stranger on the street that commits a crime will never care and never will.
C: Even in this circumstance, she never heard anything that I said, and I understand that. I’ll tell you, it was for me, and I said this in my statement to the court, that this was one of the last official acts as Carlie’s father that I would have.
G: That’s very sweet.
C: I thanked the court for the privilege of being able to do that. At the end of this because of the publicity and the heavy media involvement, they always wanted to comment on the sentencing. In terms of traffic safety and what I did for a living and those things, I had an obligation to tell the media that she was sentenced two to five years. I had an obligation to tell them a two-to-five-year sentence. What I said was that’s normally a sentence assigned to people who commit property crimes and burglaries, forgeries, and things like that. This involved the death of a child and it was insufficient; however, in my heart because the process was done and the system worked through this meat grinder of a process, I was okay with the sentence. When I walked into the whole thing, I had to tell my family on about day three after the crash that they need to expect that it was very possible she would get five years’ probation because this whole aspect of this woman has killed her own child, how can a court inflict punishment upon her that’s any worse than what she’s experiencing on her own. That presented a struggle for me.
G: So, Carl, what would you say to our folks right now who are maybe in the first year or two and a family member has been involved in the death of their child?
C: That’s a great question, and I would say that what you need to do before you do anything else is lean into the grief of your loss and put aside those things that have to do with the system first because your anger will get focused toward the system and the people involved and the investigators and whatever is going on. You may have a collision report in your hands that you don’t understand or that you don’t believe and you want to talk with somebody and hopefully, you get the chance, but don’t focus there. Focus towards your loss because that’s where your energies need to go at some point.
G: It’s kind of hard to do that really early on, though, because of the anger, isn’t it?
C: Oh, yeah. It’s basic needed work. It’s pay me now or pay me later. So as soon as you can, lean into this grief.
G: How long did it take you, Carl, to do that? Do you feel like you did it early enough?
C: Because of the process, I was tied up for about six months, and then I took some time and went away, but there was a break in the court system. There was a promise of this no contest plea and so I took a break, went away, and spent time with my own grief and my own loss.
G: It’s hard for families where these things get dragged out for years and years in the court, too, isn’t it?
G: Well, we’re coming up on break now. I’m your host, Dr. Gloria Horsley. Please stay tuned to hear more from Lieutenant Carl McDonald talking about the death of his child, Carlie, in a drunk driving accident in 1998. Please email us about the losses in your life or questions for guests that we have on the show. Give us where you live if you can along with your email. We love to read those and let our show folks know about it. You can email us through our website www.healingthegrievingheart.org and remember these shows are all archived on www.healingthegrievingheart.org. Also on www.thecompassionatefriends.org website and you can also download them on Ipod and we also now have a 21-minute demonstration CD of this show. If you’d like one of those, you can call toll free 877-969-0010 and ask for a demonstration CD of Healing the Grieving Heart. Please stay tuned for more from Dr. Gloria Horsley, Heidi, and Lieutenant Carl McDonald.
Well, Carl, tell me now. We were talking about Carlie was killed and then Susan, your ex-wife, ended up going to prison and what, on probation, too? What did she get, five years or something?
C: She ultimately served 14 months in prison and then was released with one year of supervised probation in an outtake program.
G: And one of the things that I think is really important in case our listeners didn’t listen to the last segment is what you said, I thought it was very profound, about even though you give the victim impact statement in court, that some very wise person said to you, you really can’t expect the perpetrator to hear it, right?
C: No. It’s just not going to happen that way. They’re not going to listen.
G: So you can tell our folks out there, it’s not going to happen. Someone said they wanted retribution, whatever. It’s not an easy thing to get, is it?
H: With that, I’m going to just add on to something and go back a little bit. You said that, and I heard you say that, but I’m wondering, Carl, my mom and I were struck by how much you’ve changed over the last 4-1/2 years because when we first met you, you were really, really angry, understandably so, and I could kind of feel that wall of anger around you, and over the years, it feels like you’ve been less and less angry. It’s been a gradual process. Am I right in saying that?
C: I think you’re right on the nose there.
