It Takes a Village – The Accident


It takes a village to survive loss of a child. Unfortunately, I know. Dylan, my son, my only child, the light of my life, died in a car accident at the gate of his apartment complex on May 22, 2006. Dylan is forever 19 years old. My life became two parts – before May 22, 2006, and after May 22, 2006. I can’t even think about the actual day. I also can’t believe that it has been seven years since I saw Dylan, and this is Village #7.


photo of Marianne's son
Dylan McDonald

This year Dylan Day was a trip to New York City with my friend Billie, who I know from the Christi Center. The Christi Center is a grief-support organization in Austin. The trip nearly ended the first day because my blood sugar got so low at the restaurant that I started jerking. Even though Billie had seen me with low blood sugar many times, she didn’t realize that jerking was a sign of very low blood sugar. I ate a peep and I guess the sweat stopped pouring down my nose. Billie got them to pack up the food and we took it to the hotel to eat it. We did all of the New York things – the Empire State Building, the 911 Memorial, Central Park, Times Square, and Harlem. We ate at Carmines in the Broadway District – that was Julie and KK’s Angel Joseph’s favorite restaurant so we ate there with pictures of Dylan and Joseph on the table. We spent a lot of time on Long Island, and even went to the beach there. At Tiffany’s in New York, I got a letter “D” to go on Dylan’s charm bracelet.


The main reason for the New York trip was to meet with the medium George Anderson on May 22. George’s book “Walking in the Garden of the Souls” was a comfort to me after Dylan’s death, and I have read it several times. When I saw that George had openings on May 22, there was no doubt in my mind that I should go there. I imagine a lot of people who read this will say that he’s the devil, but I don’t care if anyone thinks that or not. As a mother who can’t talk to her child anymore, I consider George a comfort, a help, and an angel. Some of the things George said were “Just answer yes or no so they can hear your voice,” Don’t correct me if I’m wrong,” and  “Just answer yes or no” over and over again. Many times Dylan said, “Just go back to the beginning and start over again,” and “I’ve had you up to here.” Much more comforting information was obtained from Dylan, but that’s all I’m saying here.


I wore the 2012 Dylan Day shirt in New York. This one said “The Last Fandango, 25 years.” That was a sign since Dylan would have been 25 in 2012! The back of the shirt said “Everything passes, everything changes, just do what you think you should do.” Sounds just like my life.


In June, I went to College Station to meet with the police reconstructionist who went to the scene of Dylan’s accident. I can’t remember what prompted me to do that, but I just felt the need to do it. Two Christi friends, Billie and Dorcas, went with me. Dorcas was my driver and Billie was my handler. We also met with the Victim Services person. I don’t know what the hell I had been thinking for six years – I guess I just thought Dylan had a little wreck and happened to die. I had no idea how bad the wreck was! There was no way I could have looked at those accident pictures or discussed the accident even last year. I’m glad I know the information now – I feel like it is my responsibility as Dylan’s mother to know all of the information. I just had no idea how bad the wreck was – the damage the truck did to the gate, and the damage done to Dylan’s truck. I just had no idea! I saw pictures of Dylan’s truck, pictures of the gate, pictures of the accident scene, pictures of everything but Dylan. They told me how they figured out what happened – from the tires on the truck to the size of the truck to the skid marks. They had computer-printed drawings of how the accident happened that were based on the accident information that was entered on the computer.


When we left the police station, I told Dorcas I needed a drink. Dorcas asked if I wanted her to go through McDonalds. I said no I wanted alcohol, so we went to Chili’s. Four double bourbons and diet cokes later, we were on the road again. I WASN’T DRIVING. Dorcas was and she hadn’t drunk like a fish like me. We got into a huge rain storm and stopped at a gas station, and I had two beers. If I called you drunk that night, I’m sorry. I guess I was in shock all over again. Thanks to Billie and Dorcas for escorting me on that fact finding, yet emotional trip. We put 13 roses at the gate where the accident happened when we left town.


My good friend Diane drove her daughter Hilary to College Station last summer. I picked Diane up in College Station, and we saw where Hilary was going to live. Before Diane and I left College Station, we took 13 roses to the gate where Dylan died. Diane stayed with me Tuesday through Friday. I can’t remember what all we did – but I know we had a good time, and we laughed a lot. Although Diane and I don’t get to spend much time together anymore, when we are together it’s just like we’ve never been apart. Guess that’s a sign of good friends! I do remember we took Dewey and Dutchess walking on the Barton Springs greenbelt and sat on Jessie’s bench, and we nearly died of a heat stroke. And she added many applications to my I Phone, including Words with Friends. Although I have played hundreds of games, I have only won five. I hope to break that record by the next village.


Brother David invited me back to his condo in Blue Mountain Beach, Florida. This year cousins Bonnie, Lynn, and Peggy came too. We had a blast, and David was an excellent host. We had good food and good drinks. Peggy and Bonnie even made us hot water cornbread for breakfast. It was so good, we had it the next day too. Hot water cornbread is part of our childhood. Tuna dip is big in Blue Mountain Beach and it is very good. Some of David’s friends came over one night, and they brought their two-month old baby named Dylan. It was a comfort to hear the name Dylan.


