As I sat there in the waiting room of the oily garage just outside of Sevierville, TN, anticipating the very long drive home to Florida, my 18-year-old daughter was flipping through racing magazines and telling me all about her new friend.  Emily had only one real date with him, and I knew that they were making plans for both of their high school proms.

Emily was beaming with new facts:  telling me how his college major was going to be in business so he could be a racing manager for his best friend, who was going to be a Formula One driver.  A lot of chatter… I laughed and thought: “Sure, Emily might actually be an astronaut some day since she was a NASA intern and already had a fistful of great opportunities.”

She was full of excitement and then suddenly, I found myself shaking my head and thinking out loud, “Formula One racing is for much older men…right?”

All the while my 11-year-old son was playing with his new toy, a green Lamborghini.  Zoom-zoom. Now my mind was racing.  I decided that I was going to call this new boy’s mom when I got home. We lived on the space-coast of Florida and  when we finally got home, a full 12 hours later and unpacked our mini-van at 2am, I told Emily that she could not leave our house until all her things were put away and we were up and dressed.

We had a few hours sleep.  At around 8:45am I turned on my TV and there was another Firestone commercial saying, gleefully, “Don’t forget to check your tires.”  I was reminded again.

After Emily left our beach-side home just after 9:00am, April 02, 2005, with her girlfriends, I just started  talking to my husband about the very late invitations for Emily’s graduation party. Then her story ended.

She was pronounced dead at 10:15am on the highway that was way off limits to her driving capacity.  She and the new boy, who was supposed to be in St. Petersburg with his family, had veered off the highway into oncoming traffic.  From the police report, I will never forget the words “Vehicular Homicide.”

That’s when my nightmare began.  Lies were told, then the light would appear, and the truth would be known. I have spent almost six years stumbling around in the darkness, but that is not my fault. I am a heart-broken parent in grief. Now I always remember to look for the nightlight in the darkness.

Our Emily was only 18 years and 5 weeks old when she left this world of the living.  I wanted our Emily to have as much love and joy in her world as she could, and indeed, she truly loved her life. Like all parents who have lost a child unexpectedly,  our faith has been tested and tried through this ordeal.  Art and our daughter’s favorite Contemporary Christian music has helped us to cope in our grief.  One particular artist, Martie Reynolds, really blessed my life with her Christian Native American art (Cherokee–Shawnee), and eventually we bought a large print of “One Spirit” (24″ x 30″) that hangs in our breakfast nook.

Celebrating Emily’s  24th birthday on Saturday, February 26,  I am reminded again that we are the Rainmakers – the moms who never say goodbye.

Cynthia Ranyak 2011

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Cynthia Ranyak

Cynthia L. Belcher-Ranyak is director of nonprofit operations for is an advocacy group for safe teen driving. Since 2007 has given 6 scholarships to deserving students heading for college in memory of Cynthia's beautiful and talented daughter, Emily Jasmine, who was killed in a violent car crash in 2005. Cynthia regards herself as friend to victims of crime and an activist for children’s rights.

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