Reid would have turned 25 today. He died at age 17 in December 2006, the driver in a one-car crash, eleven months after getting his license.
During the past seven years, I have heard one question more than any other: ”It never goes away, does it?” Today, some thoughts on “it.”
As I have written on this blog, the tears have mostly subsided, and piercing pain has morphed into tolerable sadness. Our emotional state is, if nothing else, sustainable. Most of the time we can recall happy memories without dissolving. We disassembled the Reid Hollister Museum, his perfectly preserved room, which we kept for two years until a friend pointed out that it was blocking us from moving on. We have taken stock of, and are thankful for, the small mercies in Reid’s life. We are grateful for family, friends, our church, and our community for steadfast support of Reid’s memory. We have developed a nationwide circle of friends and supporters in the traffic safety community, which has allowed us to participate actively in trying to make sure other families are spared our ordeal. We take great pride in the fact that Reid has become one of the faces of safe teen driving in the United States.
So what are we left with? What has not changed? What has not gone away?
Speaking now only for myself, every day, I wonder what Reid would be doing today had he lived.
I think this mindset has something to do with being a history major in college. One of my professors enjoyed giving exam questions that he called “counterfactuals” - if this or that fact in history had been different, how would the world have evolved differently? For example, he asked us, what if the British in 1776 had decided that the colonies were not worth the trouble and had left America to fend for itself? The idea was to get us to understand the forces and trends of that time and how they would have played out.
So, Reid was handsome, funny, and energetic. He was at his best working with young children. He was a consummate schmoozer; he could laugh or talk his way into or out of anything. He was a whiz with electronic communication. Girls and women swooned in his presence. He struggled with his ADHD (though he had it more under control as he got older). He was not a great student. He did not like the cold New England weather. He enjoyed adventure, though deep down he was scared of things, like performing in front of a big group.
Projecting what I think would have happened: I can see him working with young children, maybe as an elementary school teacher, but he also liked what money can buy, so I think he might have gravitated toward sales. Maybe in Florida, to escape the cold. I told him not long before he died that I could see him talking his way past a receptionist, charming the boss, and closing a sale. He liked to travel (or more accurately, he was not one to sit in one place for long), and could use his laptop and his cell phone to communicate with dozens simultaneously. Whatever he would have been doing, he would have had an army of friends who delighted in his entertaining company, and most likely he would have a very pretty girlfriend and a few wannabes.
This is the image currently in my head. I like it. It’s sustainable. Maybe it will change as the world does and I see different places he would have plugged in his talents and compensated for his shortcomings.
For now, this image will do.
As always, thanks to so many of you who carry Reid’s memory in your hearts and carry the mission of safer teen driving in your communities.