One of the blessings in the past year is that when I think of my parents, the crash does not always come to mind. For years after it happened, my first thought about my parents was to imagine how my mom died in the street after she was hit, lying in the cold and snow. I'd imagine my dad flying over the SUV that hit them, landing in the road beyond. I'd remember how much pain he suffered during the six and a half weeks he was hospitalized, how hard he tried to communicate, how hard it was to make the decision to stop treatment and to say good-bye to him. In the first year, month after month, I went to the criminal court to watch the proceedings against the man who killed my parents. He was eventually sentenced to twelve years in prison. It was his third DUI.Now those memories are still there, but other things come to mind. Fun things we did together, advice they gave me, what I valued about having been their daughter. Annoying things, too. (After all, they were my parents. We most definitely got on one another's nerves at times.) Perhaps that is the only real healing time offers. The ability to remember what is good and happy, even though the memories are tinged with the pain.
I know if my parents could have communicated with me during the years after the crash, they both would have told me not to dwell on the pain they suffered. My mom in particular was a very practical person. She didn't believe in focusing on hard times in the past, or dwelling on things you can't change that make you unhappy. I'm not sure I could have stopped doing that any sooner than I did. Now I feel like part of why I thought so much about that last moment of my mom's life, and those last 6 or so weeks of my dad's, was that it helped me feel connected to them in some way. If I could understand what they felt, what they went through, perhaps they wouldn't seem so far away. Or perhaps I could somehow slide back in time and magically change that night. There's no logic to that, but grief is not logical.
Now nurture my connection to them in other ways. I've framed photos from different times in their lives and hung them on one wall in my condo. I spend some time every week thinking about something about them that I'm grateful for and something I learned from them that has helped me in life. It does not bring them back, but it is a way I feel they'd be pleased to be remembered.