So Beautiful and Awful - Transcript
This is a transcript of a “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” episode entitled, “So Beautiful and Awful.” The text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future for accuracy.
Listen to the episode here.
Lynda Fisher: She wrote: "Life is too short for some of us. But it's not always about how long you are there, but about what you do to make your mark on the world.”
I’m Nora McInerny, and this is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” And that was our guest, Lynda, reading the words her 18-year-old daughter Sophia posted to Facebook.
It’s kind of funny that the young woman -- very young, 18! -- who posted those words is named Sophia. In case you didn’t know, Sophia is an ancient Greek name that means … wisdom.
And Sophia captured something very wise and very true in her Facebook post: “Life is too short for some of us.”
Back in the year 2000, Sophia was baby #4 for Lynda and her husband Richard.
Lynda Fisher: We had our three boys, and I really wanted a family of four. I think three's an odd number. You need one in every hand, you know. So I really wanted four children and I really wanted a little girl. I think God knew I didn't need three girls and one boy. I'm more of a parent to two boys for sure. But I wanted a little girl. And we found out we were having a girl. And we were just so excited. It was just so great. And the boys just loved on her, thought she was just amazing. She may have been a bit spoiled. You know, she may have gotten away with a little more than the boys did. Could it be that she was a girl, but also that by the fourth one, you're like, “whatever,” you know, the first one couldn't breathe incorrectly. But by the fourth one you're like, “I don't care,” you know. But the boys loved her so much and she was just, you know, the apple of my eye and she was just adorable. And I just longed for that relationship. I think a mother daughter relationship is very special, and I definitely wanted to have that.
She was definitely a tomboy in a dress. You know, she was a princess, but she could shimmy up the trees with her big brothers. She could run around the farm, she could shoot a gun. She could do lots of things to keep up with them. But yet she loved to have her nails done and her hair done and put her makeup on. And so she kind of had the best of both worlds as far as that goes.
She was very active in her high school, played sports. Not that she was a great athlete, but she was very much a team player and a part of a group. And she was in show choir, and she danced and sang and she just came to life on the stage. And it was beautiful to watch her.
She loved swimming. And she was so cute because she's a redhead. So she has such fair skin and toward the end of the summer, she would have this … what she would love to call a suntan. But it was so funny. You could see where her bathing suit was. But if you ever saw her skin without that line, she was just as pale as she could be. But she loved to swim. She did the butterfly. Again, she wasn't the best or anything, wasn't setting any kind of records. But she loved being in the pool. She loved being on the team.
She was like the cherry on top. She was just the perfect little finish to our family. She was amazing.
Lynda’s family is busy, involved … and athletic. They’re the kind of people who enjoy being outdoors and moving their bodies. Lynda ran her first marathon right before she turned 40 and planned to do another when she turned 50. Sophia’s oldest brother had completed sprint triathlons. And Sophia and her youngest brother had done a team sprint tri.
It’s a June morning, and Lynda and Sophia have a really big day ahead of them. They’re actually in the middle of training for an upcoming sprint triathlon they’re doing together, and the training plan calls for a 13-mile bike ride that day. That night, their family is hosting a dinner party.
But the middle of the day is going to be rough. They have a funeral for their friend, Miles.
If you’ve listened to our “Friends To The End” episode, you already know Miles. He was kind and sweet, and he’d been struggling with cancer. And Josie, his roommate and best friend, had been taking care of him.
Josie and Miles were young enough to be Lynda’s kids, but they were also her colleagues at the local college and her dear, dear friends. It’s Lynda who set up that GoFundMe that sent Miles on his last trip — to Disney World and Universal Studios. It’s Lynda who reassured Josie that she was doing a good job caring for her friend.
Josie and Miles were important people in each other’s lives. They lived together in a single-wide trailer overlooking a pond in their little Georgia town. And while Sophia’s mom Lynda didn’t live in “the trailer,” she was still very special to Josie and Miles.
