Margaret Simons and Suzanne Thompson (Grandma and Great Grandma) Kankakee, Illinois
by Suzanne Simons
Margaret Simons (left) Suzanne Thompson (right)
It was around 8:30 pm on Sunday August 28th, 2011. Grandma and Great Grandma were just heading back towards Rolling Meadows, after picking up my autistic uncle (Ralph Simons) from Shapiro Developmental Center, a place he called home for many years. My Grandmas have made this drive many times over the years. This night however, would be very different.
I'm on my last day of vacation up in northern Wisconsin. Just before bed, around 11:30 that Sunday night, I get a phone call that would change the course of our lives, forever. My older sister phones to tell me there has been an accident. "It sounds serious. That's all I know right now," my sister told me. The tears began to flow instantly. A part of me knew that they were already gone. "I will call you when I have something more," she said right before she hung up. No more than fifteen minutes later, the phone rings again. "Are you sitting down, Suzy?" "Yes," I responded. "Is Mark (my boyfriend) with you?" "Yes, what is it," I asked, "What happened?" "Grandma and Great Grandma died. Grandma died instantly. They worked on Great Grandma for a while, but there was nothing they could do."
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move, shock just took over. I tried to talk but only tears came out. The only words I could get out were, "What about Ralph?" "He's injured, but alive," she said. "Are you going to be okay, Suzy?" "Yea, Yea," I said, shaken.
My Grandma was driving northbound when the drunk, twenty-five year old man crossed the center line, striking my Grandma's car head on. She never had a chance to get out of the way. My Grandma (Margaret) was 72 years old when she died. My Great Grandma (Suzanne) had just turned 92 in July. He was over the legal limit and under the influence of some kind of opiate. He had his girlfriend, and one year old baby in the car.
Why would someone do this? What the heck was he thinking? Those were my immediate thoughts. My Grandmas were the most giving, kind hearted women you would ever meet.
They volunteered every chance they got, from soup kitchens, to doing what they were most famous for, dressing up as Santa and Mrs. Claus for autistic adults and children. They were so full of life and energy. Earlier that same day, they were both with my mother and sisters, at my older sister's bridal shower. Her wedding was 3 weeks away,they were supposed to attend. Someone managed to steal that all away in one night, with one poorly thought out choice. My uncle Ralph will be haunted with the memory of what happened that night. He will never be able to share it with us, because of his autism. He was there and saw everything. He is truly a victim in this case, and the one we should all feel the worst for. Grandma and Great Grandma were all he had, they were the only ones who really could communicate with him. One minute they are there, and the next they are gone. They were two women who lived 72 and 92 years, and died in such a horrible way.
No matter what the outcome of the drunk driver's court case, one thing is clear, our family has lost two amazing people we can never get back. This whole thing is still fresh, so there's still some anger towards the drunk driver. Why did he have to drive? There is always a choice. If you take anything from this story, remember that there is always a way out. If there are any doubts about driving after drinking, don't bother. Call a friend, a taxi, or anyone. You don't want to take someone's life. You don't want to ruin your life, it's not worth it. This happens way too often, and it's not fair to the victims or their families. Let this be a reminder to all who read this, and stories like it, that just because it hasn't happened to you yet, doesn't mean it won't. If you choose to drive drunk, you can't say you didn't know the risks.
I created this facebook page in their memory, and as a reminder to always drive safe. Like it if you agree: