Please wear your seatbelt

Jamie and KellySeven years ago today, I was less than one week into a new job. My dad left me a voicemail that someone had been trying to reach me at his house. He was unclear who had left the message, but they’d been looking for me.

On my lunch break, I decided to call the number he gave me. (I honestly thought it could have been a solicitor or something!) I was sitting in a TGI Friday’s eating lunch by myself. I was waiting on my food to arrive. A man answered the phone, and I gave my name and asked if they’d been trying to reach me.

Turns out, it was the uncle of a very dear friend, Jamie. Jamie’s family did not know how to reach me except by my last name and the street where my parents lived, so they’d evidently found my parents’ number online.

Jamie’s uncle, Mike, informed me Jamie had been in an accident early that morning. I was immediately alarmed by the tone of Mike’s voice and the difficulty he was having relaying this information. At worst, though, I assumed Jamie was in the hospital with serious injuries.

I clearly remember saying, “But he’s okay, right?” I don’t remember Mike’s response, but I do know it was communicated Jamie had died. After that, everything is a blur. I don’t recall if I paid for the food that had come to the table. I just remember the tears beginning and leaving the restaurant to drive back to work.

I called my parents’ house first, and my dad answered. I just remember saying “Jamie is dead. Jamie is dead.” And then relaying the information from the phone call.

Jamie was in an automobile accident and wasn’t wearing his seat belt. They believe he died instantly when his truck veered off a highway in south Florida and hit a work vehicle.

I was extremely fortunate that I had a fantastic boss at my new job, Rick Gregory. I went immediately to his office, and he could tell something was wrong. I tried to remain calm as I told him what happened. He let me leave early that day and was flexible so I could attend Jamie’s funeral the next week, too.

Jamie lived in South Florida and that is where he died. He’d moved there for job opportunities and was taking some classes, too. I’d been fortunate to see him the week before when he visited Orlando for his nephew’s birthday.

He’d called me late in the day while still driving to Orlando and asked if I could go out. I was leaving very early the next morning for Tallahassee for activities related to a family wedding. I said no at first because I was tired, and he wasn’t even going to be in Orlando until close to 10 p.m.

But something told me to say yes, and I actually remember thinking I was unsure when I’d get to see him again. So he ended up just coming over to watch movies and catch up on life. We didn’t talk much since he’d moved to south Florida.

When he left, I gave him a big hug and told him I was glad we got to hang out. He harassed me about driving to south Florida to see him again soon. (My last visit had been in February.)

Just over a week later, he was gone. I truly believe in divine intervention, and I believe that it was God who prompted me to say yes to seeing him that night. I am so grateful I did. I can only imagine the grief I’d feel if I’d declined to hang out a week before he died.

Every year that goes by, I wish Jamie had worn his seat belt or done anything different so that he’d still be here today. There are a lot of people who miss him, and people like my son and his nephew who will not have the chance to know him.

Make sure you wear your seat belt. If you don’t, just imagine how your family or friends would feel receiving that phone call, or worse having law enforcement show up at their house to tell them their loved one was killed.

Rest in peace, my dear friend. If you’d like to know more about Jamie, read his online obituary.