Lynda Fisher: Josie and I have known each other for quite some time. We attend the same church. She's a little bit older than my oldest child. Her brother is my oldest child’s- one of his best friends. And so we have just known each other for quite some time. Knew her as she went off to school. And then she came back, and we had a position open at our college. And so I hired her to work in our office. And so it was then that we got to be super close.
And I met Miles through her. Miles is one of our alumni. And so he ended up on our alumni board. He's a wonderful man and so dedicated to serving and to helping out others and to make a better place, especially in small rural Georgia. And so that's how I really got to meet him, is through Josie. And then he became an integral part of our college.
He was really wonderful in front of people, but I think if truth be told, he's very much an introvert, he would be a quiet person in a room. But when he was asked to present or to teach, he would just shine. And he was so good with our student alumni council. He would come and do training for them every year and teach them how to interact with our donors, how to interact with our alumni. And he was just so wonderful in front of other people. But yet he was really a reserved person in the truest sense.
This is such a great example of cross-generational friendship … Lynda’s old enough to be their mom, but she’s their friend.
Lynda Fisher: one of the last times I was with him for any length of time, we took him up to Tallulah Gorge for a day, and Josie was with us and some other close friends. And he was very sick at that point in time.
We just went one day in the middle of the week, and we took him up there. There was a lot of medical stuff that the girls had to do. I was their driver for the trip and we took him up there. He didn't have a lot of stamina, so we couldn't, like, walk the gorge. But he got to see the beautiful waterfalls and see the gorge. And I just remember he had lost so much weight, and he was just a physically weak individual, but he was just allowing his friends to love on him and to take care of him.
Lynda witnessed her friend and coworker Josie attend to Miles ... and witnessed Miles letting Josie do this.
Lynda Fisher: Josie was doing as good as anybody can, and she was doing a great job of trying to balance coming to work, not being frazzled, not being a basketcase, and trying to take care of Miles. She would spend the night in the hospital with Miles, come back to work in the morning, and she'd go at her lunch break and check on him. And any time they called her in, she would go. And so she had a lot on her, going back and forth. But I do remember she said, "I've got to go." And we, of course, knew that the time was close. And she would always text me when she got there, give me an update. And that day she called me, and so I knew that he had passed away. But she didn't want to send that obviously in a text. So she called me to say that he had passed away on that day.
When Miles dies, Lynda’s daughter Sophia is one of many gutted by this loss. Sophia and Miles knew each other through Lynda’s work -- Sophia would attend the college’s events. And because Lynda and Josie were so close, she got to know Miles, too.
Lynda Fisher: He was a precious, precious man to her, and they had a sweet, sweet friendship.
To honor Miles, Sophia dedicated a post to him on her Facebook page:
Lynda Fisher: She wrote: "Life is too short for some of us. But it's not always about how long you are there, but about what you do to make your mark on the world, and Miles Drummond made a huge mark on many people's lives. You were such a great role model to me. I love you."
Today’s the day that they honor Miles and say goodbye to him. But first, Lynda and Sophia will ride. And train. They’ll get some endorphins before they face this big, emotional experience.
Lynda Fisher: We left the house around 7, loaded up the bikes, and we drive out to a friend's home so it'll be safe and so that we can ride on, you know, roads that are not that occupied — not a lot of traffic. And if traffic does come, they've got plenty of room to get over. So Saturday morning we got up, and we were leaving, and we got on our bikes, and we’d just bought her a pair of biking shorts, and she was making like, "Oh, these are so uncomfortable." And I said, "Well, about 10 miles, then you're going to like them. So you'll be fine." It was the first time she had worn her biking shorts.
We were heading north. And then we took a left to head west on this two-lane country road. And I don't remember a whole lot after that, but the things I do remember were not great.
The only thing that I remember of being on the road was that I gave her CPR in the middle of the road. And I just remember her lifeless body, and I knew that she wasn't there, but I was giving her CPR. And later someone in the sheriff's department told a family member that they basically had to rip me off her body because I just wouldn't leave. I wouldn't give up. But then I remember being in the ambulance, and the gentleman at the end of the stretcher said, "Miss Fisher, we, we did everything we could." And I knew that Sophia was gone.
