New Year’s Eve can be one of the most fun nights of the year, but it is also a night fraught with opportunity to make bad choices.
Drunk driving, for instance, could be the last decision someone ever makes.
Peg Ball of Tunkhannock, knows the scenario all too well.
Just days ahead of his graduation from Slippery Rock University, her son, Norman Ball Jr., was killed in a drunk driving accident on May, 20, 1981.
She still feels the pain to this very day.
“When something like that happens, you feel like you’re alone in the world,” Ball said last week. “Losing a child is the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent.”
Ball remembers the moment she found out that her son was killed as if it were yesterday.
“Our minister came to the door around 8:30 the next morning,” Ball recalled. “I answered the door and our pastor (Rev. Earle Cowden) was crying, and he told us ‘one of your children was killed in a car accident. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Getting through that time was very tough, but Ball credits having a good support system as one of the major reasons that she was able to get through it. She wanted to make sure other people have that same type of support system, which is why she started a support group, ‘In Loving Memory’, in March 1985.
“I started this group for parents who have lost a child,” Ball said. “The door is always open for someone who has experienced the incredible pain of having lost a child.”
Ball said the meetings are usually attended by anywhere from eight to 15 people, and anyone can just show up if they feel the need to. The meetings take place at her home in Tunkhannock.
“The best thing to do is just listen,” Ball said. “We are always there to hold someone’s hand, especially someone who recently lost a child, and let them know we are there for them. It’s going to take a long time to get in the right frame of mind, but ‘In Loving Memory’ helps them get to that point.”
Although there haven’t been as many meetings in 2020 because of the pandemic, Ball looks forward to getting back to regular monthly meetings with the group in 2021 when everything is safe again. She calls some of the people she has met through this program, “lifelong friends.”
“We have people who lost a child 25 years ago, and still come for the friendship,” she added. “There is crying, but we don’t want the meetings to be all crying. We want to share some happy stories and memories about the children as well.”
So no parent ever has to go through the feeling that she went through, Ball has words of advice to young adults who plan to go out during the holiday season.
“If you’re drinking, call your parents to pick you up, make sure you have a sober driver to get you home, or plan to stay overnight so you won’t be going anywhere after drinking,” Ball said. “Please make wise decisions, as you have your whole lives ahead of you.”
Her last words of advice: “Never be too cocky, and think something can’t happen.”
“Everyone thinks that it’s never going to happen to them. The thought of a drunk driving crash never goes through anyone’s mind,” she added. “No one is invincible, it could happen to any family. Let’s make sure that it doesn’t.”
Anyone who wants to learn more, or knows someone who could be helped by the ‘In Loving Memory’ group, can contact Peg at 570-836-3324 for more information.