MECHANICSBURG — Ten years ago, Carmela Wiant’s world shattered. She got a call that her son, David, had been killed in a car accident at age 23. That was bad enough. But the manner and timing in which the call came was even worse. A chaplain had been brusque and Wiant had no chance to prepare for the news. When she arrived at the hospital, David had already been moved to the morgue.
“How I was told about David, I never want anybody else to hear the way we did,” Wiant said. “What they took away from me, I’ll never get back.”
She set out to make sure nobody would get that kind of phone call again. Eight years ago, she got the Burge-Money Act passed into law, allowing Ohio residents to associate their next of kin contacts with their driver’s licenses. Eight years ago today, the program made its debut.
“The most important thing is that people just sign up,” Wiant said. “If your address changes or your phone number changes – especially your phone number – go in and tell them to change it.”
Residents can sign up through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles either in person or online. Visit any deputy registrar license bureau in person and ask for a form or go to www.bmv.ohio.gov/dl-other-next-kin.aspx to access your license information.
Wiant’s life has changed in more ways than one, but she remains steadfast in her purpose.
“It’s different how people treat you. It’s amazing how people shy away from you,” Wiant said. “I can never say I was unapproachable. I think the part they could not handle was ‘What if I say something stupid?’ ‘What if I say his name?’ ‘What if she starts crying?’ I think it’s because they’ve never been through it and they are afraid.”
Wiant still can’t bring herself to participate in some activities, as it reminds her of the joys she’s missing out on with her son.
“The traditions of certain things. Like Christmas and a Christmas tree, I just couldn’t do,” she said. “That was the hardest thing. And I still, to this day, cannot shop for Christmas. I can’t buy the kids toys. I can’t do baby showers. I can’t do weddings.”
Despite that, Wiant continues to take solace in the fact that her son’s death helped save and improve the quality of 130 lives through his donorship.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about David,” Wiant said. “I’d much rather people ask about David (than stay silent). He loved life. He was always smiling.”