An Aylmer father shares the anguish of losing his teenaged son through new book
David McColl has lived a parent’s worst nightmare — the death of his child.
As a way to deal with his own feelings and help other parents going through the same thing, he recently wrote a book called A Father’s Tears.
David’s 19-year-old son Anthony was killed in April 2011, in a head-on collision with a suspected impaired driver who was being pursued by police. Brandon Crawford, 20, also died in the crash.
A tragic irony is that the reason Anthony was driving that night was to make sure his sister Alanna and her friends got home safely from a party without having to take a ride from someone who had been drinking.
Part of what stood out about this young man from Aylmer, says his father, was his determination to never let friends or family to drive drunk or be driven by someone who was impaired.
“He’d be in Aylmer and people would call him from Chelsea and say, ‘I need a ride home. Can you come and get me?’ … And he would go and get them, sometimes twice a night,” McColl says.
McColl, an IT consultant, was urged by some of his writer friends to start a journal to work through his grief, and they eventually convinced him to write a book.
A Father’s Tears starts from the morning when McColl and his wife Monica were called by their crying daughter, urging them to get to the Hull hospital as quickly as possible.
The reader can feel the couple’s anguish as McColl describes the hour-long drive from a friend’s cottage that feels like an eternity, and the ominous hints that follow — being led into a separate waiting room upon arriving at the hospital, and a father of one of the passengers saying to McColl he was sorry for his “loss” — before finally getting the unthinkable news from a doctor.
“I did nothing,” McColl writes about his immediate reaction, in contrast to his wife, who screamed. “I sat there in shock and I knew I was in shock … I still can’t explain my feelings and lack of reaction at that moment.”
His story explores what a parent thinks and feels in the wake of such a situation, including how unprepared one is for the death of their child.
“When my parents died, I was somewhat prepared. … But that in no way prepared me for the death of my 19-year-old son,” McColl writes. “Is anyone ever prepared for the death of his or her child?”
McColl says writing the book was therapeutic for him; it gave him a chance to document how great a person Anthony was, and the feedback he’s received shows it’s helping people.
Asked what the most important thing is for grieving parents to know, McColl says, “Anger and hatred and feelings of vengeance will kill you.”
McColl says he managed to avoid such sentiment after Anthony was killed. “I was never angry at the guy who killed my son, and I don’t really understand why, but I’m really glad I wasn’t.”
A Father’s Tears is available online through Amazon and at the Michabou book store in Aylmer. Part of the proceeds go toward Tony’s Promise, an organization led by McColl that raises awareness of the dangers of impaired driving.
Photo: Billie MacDonald