It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a blog here. I could always make excuses, like the fact that I just turned in the manuscript for my first book. That I’ve started writing for the Huffington Post, designed a new look for Dad or Alive (to be implemented soon), been taking care of two toddlers for ten hours a day while maintaining a household. I could just tell you that I’ve gotten too busy.
All too often we find ourselves ‘too busy’ or ‘in a hurry’. In being too busy, I’ve neglected to revisit the joy I find in writing. We’re all occasionally guilty of not taking the time to enjoy the simple things. A heartfelt conversation with a friend or a handwritten letter. Taking the time to stop and smell a blossoming flower or skip a stone across the lake. We don’t pause to appreciate and think about how something appeals to our senses; the smell of a freshly cut lawn or a hearty homemade meal. We take our relationships and good health for granted. Because we’re ‘too busy’ or ‘in a hurry’.
Not me. Not anymore. I’ve learned my lesson.
This is my niece.
Her name is Olivia.
Almost a year ago, she was killed by a negligent driver. Someone who was in a hurry.
She would’ve been 2 years old today…
My wife and I packed the kids up last night and drove to Atlanta to spend these next few days with family. We’re not here to celebrate the life she has ahead of her, but rather the life she had no choice in leaving behind. A year ago to the day, I sat across from her and filmed this video as we celebrated her 1st birthday.
I’ve shown you this once before, in a post entitled 1 year. 1 month. 1 day. The title eludes to the short amount of time that she had on this Earth. The time that she filled our worlds with joy and happiness.
I’d be lying if I said that this last year has been easy for our family. The initial shock and trauma has had time to dissolve. It’s been replaced with anxiety, sadness and depression, amongst other things. And while I can say all of this because I’ve seen and experienced it first-hand, I can’t begin to speak to the level of pain and suffering endured by Liv’s parents.
On the occasion of what would have been Olivia’s 2nd birthday, Brad and Brooke have decided to share the eulogy which was read at the church service, as well as the statement which Brooke read aloud to the court during the arraignment. This is not easy to read, but it’s necessary. It’s necessary for myself and for Liv’s parents to share this, to express emotion, in hopes that it inspires just one person to slow down and appreciate life.
First of all, I want to thank you all for being here and thank you for the love and support and compassion we have felt over the last five days. All the food, the flowers; the wishes and the prayers. Brooke, myself, and my family are so grateful that we live in such a caring, compassionate community. The Grayson community has held us up. Gwinnett County, all over Atlanta, all over the country…we are grateful for all the friends and family we have. And I just want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts, first for that.
Olivia was a huge surprise. After we were blessed with the twins, Stone and Addie, we were given a less than 1% chance of ever getting pregnant. Right after Christmas, we were told she was already well on her way. Max, her older brother, had asked Santa for a baby sister that Christmas and he came through. Yes, for the second time. He had also asked Santa for twins.
On August 16th, 2010 our baby girl arrived. She had a perfect little life. Her eyes are what grabbed you first. Those big, beautiful eyes…just like her mother’s…those big, beautiful blue eyes seemed to reach into you and grab you. Her hugs. We’ve talked about her bear hugs a lot…and they were special. She would grab you with both arms and she’d put her head on you and hug. She would even pat your back. Not like a one-year-old should do. She was incredibly patient. Addie and Stone would put her in their doll strollers and push her around the house. She wouldn’t complain. She’d let them do it and they would drop her of course, and she would cry, but only for a second and she would let them do it again.
Squinkies. I don’t know if you all know what Squinkies are. They are these little rubber things that the twins have, little figures about the size of a peanut and they were all over the house. She would find them. She would put one in her mouth and she would chew on it for hours. She would even nurse with one in. She would keep it in the back on her gums and chew it while she’d nurse. Then she would get up and burp. Her mom would ask what was in her mouth and put her hand out. Olivia would spit out a little Squinkie and smile.
Liv was also very wise and mature for her age. A few weeks ago, she had gotten the wipes container and emptied it all over the living room. We didn’t pick it up right away. Brooke was cleaning the stove later and offhandedly decided to ask Liv to go get her a wipe; not thinking anything of it. She waddled out of the room and waddled back in with a wipe in her hand, reached up and handed it to her mommy. Brooke was astounded that she got it and actually handed it to her.
We had a stray cat show up right before her birthday last month at the house. We started feeding it and giving it water, so of course, it’s sticking around the house. One of the things Liv would do in the morning; she would come downstairs, go to that backdoor and in her low gravelly voice…also like her mommy…say, “Kitty, Kitty” to see if she was there yet. She always was. Olivia would get so excited to see that cat.
Olivia never left our bed at night. She slept with us up until…the end. My wife, for some reason, didn’t want to give that up. She wanted to have her in our bed with us and now we think we know why.
I personally find consolation in knowing that her life will always be perfect and pain-free. She was never sick and she never will be. She will never bring home a bad grade or get in trouble at school. She will never have her heart broken by a boy. She will never be homesick when she leaves for college. She will never lose anyone like we have lost her. However, she is going to be there to help us through all these times with our other children. And she will be there to help all of you with yours.
You know? Above all, from the very beginning, what Liv taught us, my wife and I, was to slow down and enjoy each other. Take your time. Hug each other. Hold each other because you never know how short your time’s going to be.
