Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Remembering Ava Frances

April 9, 2011 was to be a happy day. My friend Rachel was all set to marry her sweetheart, and begin a lifetime of happiness. Until tragedy struck...

Many wedding guests had already arrived at the church, and were waiting for the wedding to begin. As soon as I arrived, I noticed that something was going on, because the Preacher's wife was leaving as I was parking. I just thought that someone had forgotten something and that she was making a last minute run to get it. Until I got inside...

When I walked in the church, there were a lot of people still standing in the foyer. People looked panicked. People were crying. Something was wrong. Very wrong. A friend of mine told me what was going on, but I didn't want to believe it...

Then, the Preacher had everyone sit in the Sanctuary, so that he could make the announcement. Even 2 years later, these words still haunt me.  He said, "Today there was to be a wedding, but that won't be happening.  The Bridal Party was en route to the church, and there was an accident. The flower girl, Ava Frances, went to be with The Lord."

Shock. Collective gasp. No tears immediately. Complete disbelief. Was this real? This is the kind of tragedy that you see on Lifetime movies, but it doesn't happen to one of your good friends. Maybe the reports were wrong.  Maybe Ava was still alive.

But no. A day that was supposed to be full of love and laughter, quickly turned into tragic sadness. While on their way to the church, one car of the Bridal Party's caravan was struck head on, instantly killing 6 year old Ava Frances Kendall.


Let me tell you a little bit about Ava.  She was a 6 year old who was full of life.  Her beautiful red hair, and blue eyes were only matched by her outgoing personality.  Whenever Ava was in a room, everyone knew it, because Ava brought light with her, and boy, did she know how to light up a room. As my friend, Rachel, said in an interview, "She was explosive with personality... and she was beautiful." She never met a stranger, and would talk to anyone.  Her signature color was pink and she loved wearing her cowboy boots.

I'd known Ava for most of her life.  It was rare to see Rachel and not see Ava.  Rachel babysat for Ava pretty much her entire life.  This was not just some child that was plopped in her wedding as a flower girl... this was a role that Ava was born for. Rachel loved, and still loves Ava like her own child.

The cause of the wreck was distracted driving. Witnesses that were driving behind the lady that hit the car Ava was in, said that she reached down for something. Later, it was revealed that she was reaching down for her cell phone. One split second.  One simple thing that could have waited. It cost Ava her life.

We've all done it. I know that I have. You get that phone call, or that text message and you can't wait to see who it's from or what it says. Lately, when I hear that notification going off while I'm driving, I find myself thinking of Ava. At the crash site, there are flowers planted, and a garden flag to remember the sweet sweet life that was lost there. I drive by that spot all the time when I'm going to my parents' house.  Every single time, I think of her.  The next time that you are driving, and are tempted to reach down for the phone, or the radio, or whatever may be distracting you, I implore you to think of Ava, and that bright smile... and to focus on what you are really doing... driving.

The story passed the local news, and was picked up by the AP... and as I was googling to find the news story from 2 years ago, I found an international article about the accident.  However, as news stories often do, this one has faded into history, but people need to hear Ava's story.  People need to know the cost of distracted driving are.  In this case, the cost was the life of a 6 year old Kindergarten student, but Ava was much more than your average Kindergartner.  She was loved by all who knew her.
The Star of Bethlehem in our church Christmas play. 
Ava was a shining star here on Earth, and there is no doubt that she is making friends and entertaining on the streets of Heaven.  Rest in Peace sweet Ava Frances. You are missed so very much.

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4 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. I can't even imagine. My heart goes out to her family as well as your friend that I can only imagine feels guilty and can't remember her wedding without thinking of this precious little girl. I know I'm so guilty of being distracted while driving. I only hope her story will cause others (like me) to pay more attention while we're driving to prevent further tragedies.

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  2. Awe. I am so sorry. This story is truly amazing.
    I don't like people that text and drive because of that reason. To many people loose their lives because one person wasn't paying attention.

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  3. Oh my dear, I'm fighting tears. What a good reminder to us all, and sad that this is how the reminder comes.

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  4. My husband and I were on our way home from Greenville that day and had just gotten to Rock Springs as the wreck was happening, we actually had to talk to the police about what we saw. Dr. Kendall and my dad work together a lot and I will never forget the LIGHT that shone in that precious little girl.

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