And then I remember coming to in the ER when they were trying to establish what was the matter with me. They didn't know if I was going to make it. When my pastor was called in, they told him, "We don't know her status, we don't think she's going to make it."
Lynda doesn’t know it yet, but she and Sophia were hit by a truck going over 60 miles an hour soon after they started that training ride. Lynda, who was riding behind Sophia, was hit first -- her body went over the back of the truck. She was told police found some of the paint from her bike on the truck’s back bumper. Then, the truck hit Sophia.
But all Lynda knows right now is that her husband, Richard, has arrived at the ER -- and he hasn’t heard the news yet.
Lynda Fisher: He had gone for a run that morning with the running group so they were trying to find him. They finally found him. He came to the ER. And I just remember staring at the ceiling, no one else was in the room that I recall, and I just said, "She's gone." And he just kind of looked at me and said, "What?" And I said, "She's gone." And then he just fell to the floor. He realized that she had gone biking with me. At first he did not know, because he was gone before she got up, and he didn't know our plans that morning.
I wish I could take those words back. I wish they weren't true, for one, and I wish I hadn't been the one to share that news. And I remember just crying from the depths of my inner gut, just like a wounded animal, which I was, you know. Just crying out. And it was, it was simply awful. It was simply awful.
Lynda is in really bad shape. She’s being taken for scans and exams to figure out her injuries. Doctors can’t give her any pain medication yet, in case she needs to be taken into surgery.
Lynda Fisher: They kept asking, "What do you want?" And I said, "I want a Diet Dr. Pepper." And they wouldn't give me a Diet Dr. Pepper, because they were afraid I would have to go into surgery. And of course, I couldn't have anything to eat or drink. But my injuries, I had everything from behind my right ear, from where the helmet ripped my ear kind of off, so I was bleeding out of my ear. So it looked worse than it actually was, but of course they didn't know. So it looks like I'm bleeding out of my brain, but it's actually my ear was kind of ripped off. And then my shoulder, right side, my right hip was all messed up. My bruise was from kind of my waist to my knee. And then my worst injury is my left ankle. And I just shattered my talus bone, which is a real, the interior bone that's really hard to break. I broke the transverse processers in my back. So I was just physically a mess, not to mention the emotional trauma of losing your daughter. And they got me stable, made sure I was OK, and then they allowed me to have some pain meds and a Diet. Dr. Pepper.
Nora McInerny: Possibly the most memorable Diet Dr. Pepper of your life.
Lynda Fisher: Yes, yes.
We’ll be right back.
It’s the day of Miles’s funeral … and it’s now also the day of Sophia’s death.
When Lynda is finally given pain medication, it wipes her memories clean of most of her time in the hospital. It’s Richard’s job — an awful, heartbreaking job — to reach the boys, tell them what has happened and call them home. The oldest son, James, is in the Air Force, stationed in Guam. Daniel is also across an ocean, visiting a friend in Italy. Matthew is the closest, but he’s in Atlanta that day for a soccer game.
But within 24 hours, all three of Lynda’s sons and Sophia’s brothers are home.
And while they rush to be with their family, someone else rushes to Lynda’s bedside:
Josie, whose best friend’s funeral is in just a few hours.
Lynda Fisher: I remember her kneeling down to the bed on the right side, and I was kind of in and out just from the trauma of it all, because I hadn't had any meds. And I remember her saying, "I can't lose you, too." Because I didn't know if I was going to make it, I didn't know what was wrong with me. I just knew I was in intense pain. And I just remember her saying that. She said, "I can't lose you, too." And so then she had to go to Miles's funeral, of course, worried about me and grieving Sophia. And it's just a lot to handle for anyone. And it was a very difficult day, it was very difficult.
Nora McInerny: What did it feel like to hear a person that you've known that long ... like to have her show up, to have her say that to you, like I know you're in and out of it, but like, you know, that sticks with you. Your brain saved that.
Lynda Fisher: Yeah, it did, because it didn't save a lot, but it really saved that. I remember her vividly. And I think that just is a glimpse of our relationship.