H: I guess I was wondering for our listeners, what do you think helped you to let go of some of your anger?
C: Well, I had to do the most important work early on and stop directing my anger at the perpetrator of this because all it was doing was hurting me. Anger that resides in us is like consuming some sort of a poison into our systems in order to make the other person sick. It’s not going to happen. Necessarily, I was trying to sort this out. I’ve never been wounded by another person in anything approaching this and so that causes an injury and that healing is a process that I would say a number of people have said in the last three, four years, they’ve seen a marked improvement in me. It just takes a long time.
G: I wouldn’t say exactly improvement, Carl, because you’ve always been a great guy. No, you’re a good-looking guy, you’re a great guy. I would think more less improvement than maybe change?
C: Yeah. I spend a lot of time in what I refer to as my cave. I stayed away from people. I necessarily I had to come out of my cave and go to work but when my work was done, I was at home. I made up all kinds of excuses. People that I still work with believe that my bed time is 8:15. Not necessarily true, but I made it up so they’d believe it so they’d leave me alone and not ask me.
H: So you isolated yourself, initially.
C: Oh, absolutely.
H: And what about your siblings? Were they a support system?
C: Yes, very strongly. I’ll bet for the first two years my sister, Sally, who lives in Washington, DC. Talk about separation. I bet she called every day without fail for two years.
G: That’s wonderful.
C: Yeah. And it’s just been a long, long path.
G: Well, I think that it’s incredible. When my son was killed, I was the psychiatric nurse and consultant to the surgical service at the University of Rochester and I worked with people who were in automobile accidents and who were in the hospital for surgery and death and dying. That was my field. I did it for about a year and then I bailed out by going back to school because I really couldn’t handle it anymore. How did you handle staying in the highway patrol?
C: Well, that was not easy either. I stayed in Rawlins as a division supervisor for the next two years after the collision and the final year, I put 34 people in body bags and I finally went to my department. There was an administrative opening in Cheyenne and I went to my department and said, I think I need to cry uncle here and I’d like to apply for this administrative opening because I need a break from the road. I was out arresting drunk drivers.
G: How were you? Did you feel like you were mean?
H: Were you more punitive arresting drunk drivers?
C: You know, the people that were helpless, and many of them are that way when they’re in that condition, I was okay with, but I will tell you that there were some that were fighting me, spitting, cussing, yelling, screaming, all those things that the nasty ones do, that I had patience problems, and all the guys that worked for me knew that and I told them very much up front. I said if you hear me holler for help, please come, and it may not be that I’m in a deadly situation or anything like that, it may just simply be when you get there that I cannot control my temper and I need to walk to away from somebody, and that did happen on occasion.
G: This is really interesting because I don’t know about you, but at first when I went back to work, I really hung onto being really competent. I really wanted to show that I could do the job. Did you feel that way?
C: I wanted to but I couldn’t. It was impossible.
G: Yeah, you really felt like you want to, though. Inside you’re dying on the outside you’re showing that you’re in control.
C: Yeah, I had 14 people counting on me and probably my greatest regret is the way I probably let them down during that time. A lot of things happened that I wasn’t really there for them and that’s probably without a doubt one of my greatest regrets but none of us had a choice at the time and they were great to put up with me and support me in the way they did.
G: Well, Heidi, you were back in school so you had the same thing trying to show that you were competent.
H: Right and I was going to comment on when Carl said he wasn’t there for people. It’s so hard to be there for anyone when you’re just trying to be there for yourself and keep yourself together after something like a sudden death and something so tragic as the death of your daughter.
C: I would compare it to some sort of, at times, reptilian survival mode where I could not bring my focus outside of myself, and that’s why I was just incapable of solving some of the problems that I was supposed to solve because it didn’t amount to much in my world.
G: Isn’t that the truth. There’s then and then there’s now. So what can we all say to the people out there who are newly bereaved about your job?
C: I would say that you can stay with your work. You need to stay with your work. It is vital not to make any drastic decisions.
G: Especially the first year. Tell people what you need.