This year I went to Las Vegas three times. I know it sounds like I’m a gambler, but I’m not. In October my Christi friend Nancy and I went to Vegas and we saw Elton John and Garth Brooks perform – separately of course. Both concerts were fabulous! In February I went with a friend. On Dylan’s birthday, February 12, I jumped from the 108th floor of the Stratosphere Hotel. That was scarier than sky diving! I know you should never say never, but I’ll never do that again. Friends Topsy and Bob witnessed the jump too. On that trip we saw Donnie and Marie Osmond perform. I was touched when Marie dedicated an opera song to her son Michael, who died in 2010. That connection with parents who have lost children is with us everywhere we go. In April I went with a friend and we saw Cirque de Soleil Beatles Love. That was an incredible show. Good thing I don’t have to choose a favorite show out of those because I couldn’t.


Seven friends lost parents this year (Cindy, Phyllis, Deana, Danni, Debbie, Erik and Sandi). It seems so weird to me that people my age still have parents living since Momma died 38 years ago and Daddy died six years ago. If you lost a parent and I forgot to mention you, please forgive me. And I have many more friends at the Christi Center who this time last year still were living happy lives with all of their kids. Please keep them in your thoughts because the early years without your child are the worst of the worst.


Before this year, I had only gone to one wedding since Dylan died. This year I went to five – Morgan, Whitney, Lindsay, Brandalynn, and Brody. On the program of Lindsay and Rob’s wedding, Dylan was listed in the In Loving Memory Section as Bride’s Longtime Family Friend. That was a complete surprise to me, and I was touched that they remembered Dylan. At Brody and Ashley’s wedding, Brody surprised his mother and escorted her down the aisle. That touched my heart and I know Dylan was proud of Brody for doing that. I saw a lot of boys that went to school with Dylan. It was good to see them – not depressing like I thought it would be. It was just weird that those boys are grown up now and Dylan is still 19.


It seems like I didn’t have as many firsts this year. I went to the first Lake Travis baseball game that I have been too since Dylan died. I saw some people that I knew, but I didn’t speak to them. Just didn’t feel like having people feeling sorry for me, so I stayed out of their view. I went to a football game at Texas A&M. We didn’t go to see the Aggies. We went to see LSU and LSU won – thankfully. Gary, Dorcas, Billie, and I had to catch the LSU alumni bus at 6:00 a.m. By 9:00 a.m. I had drunk two shots of bourbon, had two beers, and had a Bloody Mary. It’s hard to get back into the LSU football atmosphere when you’ve been out of it for 34 years! I just can’t figure out why those Aggies stand up the entire game. That was too hard on this old person! Also this year, I went to several slumber parties. Julie and KK have me regularly – I guess they just like me.


This year I had a knee manipulation because my right knee never had enough flexibility after my knee replacement. Thanks to Dr. Carter and my physical therapist Kim, my right knee is almost as good as my left knee now. I went to another Mom’s retreat at Charlie’s Place, went to another Young Life banquet, continue to volunteer at the Christi Center, continue to work part time with the nicest people, and continue to take care of my babies Dewey and Dutchess. I got two more tattoos for Dylan this year – another heart for his birthday and the word believe in Dylan’s own handwriting because I believe I will see him again. David I know you are counting – that’s nine now. Dylan’s Young Life fund has raised over $45,000, which will help send many Lake Travis kids to Young Life camp.


Erin, a good friend of Dylan’s, surprised me with a charcoal drawing of Dylan. Erin’s aunt drew the picture. To receive it right before Mother’s day was a special treat. Those of us who have lost a child realize how special these gifts are!


Dylan continues to constantly be in my heart, my thoughts, and my mind. He is still the center of my life. However, seven years down the road the happy memories are easier to remember. One day I was putting on a shirt and the tag rubbed my neck and I smiled – because I remembered that Dylan always cut the tags off his clothes – he couldn’t stand them touching his body. It doesn’t seem like much of a memory, but it is.


This year I started seeing a counselor again and am attending church regularly now. This is the first time since Dylan died that I enjoy going to church. With all I’ve done, I still haven’t found that purpose that I’ve been looking for. It’s looking more and more like my sole purpose was to be Dylan’s mom.




Read Marianne’s annual reflections beginning with “It Takes a Village, written less than a year after the death of Marianne’s son, Dylan. Marianne has generously shared her journey with us.   Her subsequent annual updates are, “The Village Minus Two,” “The Village Retires,” “Dutch and Dutchess,” “Minus Old Knees” and “The Bible”.

2 thoughts on “It Takes a Village – The Accident”

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I’m so sorry. My 23 year old son was also killed on May 22nd, 2012. I wanted to let you know that I’ve added this to the collection of blogs, websites, and articles that I’ve been curating in memory of my son.

  2. So sorry for your loss – my son will be forever 21, which is what I named my blog ( Sometimes I think I am not going to make it…whatever the hell that means. This grief is unbearable and I know you know what I’m talking about.

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