Among my treasured keepsakes is a Billy Squier cassette tape, Everybody Wants You. It was the last thing my brother Fabian heard the night he died as passenger in a Ford Mustang driven by a drunk driver. Fabian was 19. The cassette and the driver survived the wreck. My brother didn’t.
A friend once told me, when you pass away nobody mourns you longer than family. It was a reality check. We were talking about work-life balance. Mine had been way out of balance for a long time.
The advice was true because not a day passes that I don’t mourn my brother. Fabian died on March 17, 1990 but it feels like yesterday.
We were a blended family of six boys, raised in Prince George and Williams Lake. We moved often, and my brothers and I were always the new kids at school. Looking back, I think it drew us closer together. We relied on each other for support. Brotherhood was the one constant in our young lives.
Fabian was a mischievous prankster. We would dare Fabian to do crazy things, because he’d do them. He was the one who’d pull the chair when you went to take a seat at the table. He had an infectious laugh, like Eddy Murphy’s. Whenever we got in trouble with Dad, Fabian would always be the first to start giggling, which would only make things worse.
Fabian was well liked. He was warm and funny. He was growing into a fine young man, was dating a nice girl, and worked evenings at a local gas station.
The night of the accident, Fabian had finished his shift at midnight when a friend picked him up in that shiny new Mustang. They were teenagers on a Saturday night, St. Patrick’s Day. The driver had been drinking. Maybe they were a little excited; maybe the music was a little too loud.
Only minutes after pulling out from the gas station, the driver sped through a corner and slammed into a concrete light standard. The passenger’s door took the brunt of the impact. The driver walked away without a scratch. I was at home when the police called. I remember my mother coming down the stairs, in tears. They say time heals; it doesn’t. As a family, we are still grieving. Maybe it’s because he was taken from us too early.
Fabian missed my wedding and the birth of our children; he would have made a wonderful husband and father. I thought of him the night I was elected to the House of Commons; he would have been proud and happy. I miss him everyday.
I am reminded of him every St. Patrick’s, and his birthday October 21. I think of him every time I spot a camper on the highway – Fabian loved camping – or hear Eddy Murphy’s laugh. At home, I pass by the cemetery where he rests multiple times a day.
In the Commons, when Parliament debates legislation on drug-impaired driving, I think of Fabian and others who are still struggling from the loss of a loved one from impaired driving accidents. I know the eternal pain families suffer. I believe we need to make sure we get the proposed legislation right.
I regret I never told Fabian that I loved him. I don’t even know what our last conversation was about but I wish I had the opportunity to do it over again. I tell friends, never miss an opportunity to tell your family how much you love them, and how grateful you are that they’re part of your life.
(Editor’s note: the author is Conservative MP for Cariboo-Prince George, B.C. Mr. Doherty’s commentary was originally published November 5, 2017)