C: Lean on others. It’s perfectly fine. It’s against the rules of our culture but at this kind of time, it’s perfectly fine to say you know, I need help.
H: And even when you’re not saying that. I notice your sister kept calling you every day, which I love. She’s such a great support system and that’s what I loved, having my sisters. She kept checking in with you even though everybody else thought you were in bed at 8:15.
G: Yeah, my sisters were calling me, too. I remember once I took a sleeping pill and they called me in the middle of the night and they called my neighbor they were so worried about me. You do need to let people know you might be crying, you might have to leave, whatever it is that you need. You’ve got to take care of yourself. I think, Carl, you just made a really important point. It’s important that you don’t make any big drastic decisions the first year.
C: Oh, it’s vital.
G: Okay, we’re coming up on break again.
H: I feel strange saying you are the national law enforcement initiative coordinator for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and I guess I was just wondering if the organization ever thought about changing it to PADD—Parents Against Drunk Driving.
C: There’s been a lot of discussion about that. Our current national president is a man.
G: Oh, yeah, by the way, I had him on the show, and just for our audience, October 27 we had the show with Glynn Birch. Great guy. He tells a wonderful story and I highly recommend that you tune in to that show if you haven’t heard it.
C: There’s often comments about that but, you know, that’s a small thing.
G: MADD is such a great name.
H: It is true. It is a great name.
C: It is, and it has at this point. There was a survey done recently on a national level. 90% of the American public knows what Mothers Against Drunk Driving is.
G: Exactly. Compassionate Friends would like to get that kind of brand-name recognition. It’s fabulous.
C: It’s huge.
H: And MADD, too, also represents just being mad that your child was killed, you know.
C: Well, initially that’s how it started. What they do in at least one branch of the organization is they walk people through those tough first steps in victim support, guiding them through the legal system, being there with them when they’re going through this, and helping them with victim impact statements and things like that.
G: Well, you even train people to be public speakers, isn’t that right? It’s pretty amazing. Well, Carl, on a personal level, I want to say something about MADD. When I was thinking about what to call this topic, I was thinking drunk driving, and then I was thinking you have to make it stop. And then I thought, that’s not Carl any more. Carl is forgiveness with prevention. I really think you have a profound amount of forgiveness.
C: I’ve reached that point. I’ll tell you this. Another milestone in my walk here is that I just went through this mother’s day which was yesterday, and I don’t know how to put this delicately, but I went through the entire day without any homicidal thoughts.
H: I think that’s good for listeners to hear that having homicidal thoughts is normal as long as you don’t act on that.
C: Yeah, for years I’ve told everybody that I’m doing pretty well. I’m good with the forgiveness thing, until I go to church on mother’s day and they start talking about the beauty of motherhood and this and that and pretty soon I find myself being homicidal.
G: So yesterday was really the litmus test.
C: It was.
G: Don’t you think part of it is, I don’t know, for me there’s something that feels very symbolic about you moving from law enforcement into really, I see MADD as people being mad, but I also see it as an opportunity for service and helping people move in good direction, positive directions.
H: I would say the same thing. When we turn our anger outward into service and something like that that may be appealing.
C: As you know, my efforts meager as they might have been with Compassionate Friends, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, my opportunities, wonderful opportunity that I’ve had in my life in the wake of this tragedy to speak to people has been – it’s very healing for me.
H: And making the documentary.
C: The documentary’s been huge. Over 10,000 copies have been distributed and there’s still a demand for this thing.
G: And people can get that through the Wyoming highway department?
C: Yeah, the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
G: And I think you can probably even google it.
G: Carl, before we end the show, it’s going to be a minute, but Carl and I have something in common. We both like to golf, and I know Carl did some golfing with Carlie, right?
G: And I asked him if he would read a poem that he sent me probably four years ago that I was very touched by and you also sent me an email and I asked Heidi if she would read that.
H: Okay, would you like me to read the email first?
G: Yeah, and then we’ll have Carl do the poem for us.
H: Okay, very good. This is the email, Carl, and I hope you don’t mind if we read it.
C: Oh, that’s okay.
