When we went to bed on Saturday night, July 18 at 11pm we were the parents of seven happy, healthy and successful children. Little did we know just how our lives were about to change. On July 19, 2015 at 6am we were awakened by the ringing telephone, “Is this Mary Ann Stock? This is the Albany Police would you please come to your front door?” And there in our living room, in the house where we raised our seven children, Art asked, “It’s Amy, isn’t it?” The two plain clothed police officers nodded and told us that our daughter Amy was killed. Hit by a drunk driver on Henry Johnson Blvd in Albany. We remember showing them the seven senior portraits on the living room wall and pointing out Amy. After that, much of the day and following week are a blur. We had to call our other six children and keep it together long enough to get the words out, “Amy’s gone…killed by a drunk driver.” And then listen to the scream or palpable silence on the other end of the line...each of our children reacting to the news in his or her own way. The one constant thought continually replaying through Art’s head, even today is, “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to happen. My daughter isn’t supposed to die before me.”
“Even now, it doesn’t feel real. It all feels like a dream.” When Mary Ann went to see her body at the funeral parlor, to say “good bye”, Amy didn’t look dead. She looked peaceful and her arm felt warm. Art couldn’t bring himself to go see Amy after she was killed. Only our son Tom joined his mother. The rest of her siblings just couldn’t bear the pain and torture of seeing Amy dead. Shortly after that, Amy was cremated. Some of Amy’s ashes were buried at the cemetery. However, most of them were shared with friends and family. She is on the west coast with her friends at the Olympia Zen Center that she helped build. She is on the coast of Maine and the beach in Florida, with special friends she loved to visit. One of the hardest days was when Art headed out alone on a beautiful summer morning to take her ashes to one of their favorite spots in the Adirondacks. “Sitting there with Amy’s ashes, looking out over the lake and mountains, thinking about all the regrets, things I should have told her and wondering if I was a good father”.
It’s amazing how after a tragedy like this, the little things just don’t matter. The material things are no longer important. All we have now are the memories. The fond memories of our days spent together at the pool, canoeing, hiking, traveling and laughing.
Cleaning out Amy’s apartment and going through her belongings was extremely difficult. Room by room, piece by piece we have gone through a lifetime of our daughters belongings, clothes, jewelry, high school and college memorabilia, photos, journals, paperwork and books. So, so many books. She had just moved in a few weeks prior so many things were still in boxes. Even still, we had to go through everything. She had various papers and different lists and notes all over her apartment. At one point we found a list titled “2015 Going to be a Great year!” The list detailed the things Amy wanted to accomplish in 2015 like sell her house, move to Albany, publish her book and touch base with old friends. However, what we discovered next nearly brought us to our knees in grief. On the back of this paper was another list titled “Biggest fears” The first two things listed were 1) being alone 2) dying alone. Then, further down on the list was ….dying before I do it all! To this day, words cannot describe our grief as we stood in that kitchen reading about our daughters greatest fears and realizing how they had all just come true.
Then there was the funeral service to plan, obituary to write, cemetery plot, headstone, getting the word out to friends and family, making arrangements with the church. There was just so much to do, all taking its toll.
A week after Amy’s death, we had to begin to close out her accounts. Our daughter Maureen was in charge of returning her cable modem and canceling her service with Time Warner. As the representative met her and walked with her to his desk, he asked how he could help her today?. She asked him to bear with her because she would probably cry, He said, “Oh no, don’t cry, we can fix anything” Her heart sank, as she looked up at him and cried she said ”You can’t fix this”. Still crying, she choked out the words and told him she was there to cancel her sisters cable service because her sister was just killed by a drunk driver. Crying, she handed him the box of supplies, still unopened as Amy had just started the service a week prior.
Our daughter Eileen was appointed the administrator of Amy’s estate. Having to make phone calls to the power company, insurance companies, banks, credit card companies, phone company telling them all that Amy was dead. Mailing death certiﬁcates, reviewing the police report, going through paperwork, bills, Amy’s entire ofﬁce piece by piece making sure nothing was missed. Not only did Eileen have to handle Amy’s accounts but she had to deal with Amy’s car insurance carrier. One day receiving a call from Jennifer, a claims representative, calling about the wrongful death claim for case #120984560-0101-037, a number to her but a sister gone too soon for Eileen. Jennifer called to offer less than half of the policy limit. When Eileen told her she expected the full amount of the policy the representative told Eileen that was impossible because, “Amy didn’t suffer!” “What, how do you know whether she suffered? How does anyone know??” Here it was 6 weeks after losing Amy, coming face to face with the one big question, the thing that woke us all. “Did Amy suffer? Did she see that Black Dodge Charger coming at her? What about at the last minute? Did she feel pain?” Needless to say, the emotional and physical toll were just overwhelming those first months.
The holidays are hard…Amy’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. You see Amy was always the last to arrive and always the last to leave. She wouldn’t go until every last pan was washed and dish put way. She was thoughtful that way. She didn’t want us to be left with a mess to clean up. It’s the little things we miss every day. Our trips to Peebles and then to New York Lunch for hot dogs. Or spending a Saturday morning in Saratoga with her…the dump, recycling center, farmer’s market and a stop at the “Egg Man”. Amy knew everyone at each of these places and always took the time to stop and talk and laugh.
Many have described her as an amazing person with such a good heart. Amy knew so many people. She seemed to make an impression on everyone she met. From the man who sold her farm fresh eggs to the mayor of Saratoga Springs. People came from all over to pay their respects: Missouri, Texas, Washington, D.C. as well as the shores of Maine. At one point during the visiting hours I looked back at the receiving line. It went down the side of the church, across the back, into the lobby, out the front door and down the street. At her funeral, a man came through the line and asked, “Do you know who I am?” Mary Ann replied, “Sure, you’re the “Egg Man”! “
After the funeral, our son Tom, a photographer, gave us a beautiful portrait of Amy. It hangs in our family room and her eyes are so alive in that picture. It feels like she is watching over us. Following us as we walk from room to room. And every night before bed we stop and glance at that picture and say, “Goodnight Aim.”
The man that killed Amy was a 22-year-old Army National Guardsman. A man who was trained to protect and serve his country. He had one prior conviction of DWAI at the age of 19. He was driving 75 mph down an Albany city street. He stopped long enough to let a passenger out of his car and then proceeded his rampage down the street running 3 stop sign intersections in the process. At the point of impact, he was going 65 mph crushing the entire passenger side of Amy’s car. The force of the impact permanently embedded the bumper of his Dodge Charger into the crushed side of Amy’s car. An analysis of his blood alcohol level registered at .27 percent. Six months after Amy’s death, the drunk driver was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 24 years in prison for Aggravated Vehicular Homicide.