Lynda needs emergency surgery in another town before they can hold a funeral for Sophia. In this surgery, doctors put seven screws in Lynda’s shattered foot and a dozen stitches in her ear to piece it back together. There’s the damage to her torso that requires a hard cast, stretching from Lynda’s armpits to her waist. Its job is to protect the broken vertebrae in Lynda’s back.
There’s no way Lynda can organize a funeral while she’s in the operating room getting her broken body put back together, so Richard and the extended family make all of the arrangements.
Sophia’s last Facebook post said that it's not always about how long you are there, but about what you do to make your mark on the world. She wrote that about Miles, not knowing how short her own life would be, or the impact she would make. Not knowing that she would die the day of her friend’s funeral.
The day of Sophia’s visitation, 1300 people show up. There’s Sophia’s friends and classmates. Faces from Lynda’s past. Family -- lots of family. And people Lynda has never even met.
Lynda Fisher: I had a childhood friend who had lost a child several years earlier, and she came through, and she's from out of town, and it was so precious because once you go through this, you realize how important it is to support somebody else in their time of need.
And friends from high school — show choir buddies, people that I haven’t, you know, maybe we're friends on Facebook, but we haven't kept up with, just came hours away to show their love and support for us.
And my BUNCO babes were just right there. We've played BUNCO together for over 20 years, when all our children were tiny and most of us were stay-at-home moms. And they were just sitting to my right. And if I would move a little bit, they would come and say, “Do you need a pillow? What do you need?” You know. And they wanted to make sure I was taken care of.
We had people come through that my boys would introduce to me that I'd never met before. They were, you know, somebody that they went to college with or somebody who was in a small group with them at college. And that they had built their relationships as young men with other people, and those people cared enough about my boys to come and love them and support them.
But Lynda, who probably needs comfort, connection and love as much as anyone in the crowd, is … untouchable. Truly untouchable. If people embrace her, it could threaten her recovery.
Lynda Fisher: My pastor and his wife were at the line. They put a sign out that said, "Do not hug Linda. She's in too much pain."
The visitation was supposed to be at 5, so we got to the church a little early. And the line was already stretched out way far. And so the funeral home guy said, "Do you care if we start early?" So we started about 4:30, and we ended at 9:30. And it was just so beautiful and awful at the same time. It was such a beautiful picture of the love of other people. It was heart wrenching, but it was so sweet to see how much people really cared about us and about our family and about Sophia.
When the unthinkable happens to us, we want to believe that our support systems will be there to catch us. But for many of us, that just … doesn’t happen. Sometimes the people who love us can’t support us the way we need to. Sometimes the people around us are also going through their own version of the same grief experience, and we all go about our days with no one to help us.
But Lynda’s community shows up in all kinds of incredible ways. Ways that mirror the way she showed up for Miles and Josie. So many ways we actually couldn’t even include them all.
Lynda Fisher: One of our local surgeons was on vacation that weekend. He's a personal friend — Sophia was friends with his children. When he heard the news, he drove back just to make sure if I needed him, he would be there. There were hundreds of people at the hospital. I know there was a meal train that was set up, and we had meals for six months, and I was told that it filled up in 30 minutes. We had gift cards that lasted a long time and there was, we called it the mini Wal-Mart at our house, because people brought Reynolds wrap, sandwich baggies, toilet paper, things to help get through the next couple of months. With all the family that is coming in, people immediately rushed to my house to make sure it was clean and ready for the family that was coming in. And so many people just were doing everything they could to ease the pain that they could. I had my pharmacist. I needed him on July 4th. And at 11 o'clock at night, he goes up to the pharmacy to make sure I have my meds. And that's just the kind of community that we live in.
If it hadn’t been for Lynda’s injuries, she might not have received this kind of support at all. Because she wouldn’t have thought to ask for it. Physical injuries are so visible, so evident, that it’s hard for us to turn away. Her friends can see that Lynda can’t scrub her own toilet or do her own laundry. And Lynda is very aware of her physical limitations and her physical pain. And while it’s easier for some people to ignore those emotional wounds, to pretend they aren’t there or they’re not that bad … Lynda doesn’t do that.