We’re not saying goodbye to our princess…our sweet baby…my little Olive…our beautiful tiny girl. Because she will live forever…she will live forever in our hearts.
Brooke’s Statement to the Court:
To try to put into words how horrific this accident was is nearly impossible. To stand here and describe the sadness and complete heartbreak my family and I have suffered is agonizing. The pain caused by losing our Olivia is excruciating. The torture of actually watching my baby helplessly die because of someone else’s negligence is gut-wrenching. Our lives have been ripped apart. Our family and community have been devastated. Our sweet Olivia’s life was taken from us prematurely due to Ms. Glass’ haste, negligence, and complete indifference. My words truly do it no justice.
I am still astonished at the lack of concern that Ms. Glass expressed that day for me and my dying baby. I remain completely perplexed by her actions. I wonder what led her to drive so recklessly and speed so fast in the first place. What was she doing? Where was she going in such a hurry? Why was she driving so fast, in reverse, in a parking lot at a Little League field filled with families and children?
I also wonder what possessed Ms. Glass, a mother herself, to repeatedly drive back and forth, just as recklessly, after hitting us the first time. What responsible person doesn’t stop their car immediately upon impact with ANYTHING, let alone another human being? What type of person is so insensitive, unaware, and irresponsible that after obviously hitting someone with her vehicle doesn’t immediately put it in park and get out of the car? If that isn’t awful enough, she then recklessly pulls forward, back to the spot where she had just hit us, and then reverses again without paying a bit of attention to what could potentially be behind her car.
She was extremely thoughtless and so completely reckless after that initial impact. Why didn’t she stop after she hit us the first time? If she had stopped her car initially, and came to my aid, she would have noticed that there was a baby strapped in a stroller directly behind her car. There is so much about this accident that is troubling and incomprehensible to me. No answers will ever ease the tremendous hole left in my heart and nothing will ever bring back my sweet baby Olivia. I miss her every second of every day. The further we get away from September 17th, I miss her even more. She was my world. She was always with her Mommy; never left my side.
I think of her often and I am tormented by her horrific death which replays in my mind constantly. I often think of Olivia’s cries for Mommy after being hit by Ms. Glass for the first time. Those cries brought me to my feet, despite my own agonizing pain, to come to Olivia’s aid and comfort my baby girl. Those cries, which would end up being her last, are followed by the gruesome sound of Ms. Glass’ car reversing over Olivia’s head, crushing it against the pavement. If that isn’t horrible enough, she then puts the car in drive again and drives forward, over Olivia’s skull for a second time. This is almost impossible to put into words; so agonizing to even try to envision; yet these are the final moments of my baby’s life. As graphic and awful as it is, it is my reality and Olivia’s death. At this point, Liv was still strapped in her stroller, but she wasn’t crying any more. I gently unbuckled her and held her in my arms, both of us covered in blood, as Ms. Glass remained seated in her car.
Ms. Glass didn’t just end a life because of her negligence and irresponsibility. She shattered our whole world. Olivia was perfect in every way; always joyful and happy. She was so patient and hardly ever cried. Liv had the most beautiful blue eyes that would light up when she smiled. She gave big bear hugs that were so filled with love and compassion that it would stay with you long after she would wiggle to be put down.
Olivia was one year, one month, and one day old. She was a precious blessing each and every day of her unexpectedly short little life. She filled each of those days with so much love and joy. I miss her so very much. There are no words strong enough to describe the pain and anguish that missing her causes me on a daily basis. She is never out of my mind and I cry for her often. I wish more than anything in this world that Ms. Glass had just simply stopped her car after hitting both of us. Had she responsibly stopped her car immediately, my sweet precious amazing little Olivia would still be here with us today. Wishing won’t bring her back and certainly doesn’t change the facts. I doubt Ms. Glass will ever truly know the extent of the damage she has caused. She needs to accept the responsibility for what she did that day. She ended a beautiful life and damaged so many others. I hope this haunts her for the rest of her life.
We lost our sweet baby and our family will never be the same. The pain of missing Olivia is agonizing for all of us. Our family will never be whole again. I will never celebrate a Mothers’ Day with all of my children together. We will never have a complete family portrait made again. Olivia has three older siblings, so affected by this tragedy that they wake up at night, even seven months later, crying hysterically, so saddened by our loss. There isn’t a day that goes by that at least one of them says they miss their Baby Liv. There are just no words for this kind of sadness and pain. As hard as I try every time, I know my words do very little to ease their wounded hearts. My family is forever scarred. Our circle is broken and this loss will be felt in our hearts for the rest of our lives and children’s lives.
Reading this now and hearing it in the moment has changed me.
My son Charlie turns 1 year, 1 month, 1 day old this Saturday. It’s an age that I’ll never forget.
Life is a precious thing. We don’t know when our time is up. SLOW DOWN. Take a minute today to enjoy and appreciate what you’ve been given.
Happy Birthday Olivia, we love you now, always and forever.
NOTE FROM DAD OR ALIVE: Olivia’s parents have established The Olivia Anne Hellwig Foundation to honor the short life of their daughter. It will work to help raise awareness of pedestrian safety. Please stop by, say hello and support this worthy endeavor.