Finding solace after losing a loved one in a motor vehicle crash
THE SUDDEN loss of a loved one can be a traumatic and damaging experience which, if not monitored and managed, can cause lifelong challenges. For Gail Lue Lim and her family, having the right support system was what hoisted her from the valley of darkness and has kept her going for the 18 years since she lost her firstborn and only son, Nicholas.
A promising University of Technology student, Nicholas Lue Lim had built up a cadre of friends, having played football at Mona Preparatory, Wolmer’s Boys, and was called to train for the Jamaica Under-17 football team. Nicholas’ friends provided the supportive network for his mother, father and sister in their time of grief, consoling them and creating an avenue to speak about positive memories that kept his name alive.
He died on December 19, 1998 from injuries he sustained when a motor vehicle crashed into a car he was in with friends, on a soft shoulder at Ferry, St Catherine. “He died the day after the crash, and I was there at the University Hospital of the West Indies with dozens of friends, including some who came from overseas the morning to show their support,” his mother recalled.
Road crash fatalities in Jamaica have been as high as 444 in 1991 to as low as 260 in 2012. Each year, millions of newly injured and bereaved people from every corner of the world are added to the countless millions already suffering as a result of a road crash. The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims provides a day of remembering the millions killed or injured on roads across the globe.
Paula Fletcher, executive director of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), noted that the day is a significant one on Jamaica’s calendar. “It brings to the fore the pain and memories of those who have been victims, but is critical in providing a safe space for families and friends to commemorate their loved ones, find their own ways to cope, and to share their stories to begin or continue the process of healing,” Fletcher said. “The world might move on from the tragic news, but for close friends and relatives, they will always remember and bear the weight of that memory. We sympathise with all those who have lost their loved ones, and remind them that support and comfort is available once you reach out. This is not a journey to take alone.”
Coping with her loss has been an ordeal, but Gail made a conscious decision to cling to the happy memories, always choosing to remember her son as a cheerful charmer who had a hunger for chasing his dreams. The support of Nicholas’ friends, her church, as well as her extended family has given her the strength she needed through her period of grief. “For the entire time before his funeral my front door was never locked. The kids were there all the time and people were there all over the house,” Gail explained. “I had my friends and family so they were all the medication that I needed. It makes me feel so blessed, and so when any other child out there
especially from a crash, it is emotional, I cry for the parents and pray that they get the same kind of support that we did.”
After the funeral at St Andrew Parish Church, the support was even more remarkable, with scores of friends and family who turned out and remained a part of their lives ever since. She added, “At the funeral is one thing, during that time you need help, but to me the greatest support is the years after, you can’t beat that. His friends have always been coming to the house, to sleep over, have a good time, do birthday calls, hang out, and for Christmas. They have always been there for my husband and me and my daughter. Some never imagined that young people could be so caring until they met the group of friends that he has left us with over the years. There is just so much hope when you’re around them.”
To muster the courage to go through each day, Gail listens to music, and around the anniversary of his death, she finds solace in her love for Christmas. “He died a week before Christmas; maybe had he not died around that time I wouldn’t have coped so well over the years. Because I love Christmas so much, I love the message of Christmas and the carols, it has helped significantly,” she reasoned. “I love being around young people, I find that they are honest and will tell you things like it is and they are so appreciative of the simple things and that help to cope, to know that they have no inhibitions when they love you. The other thing is that my son is buried at my churchyard so every Sunday I go to church we visit the grave, and the kids will follow us.” Nicholas Lue Lim
Gail admits that she has come a long way over the 18 years, but her feelings and her conversations about her son have never wavered. She still speaks about him with love and warmth – a means of cherishing his memories, and healing the wounds created by his absence. “When you love your children it is something that will always be there in your heart. I can talk about him with joy even though he is not there. I’m probably less emotional, so talking about it, I’m more joyous. I’m a stronger person now because I couldn’t pass the crash location for a long while, and I didn’t want to go back to where we lived, but I got over that.”
Her advice to those who have lost a loved one in a sudden tragic crash? “Make sure you surround yourself with the people who matter to you, and the things that make you happy, whether music, your religion or a hobby. At the same time, do not suppress your feelings; keep the memories alive and keep them going,” she said. “The moment you try to hide your feelings and memories it makes everything harder. Once you speak about it, you can come to terms with the fact that the person is not here but if you have them in your heart, that’s all that matters.”