Lynda Fisher: This definitely broke me — emotionally and physically, obviously — but it was the physical side that allowed me to be vulnerable emotionally, because I think I would have put up a hedge, continued on with life and tried to just bury all those emotions. But I didn't have a choice. I was stuck in a chair for three months. I could not walk. I could not put any pressure on my left foot for three months. And then when I could put it on there, it was very slow going, obviously. You know, I had a girlfriend scheduled to come every morning, help me with breakfast, spend the morning with me, help me with lunch, kind of put me down for a nap, and then my husband was home. But it was during that time that, you know, I would just talk with my girlfriends and they would listen. They would share. And we would cry. And I was just vulnerable and could really talk about even what happened, and how the vision of Sophia is just seared in my brain. I think that the true physical side just took me down to the very bottom and made me depend on people even more. I didn't have a choice. I had to have help. And people came running. And I had them just scheduled out every single day to come over and to help me. And they were gracious to do that. But it was one of those I had to have that help. And I wanted to save, you know, the rest of the family from having to have that 24/7 care for me and try to share the burden, because I knew that I was a lot at that point in time.
As Lynda’s friends and community come by to help with the logistical things, like making her lunch once her husband heads back to work, getting her to her doctor’s appointments, or even washing her hair … it allows space for Lynda to open up about her emotional pain. And part of that pain was asking God, “What did I do to deserve this?”
Lynda Fisher: I remember my, the pastor when I was a teenager and his wife came over one day, and this is something that's really clear in my mind, just struggling with the "you reap what you sow." And I'm a pretty good person. I'm a pretty good person. I'm not perfect by any stretch, but I'm a pretty good person. And I have done good things. And I have served in the community. And I have done things for others and lived a good life. And I just didn't understand why. And I was like, “Why would God allow this to happen?” I did not sow this much pain in my life, why am I reaping now this much pain? And I remember he said to me, he said, "Remember at the visitation and the funeral, how many people have loved on you for so long." And he said, "That is what you are now reaping. You are now reaping the goodness of others, because you have given to others throughout your whole life, and now they are able and wanting to and willing to give back to you."
There were also times I know that I would just replay what happened in my mind and people were gracious, they're like, “We can talk about it, we don't have to talk about it.” And some days I would. Sometimes I wouldn't. But I know I talked about it a lot, because in my mind, I just wanted to make sense of it all. I just want it to make sense. And I've come to the conclusion that I cannot make sense of it. I cannot make sense. It doesn't make sense. Because in my mind, it's like, “Well, if I'd left 15 minutes earlier, if I'd left 15 minutes later, why did we do this? Why do I feel like I've got to be an overachiever and cram in a training before a funeral, before a dinner party that night, why?” You know, and just kind of beat yourself up over that. And I think any good parent would go through those steps of you can't make sense of it all. But I was trying to, desperately.
You know, sometimes as believers. We want to say, “Well, you know, everything's going to be fine because you believe!” But it's not. We're going to have those heartaches. We're going to have that pain. But it's how you come through that and how you can be honest and vulnerable and real with other people. And I think that's what we need to share, that we have our hurts, we have our pains. It's not all beautiful. It's not all glorious. It hurts. I've yelled at God. I've been mad at God. I've done all those things. I've done all those steps. I'm still not happy with him. I still don't like his plan. I don't know what he's doing. I want to know and I wish he'd tell me, but he hasn't yet.
Time for a break.
Lynda is recovering from the accident that broke her body and killed her daughter Sophia. She’s surrounded by a community who loves her. In a strange way, that attention helps, because when there’s a lot of people dropping by, there’s less alone time … less time when you feel utterly lost.
Lynda and her husband Richard weren’t due to become “empty nesters” for another year. Sophia was going into her senior year of high school. With her gone — not just to college, but gone forever — the house feels so quiet.
