Laura Givens never stops grieving the loss of her daughter.
It’s been more than a year since a hit-and-run driver’s car struck and killed 23-year-old Rachel Givens as she crossed the East Valley Highway in Sumner.
“The grieving process is always there. It never goes away. You have to live with that,” Givens said of her girl, her best friend and a gifted student athlete who graduated from Auburn Riverside High School. “I tell people that I’m a different person than I was a year ago. I’m not that same person because there is always a sadness there. But God helps get you through those days. Prayer and people praying for me get me through it.”
It also helps knowing that her daughter gave life to others as an organ donor.
The Muckleshoot Tribal School – where Rachel was a member, a para-educator and a coach – and LifeCenter Northwest honored her with a ceremony on Nov. 19. Family and former students united to complete a floragraph portrait – a flower-shaped likeness of Rachel – that will be part of the Donate Life Float in the 126th Rose Parade on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif.
“I don’t know what it feels like for a person who loses a child that doesn’t do organ donation,” Givens said. “But I know for myself, knowing that my daughter’s heart is still beating, knowing that my daughter has helped someone walk without pain, knowing that my daughter’s letting other daughters and mothers and aunties see or hug their kids, all that is what I think about in those hard times.”
Givens vividly remembers Oct. 7, 2013.
She had just dropped Rachel off with friends when she got a phone call.
“One of her good friends had called me and said that she got hit,” Givens said. “And that’s all they said. So I was, ‘What do you mean got hit? I just left her 10 minutes ago.'”
The friend didn’t have any details, but Givens knew that Rachel had been on her way to the Log Cabin Pub in Sumner.
“So I’m thinking … as I’m driving there that she got hit in a car, or she got hit in a fight. I’m thinking all those things,” she said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it was going to play (out) like the movies.”
But it did.
As she approached the scene of the accident, Givens knew right away something was wrong.
“It was like the movies, where the mother runs up to the scene. There are police all around, and you’re telling them your daughter is in there,” Givens said. “And they let you through. And I was looking for her, looking for a car that flipped, anything else. Then you see your daughter on the ground with five EMTs working on her.”
Rachel was transported to Tacoma General Hospital in critical condition and died two days later.
The driver of the vehicle – a small dark sedan or sports car heading north on East Valley Highway – still hasn’t stepped forward, nor has anyone turned them in, despite a hefty reward for information.
Givens said she doesn’t hold a grudge toward the unknown driver, nor does she need to blame anyone for closure.
“I don’t need that. That person lives with what she or he has done … every day they have to live with what happened,” Givens said. “I have no hate toward them because you can’t hate.”
It’s a lesson she learned from Rachel.
“She never held a grudge,” Givens said. “One word that comes to mind was humble. People didn’t know that she was a two-time state champion (on the Auburn Riverside basketball team) or that she was featured in the Seattle Times (for her all-state performance as the Ravens’ soccer goalkeeper). They just knew that Rachel was fun and nice. They didn’t know any of that.”
Rachel also was generous.
“Rachel’s giving nature really defined her life,” said Kevin O’Connor, CEO of LifeCenter Northwest. “The generosity exhibited in her life continues on through her organ, tissue and cornea donation. We are ever so grateful for Rachel’s gifts.”
Givens has received letters from recipients of Rachel’s donations. She hopes to meet them someday.
“To know that heartbeat was once in my daughter, it’s surreal,” Givens said. “If I don’t have that, at least I know that the person is living because of Rachel.”
The Rose Parade will be televised locally beginning at 8 a.m. Jan. 1, 2015. Check listings for channel.
PHOTO BELOW: With the completed floragraph of Rachel Givens is, from left, Berne Givens, Rachel’s aunt, Laura, Rachel’s mother, and Laura’s partner, Robert Cline. Courtesy photo