To the Drunk Driver Who Killed My Sister-in-Law

by Kelly Riibe November 24, 2016

light trails on a highway road at night

Im afraid I cannot start this letter off with the standard hello, politely followed by a question asking in regard to your well-being. We both know the answer to that unstated inquiry, as you are dead.

This is an apology letter – one that is overdue. Every good apology begins with three simple words, so let me get started.

I am sorry that you had to take my innocent sister-in-law with you in death when you hit her in a head-on collision. I am sorry that you drank copious amounts of whiskey, and then decided to drive in the wrong direction, on a four-lane highway.

I am sorry that my sister-in-law loved her job and was willing to commute 90 minutes each shift to purse her nursing career. If she had been lazier, she would have blamed the snow storm circling the area and stayed home in bed. But she knew she could get up early and be to work before the severe weather started. You hit her before a single snowflake had even fallen. This is almost impressive, because once the blizzard began, the roads turned horrendous.

I am sorry that the huge median dividing the eastbound lanes from the westbound lanes was not even bigger. Maybe then you would have understood, in your drunken state, that something was a bit different from your typical route home.

I am sorry that the accident occurred early on a Monday morning. Sheriffs and deputies tend to patrol for drunk drivers a bit more diligently on Friday and Saturday nights. Any other time of day would have had more traffic, which is scary to consider. You may have taken out multiple vehicles or a mini-van filled with kids had the accident happened at a busier time. It’s strange to think it fortunate that my sister-in-law was the only fatality (present company excluded, of course).

I am sorry that it’s so dark in the early morning hours before sunrise and that we adhere to Daylight Saving Time. If it had been brighter, my sister-in-law might have seen you coming and gotten out of the way. But that is unlikely, because she was trying to pass a semi-truck that had unexpectedly slowed down in front of her. She did not know what the semi-truck driver knew. He could see you cruising in the wrong direction at 70mph, but my sister-in-law could not.

I am sorry that your accident has scarred that middle-aged truck hauler. He was in no position to stop you and had the unfortunate peripheral view of the whole ugly scene. Air bags were not much help considering the speeds you both were traveling.

I am sorry that you died on impact, but luckily, there was enough blood in your system to obtain a sample for your autopsy. I am sorry that your blood alcohol level was over two times the legal limit. I am sorry that you did not stay at your cousin’s house or call for ride. I’ve never heard of someone having a .227 blood alcohol content, but once you reach those levels, you probably aren’t banking on seeing anyone in your life ever again.

I am sorry that it took awhile for bystanders to get help, and that my sister-in-law was pinned in her car and could only whimper. I am sorry that by the time officers arrived, the weather had gotten bad, and two more vehicles had already collided with the crash site. All of these dominoes meant that it took a long time to get my sister-in-law to the hospital. I am sorry that your ambulance ride involved a body bag.

I am sorry that my family could only drive 40mph on the interstate in order to make it to the emergency room safely. A drive that should have taken 75 minutes took almost two hours. We saw two cars go in the ditch, and my husband may never get over the anxiety he felt as he white-knuckled the steering wheel during that grueling drive. You see, we didn’t have the option of getting in a car accident. We have three children, and they needed us to return safely. We also didn’t have the option of staying home as my sister-in-law was fighting for her life and needed her family.

I am sorry that we had to lie to our kids that day. They thought we were helping my brother-in-law with car troubles. They thought that snow day home from school was great because they played with neighbors and friends. My kids didn’t know their aunt had already received four units of blood and was barely registering stable vitals.

I am sorry that the good Samaritans on-site only had one fire extinguisher and they used it on my sister-in-law’s Subaru. They did not save her, but they kept her beautiful face and body intact. This led to more closure for our family. After she lost her battle to breathe at the hospital, we were able to see and touch her one last time. We were able to say formal good-byes. I am sorry your family was not granted the same opportunity.

I am sorry you did not have car insurance. It makes things more difficult for everyone else who has to put one foot in front of the other and keep living life. I know your family posted in your obituary that you would “never intentionally hurt anyone,” but that doesn’t help pay the out-of-network ER bills. It also doesn’t bring our loved one back to us.

I am sorry that my brother-in-law lost his partner in life. I am sorry that he has to re-think his whole future. I am sorry he lost a part of his identity, all because you were mad after seeing your on-again/off-again wife, at a Subway, with another guy.

I am sorry that my kids lost an aunt who loved them unconditionally. I am sorry that my sister-in-law’s parents will never again get to hear their daughter’s voice. I am sorry that their son is now an only child.

I am sorry that friends, neighbors, co-workers, and extended family had to go to a funeral service for someone that was 30-years-young.

I am sorry that I am so angry. I do not even know you. We have never met, yet I picture your face whenever I am doing a jab punch followed by an uppercut in my gym’s kick-boxing class.

I am sorry that I don’t have answers for my five-year-old when she asks me “Why?” at night from under her bed covers. Angels in heaven are great, but visits to Earth would heal a lot of wounds. I don’t want my kids to have never known an aunt who loved them, but unfortunately, as time heals, so do memories fade.

Absolutely everything in our life (and yours) is now different because of you, and for that I am sorry.


Me (A victim by association)

Kelly Riibe


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