Lynda Fisher: I've always had an open-home policy. You can bring whomever home. So the summer before the accident, there were four of us in the house. My husband, me, my youngest son was still there and then Sophia. And so the accident happened in the summer. It wasn't quiet, because people stopped by all the time, checked on us if we could do anything. So if it wasn't for a while before it got quiet. But then Matthew went off to Georgia Tech, to finish his college. And it was just the two of us. And it was just so quiet. I'm just used to having children home with multiple friends. And then to have no children home, it was almost unbearable. I like the chaos of it all. It's fun. It's not a Southern living house that I live in. It is a lived-in home with dirty dishes, socks and shoes. And it's just a place where people can come in, relax and enjoy. And so for it to be so quiet, I didn't like it at all. And then a year later, when I am looking at my second ankle surgery, my husband tells me he's out.
Lynda’s husband files for divorce around a year and a half after Sophia’s death. They’d been working on their marriage prior to the accident, and he lovingly cared for Lynda as she recovered from her injuries. But now, it’s clear: Their marriage of 29 years is ending.
This is heartbreaking for all of the reasons divorce is heartbreaking. And the heartbreak is punctuated by the literal pain of Lynda’s continued recovery. Because her foot, which was so badly damaged during the accident, isn’t healing. She needs more surgeries.
Lynda Fisher: I'm going into my second surgery realizing that I'm going to come out without a husband. He took me to the surgery. We came home. I couldn't walk yet again. And he left. And so it has been difficult, because the simple acts of kindness that he would show, such as getting my coffee and fixing dinner for me — he's a great cook — really did help in so many ways. And so here I am, unable to do a lot for myself, having to crawl up stairs and not put any weight on my foot and drag the scooter behind me or throw it down in front of me and climb down stairs. It's exhausting. It is exhausting. And so to go from that summer with four of us living at the house, to less than a year and a half later and it's just me on this big, beautiful farm that my family has had for five generations now, and it's just me, two dogs and a cat. And it's very hard to take care of myself.
Lynda is doing what a lot of us who’ve lost someone do. I was going to say, “put one foot in front of the other and keep going each day,” but that is not appropriate. Lynda can’t live up to that metaphor. She can’t put one foot in front of the other. There are times when she can’t even stand on the hurt foot. She’s reeling from pain that’s physical and emotional. Both kinds have transformed her and changed her and and overstayed their welcome, like the worst party guests of all time.
Lynda Fisher: And I know some of the energy that if I had someone with me that could help care for me, that some of the energy could be used toward more fun or productive things, you know? Now I feel like I'm still just surviving. I'm still just maintaining my job and cleaning the house and. I'm just beginning to get back into, quote, living. And so I think that has been very difficult in my recovery process. I had a third surgery, which is a complete ankle replacement, which was another eight weeks without walking on my foot. And so that's when I called in the girls again and had care for 24/7. They spent the night with me. They took care of me. And my boys were there. And, you know, they were having to play the role of caretaker. And they, of course, were wonderful. My boys have had to do so much, and they have stepped up and done it beautifully. But yet at the same time, I know they're hurting. I know they miss Sophia so much. I think all of them have a picture of her on their home screen phone. You know, although all of them are married, that is who they have there, because they love their sister and they miss her. And now I know they mourn the loss of their family, their family unit that meant so much.
Of course Lynda mourns the loss of what she had, and who she was, the things she used to be able to do. Driving is difficult for her now. She doesn’t remember getting hit by that truck, but her brain remembers it — somewhere in there. And she doesn’t think she’ll ever get on a bike again. And she mourns who she could be … what could have been.
Lynda Fisher: It's not the way I saw this second stage of life going. You know, the second stage of life was: kids through college, debt-free, travel. You know, that's what I thought. Now, I know there's a lot of travel in my future because I love to travel. But I just envisioned it a little differently. I envisioned it with my husband of 30 years. I envisioned it that we'd go see all four of our children around wherever they were located. And I think with the loss of Sophia and the loss of my marriage, I'm grieving the loss of my future because it's not like I planned it. It's not like I saw it. Doesn't mean it's not going to be OK, it's not going to be good down the road. But right now it is a loss. And I'm just going to be in this little valley for a while and hopefully continue to get better.