H: My mother just showed it to me and it was touching. I think it’s a great thing to read on the air. It says:
I am touched that you remember the poem. I printed it out and will have it with me for the show. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve read that one. The images conjured up in re-reading it today are some of the most precious I have. I was in the store room down the hall from my office earlier today. On a shelf in there is a child endangerment brochure with Carlie’s picture on it. It was one of those moments where I just stopped for a bit when no one was watching and allowed myself a moment to be with that image. I allowed myself the luxury of thinking back to the day I took that now-famous photograph. How I would trade anything for that image if the world would trade me the posters, the billboards, the footage they hold so high and just let me be a father once again.
G: Oh, that was so sweet, Carl, and that’s what been eight years?
C: Seven and a half and counting.
G: And they’re always with us. And that’s a sweet picture of her with the dog.
G: Very sweet. Carl, would you read the poem for us?
C: I will. This is regarding golf courses and the course we used to go to together. I titled it “Caddy.”
There are golf clubs in the corner
Unassembled yet as spring was far away
A golf bag awaits bright red
Wrapped in clear cellophane
Empty pockets of expecting pink flying ladies
How will it be there at our course by the river
Where the carpeted fairways guide
To the beckoning yellow flags
Where soft foot falls upon the emerald green
The sprinklers will ask for their dancer to join them
Parading rainbows with the sun
The curtain of laughter
Cascading, swaying, surging ever forward
To refresh their smallest fan.
Yellow empty buckets that the rains lay askew
Anticipating her little hands to return them for more
Red and white mints in the pro shop watching
To reward her labors
Someone will notice
They will speak without knowing
Where’s your caddy?
Will sting across the fairways.
The cottonwoods will whisper
And I will die
A little more.
G: Very dear.
H: That’s beautiful. That’s very touching.
G: I grew up playing golf with my dad so it’s very meaningful to me. Are you still playing?
C: I am. Although since I’ve retired from my one job, I’d really like to know when I’m going to get time to play.
G: Well, Carl, before we end the show, is there anything that you feel like we’ve missed that you’d like to say to those folks out there that are newly bereaved?
C: You know, my experience was one where I was knocked to my knees. I could not even get up and all I was capable of doing was leaning and leaning and then finally putting one step in front of the other. It changed me entirely. That’s to be expected. It placed me on a path that I didn’t have to worry about any more, which is a little bit of the beauty about life. At one point, I thought I was in charge. I thought I was making the decisions. I thought that I was in control, and this horrendous event took place. What I learned from it at this distance down the road is that I didn’t have to worry any more about the path I was on or the turns I would take. Just put one foot in front of the other. Keep breathing. Keep moving, and you’ll make it.
G: Oh, thank you, Carl. What a wonderful way to end the show, and it’s so great to talk to you.
C: I appreciate it, Gloria.
G: And we are going to miss you aren’t we, Heidi.
H: I was telling Carl that before the show started. I’m going to miss him a lot this year. He’s become an important part of our lives especially during the conferences.
G: Absolutely, and hopefully you’ll be able to make it next year. We’ll be able to see you and maybe our paths will cross in some of the work that we’re doing.
C: Absolutely, call any time.
G: It’s great to talk to you, Carl, and thanks so much for being on our show today.
C: It’s indeed been a pleasure.
H: Thanks, Carl.
G: It’s time to close the show, and please stay tuned again next week when our topic will be The Many Paths of Grief and our guest will be Liz Powell, Director of Youth and Family Services at Kara, Palo Alto, California, a non-profit agency providing peer support for bereaved individuals and families. Tune in and receive helpful ideas on dealing with your journey of grief. This show is archived on our website, www.healingthegrievingheart.org, as well as www.thecompassionatefriends.org website. This is Dr. Gloria Horsley. Please stay tuned again next Thursday at 9:00 Pacific Standard Time, 12:00 Eastern, for more of Healing the Grieving Heart, the show of hope and renewal and support. Remember, others have been there and made it and so can you. You need not walk alone. Thanks for listening. I’m your host Dr. Gloria Horsley and my co-host, Dr. Heidi Horsley, until next week.