Mike Hefferan still vividly remembers his mother’s heart-wrenching cries and watching her fall in his father’s arms after receiving the news their daughter was killed by an impaired driver.
“The mournful cries that come from a parent when they have lost a child, I will never ever forget,” he told those on hand Thursday evening at a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) candlelight vigil at St. Stephen’s Church in Stephenville.
MADD's annual vigil is for victims, survivors, advocates, friends and their families or those emotionally impacted by the crime of impaired driving. It’s a time to meet others who have gone through a similar experience, and each year a guest speaker is invited to share their story.
Hefferan’s sister Veronica was 17 when she was killed. He said she was a beautiful, energetic teenager who was full of life and just waiting to take on the world.
Veronica was on her way to visit a friend in Black Duck Siding on that warm, June afternoon in 1970. Hefferan remembers her looking so pretty as she said goodbye to everyone and walked off down the road.
None of them could imagine what would unfold that night.
Later, while everyone was in bed sleeping, a loud knock came at the door.
“I remember waking up to the sound of people talking,” Hefferan said. “I got up and went out to the living room and could see the priest and an RCMP officer talking to my parents. Then myself and my brothers and sisters, who had woken up by now, heard the dreadful news.”
Next came the awful cries he will never forget.
Hefferan has often wondered what Veronica went through that night, but the family was told that she died quickly and did not suffer.
“That was little consolation to our family,” he said. “My parents had lost their daughter and we had lost our sister forever. The toll that a death like this takes on a family can never be measured fully because we all grieve in different ways.”
Hefferan said some people, with the help of family, friends, counsellors, faith and time learn to get through it. Others never fully recover.
“Life seems so unfair when we lose a loved one through such a senseless act,” he said. “Often times we just can’t understand why this has happened.”
He’ll never know what Veronica would have grown up to become — whether she would have married and had children, or someone who could be instrumental in changing the town, province or our country in a positive way.
One solace, he said, is that people who have lost loved ones to impaired driving are not alone in their suffering.
“There are many others going through what we have had to endure and that’s why this vigil we are partaking in tonight must not cease to be,” he said.
He said people need to press on with the message that drinking and driving kills and destroys families, homes, marriages and much more.
Hefferan would love to see the day when not one drunk driver will be on the road, and encouraged MADD to strive to make this happen — one story at a time.