The physical impacts of every surgery and recovery put Lynda back at square one, back into the most acute version of that pain, that helplessness.
And for a long time, her brain did the same thing to her emotionally: replaying the day that Sophia died, blaming herself … for getting Sophia into triathlons, for scheduling a training ride that day, for leaving the house exactly when they did and not five minutes earlier or five minutes later later. This thought process is like pushing a bruise -- it hurts, and she can’t resist it … until a friend tells her something that stops those thoughts in their tracks.
Lynda Fisher: A dear friend of mine whom I have known since probably the second grade came over one morning and we were talking through the accident, you know, kind of rehashing it and everything. And she's an athlete and does tris and runs, and her girls are friends with Sophia. And she said to me, "Linda, Sophia was doing what she loved with who she loved." And I will always treasure that, because that just means so much to me. And I go back to those words that people have poured into me, that means so much. And they just carry me so far down the road. But the fact that I know Sophia wanted to go for a bike ride. We were an active family. We wanted to do these things. We wanted to go to Miles's funeral. We wanted to host a dinner party that night for friends. We wanted to be active. That is who we are as a family. And that I would not change.
They WANTED to do those things, to live life that way. It’s so simple, and it’s so wise.
Sophia’s name means wisdom. Lynda knew that when she picked the name, when she held Sophia in her arms and whispered that name to her daughter the first time. She didn’t imagine, that day she gave birth to her fiery redheaded girl, that someday she would grieve for her. That someday, she would have to live without her.
That someday … she’d have to see the man who killed her in court.
And when Lynda does, there’s a two-page document in her hand, a victim impact statement she’s been working on with her sons.
Lynda Fisher: Your Honor. Thank you for this opportunity to come before your court and share my statements for my family. To be here today is extremely hard for me to do, but I must honor my daughter and be a voice for her today. The tragedy of June 30th, 2018 will forever be in my head and on my heart. There has not been, nor do I think there will ever be, a day that goes by that I do not miss Sophia and her presence in my life. What will forever be etched into my memory is the lifeless body of my precious redheaded girl, my attempt to breathe life into her again. No medicine, no counseling, no new event will ever take away that awful vision of her. I've often thought that maybe it would have been better if Sophia and I were to have switched places. That I would have died that day and she would have lived with more vibrant years ahead of her. But I have since changed my thoughts concerning that. There's no way, if the roles were reversed, that her 18-year-old mind could have dealt with the trauma that I have to endure daily. I would not have been here to care for her in this lengthy recovery, and she would always wonder if she could have done things differently to change the course of that dreaded day. While the shock of these events graciously blocked some of my memory that morning, I doubt [redacted] memory spared him the same way mine did. I feel as though he will have to live with his actions and the memories of that day, just as I do. I do not believe [redacted] did this act with malintent or vicious hate, yet whatever the distraction that led his truck off the side of the road to strike me and Sophia was more than unfortunate. And while this may not have been an intentional act, the consequences of the act will forever remain. We will never have Sophia with us here again. Although I do not believe this was intentional, there still needs to be some restitution.
“There needs to be some restitution.” A lovely 18-year-old is gone forever. If we were in Lynda’s shoes, I think It would be pretty easy to ask the court to harshly penalize the person who caused your daughter’s death, to try and squeeze as much pain from them as they had from you. To make them pay … something, anything.
Lynda Fisher: However, it’s the wishes of Sophia's brothers and me that [redacted] not spend any time in jail for these actions, the cost of jail and the results of him spending time there will not necessarily make his life better, nor does nothing to honor Sophia. What we do wish is that he spends his community service doing good and sharing his story with other young drivers so they know the power in which they yield when they get behind the steering wheel. In that position, someone has the power to take a life in an instant, whether intentional or not. My family wants to know that Sophia’s life, and ultimately her death, was not in vain. My wish is that there will not be another mother who has to bury her child because of a situation such as this, nor brothers who have to be called home to bury their sister.
