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.”

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