It’s the phone call no parent ever wants to get. The one from the Sûreté du Québec or the hospital after your child has been out with friends or on their own. It doesn’t matter that your child is legally an adult; they’ll always be your child.
I can’t imagine what emotional devastation the parents of Vanessa Empsall and Jean Désir Fils Milfort are going through since the night their children were involved in tragic accident in June, costing them both their lives.
The coroner’s report was released last week and it cited several factors that contributed to their death – driver fatigue, alcohol and not wearing seatbelts. They were coming home from a night out on the town in the wee hours of the morning, like many of us have done when we were their age. Empsall’s blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit for Quebec drivers but at that time, Quebec drivers under 22 were not permitted to have any alcohol.
Two bright, young futures snuffed out before their time.
Empsall was 20 years old and about to start a promising job in a new company that she hoped would lead her into a marketing career.
Milfort was a 22-year-old football player training for his first season with the Concordia Stingers.
I and most of my friends were risk-takers as teenagers and young adults.
We’ve all had those nights of partying, not concerned about the consequences.
In retrospect, we’re amazed that we made it through our 20s with very few scars to speak of. If you have always done the right thing and made all the right decisions, then good for you. But I do believe that you are in the minority.
Now as a parent, I remember all the chances I took and those decisions I made that could have turned tragic but, by the grace of God, didn’t. And it makes me cringe.
As my children get older and become more independent, I fear for the time when they start to venture out on their own or with friends. As parents, we have to allow them the opportunity to make their own decisions and just pray they’re the right ones. And when they make the wrong judgment call (and most likely they will at one point or another), we can only hope that it proves to be a warning for the next time and not the last decision they’ll ever make.
There are many things that Empsall and Milfort could’ve done differently that night. Abstained from drinking and driving? Probably. Called a cab? Perhaps. Worn their seatbelts? Most definitely.
In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. They’re gone and whatever their transgressions, as irresponsible as they may seem, it shouldn’t have cost them their lives. They should have been given a second chance to make a different decision the next time.
Tragically, there are no do-overs in life. Now, two families are left to imagine what could have been. And for that, I feel for their loss.
Marla Newhook is a journalist and mother of two. She works part time at West Island Citizen Advocacy as the publicity representative. She is a resident of Pincourt.