There is nothing that can be done that will bring back our Sophia. Nothing that will give us one more birthday, Christmas morning laughs or vacation memories. Her father will not be able to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day, and I will not be able to hold her hand while she's in labor or hold a precious grandbaby that she gives birth to. I will never know the thrill of her getting her college degree or holding her tightly again in the simple joys of life. You have changed my life forever and not for the better. I will always have a broken heart that yearns for Sophia every day. I miss telling her she's being cranky in the morning, that she needs to clean her room, and that she needs to always be a lady. Recovering from my third and hopefully final surgery — a complete ankle replacement — I continue to be plagued with pain, and much of this surgery has brought about triggers from the first surgery just days after the accident. Please understand my world. I can't hear an ambulance without my heart skipping a beat, I can't pass a pedestrian, much less a bike rider, without intense anxiety, and I rarely go to bed or wake up without tears streaming from my eyes. There will be a time for you and for me that hopefully we can see that God can bring some good out of this tragic event. I hope your days are spent making this world a better place, honoring Sophia in your actions and remembering that while you may have the opportunity to celebrate life events with loved ones, you have taken that chance away from us. Please honor my precious daughter, Sophia, with living a life that is full of integrity and love for others, thank you, Your Honor.
Nora McInerny: Was he in the courtroom when you read that?
Lynda Fisher: Yeah.
Nora McInerny: How did he react to that? That's so gracious, Linda, so beautiful.
Lynda Fisher: This day was the only chance that I would get to face him and to share our heart with him and to offer that forgiveness. And I would never get it again. If I chose not to be there, it would be a missed opportunity. I struggled with it greatly. But I knew at the end that I had to go, and that I had to do this. And he apologized. And he asked for forgiveness. And he was very gracious. And he was a young gentleman. And of course, having three boys, you know, my heart hurts for him, my heart hurts for his mother. It's just an awful situation.
Nora McInerny: Lynda, you're such a good mom. You're such a good mom. And like you're such a good mom to this kid, too, because, like, I don't know. You're just really wonderful, and I want to be more like you.
Maybe it’s because Lynda sees another mom’s son when she looks at the young man who killed Sophia. Maybe it’s because she’s certain she’ll be reunited with Sophia again someday. Or maybe it’s because she understands she’s not the only one traumatized by what happened on that day.
Lynda Fisher: My brain has spared me some of those memories, but I doubt he gets that opportunity. And I think that is punishment enough. Because there's nothing he can pay me. There's nothing he can do. No amount of community service that will bring Sophia back. So I hope that he just lives a life of integrity and loving others, because that's what Sophia would have done, and that's how she would live her life.
This has been “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” Our team is Beth Pearlman, Marcel Malekebu, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, Megan Palmer, Jordan Turgeon. We got help on this episode from Paula Engelking. Our theme music is by Geoffrey Lamar Wilson. We are a production of American Public Media. I don’t know if we’re supposed to say APM Studios now, but there’s been a rebrand. APM Studios is here!
Honestly, when I spend time recording the narration for some of these things, two things happen: I either get way slap happy and I’m like yeahhhh whatever, or I’m just devastated. And right now after reading all this, I'm just really sad. I am just very sad. I feel very sad about Sophia and Lynda and Sophia’s brothers and you know, all of it. I feel sad for all of us and all of these things that have happened to everybody.
Sometimes I just feel very attuned to all the sadness in the world and the fact we’ve all been through something difficult and will go through another thing that’s difficult … over and over. Anyways. Contact me for more inspiring content. I am always here to really pep up the room in any situation, as you know. As you know.
Um, what else do we do at this podcast? What else do I have to say? Wow, good luck to edit, good luck to edit this? I dunno, Marcel. Good luck editing this. Hope I didn’t have too many mouth noises. My mouth was very dry, but I also try to drink water and ... I don't know. I don’t know. I think that’s it. I think that’s it. That’s it, that’s it. Okay. Ooop! Geez louise. Okay bye.