|Myra McRoy Constable|
On Fridays, we normally recognize an individual whom we have chosen to highlight as the Upbeat Dad of the Week. As the term suggests, the recipient is generally a man who displays exceptional qualities as a dad and as a citizen. Today’s feature is also about an exceptional person who portrays superb qualities. But this person is a woman. After reading the following article, I think you will agree with me that she is quite deserving of being recognized in this manner.
In an effort not to confuse the matter, rather than using the term “Upbeat Dad of the Week,” let’s just use the term “Person of the Week” this time. So let me say, it gives me great honor to recognize our Person of the Week, Myra McRoy Constable.
Before I go further, let me pause and say that I know Myra personally; however, someone does not need to be known personally to me to be featured and recognized on this blog. Individuals who portray the qualities that we hold dear are who we like to feature. It so happens that her story is so compelling that, if I had my way, there would be a movie about her journey and the way she has become triumphant in the midst of her worst crisis.
I met Myra in July 1995 at her wedding in Austin, Texas to my good friend from our days at the University of Texas at Austin, Carie Constable. As is often the case at weddings when someone meets the bride or groom for the first time, there wasn’t much time to interact, other than to say congratulations. It was a wonderful occasion as we witnessed the union of the happy couple. Little did I know that that was the last time I would see Myra and Carie together. The next time I saw her, the circumstances were radically different.
In the heart of the Christmas season in 1999, I received a very disturbing phone call from a mutual friend of Carie and me. He said that Carie had died in a car accident on the 4th of December. This really jolted me. You see, the previous year, on Christmas Day, December 25, 1998, I lost my best friend and closest family member due to a car collision. So it’s as if a wound that had healed was being reopened. I quickly contacted Myra to find out about the situation and she confirmed that he had passed.
|Constable Family Christmas Photo 1999|
I had relocated to Miami, Florida a few years before. Fortunately, I was scheduled to travel to Austin on business that same month so I got to go to the home and speak with Myra one on one. I met hers and Carie’s son who was about to turn 2 at the end of December. When she shared with me the circumstance that led to Carie’s death, I was almost numb. Even as I write this, the emotions of that moment come back to mind.
You see, Carie had just struck a great business deal that was sure to help him and his family to reach some of their goals. He went out alone that evening to drink and celebrate the accomplishment with some business associates. He really had a great time. He had previously been involved in drunk driving incidents but, unfortunately, he did not learn of how dire the consequences could be.
He made the decision after that night of fun, to get behind the wheel to drive home. That decision literally cost him his life. Carie lost control of his vehicle and his car ran off the road in a single vehicle collision and he died on the scene. His body was found in the car the following afternoon by the authorities. At age 31, he left behind a beautiful wife and a 1 year old son who had a birthday coming up at the end of that month.
For many people, this is their reality. A loved one makes a decision that costs the family so much more than it would have cost had the decision not been made. Myra’s world came to a screeching halt. I recall when we spoke then in 1999 that she said, “In one moment I went from a happily married wife and mother to a young widow and a single parent.” That’s exactly what happened.
You’ve probably heard the expression “When life throws you lemons, add sugar and water and make lemonade.” Well that’s exactly what Myra did. You will now see why we have decided to honor her in this way.
About 3-4 months after Carie's death, Myra wondered how Carie would have suggested she handle the situation. Myra felt that Carie would have her stand up and do something to help ensure that other families don’t find themselves in the same tragic situation. Her story was too valuable to keep to herself so she had to share it with other families – fathers, mothers and children.
Three weeks before her husband’s death, she had just started a new job as Program Manager for Communities In Schools at the Pearce Middle School in Austin - the middle school that she attended as a child. In this capacity, she started a grief and loss group at the school for children who had lost a parent. The summer of 2000, Myra began volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). As a MADD volunteer, she was part of the Victim Impact Panel. In this capacity, she would go to court once monthly and speak to groups of approximately 80-100 persons accused of driving under the influence of alcohol about the dangers of drinking and driving. By nature, Myra is a quiet person. However, she saw the opportunity to speak to others about these matters as something far too valuable. It’s a responsibility that she embraced and still embraces. She says, “I don’t talk just to hear myself talk. When I speak, it is with purpose, passion and with specific intention to share an important message.” In late 2006, she joined the organization YouthLaunch where she served as the Program Coordinator for Youth Partnership for Change, a program to empower youth. This program encourages young people between 16-21 to speak to their peers about the dangers of underage alcohol use. In late 2010, she joined MADD fulltime as the Court Monitoring Project Specialist for MADD's Take the Wheel project funded by Texas Department of Transportation. The goals of that program are to: Enhance the relationship between the court and law enforcement and to initiate dialogue to develop best practices to improve the handling of alcohol-related court cases.
In essence, Myra has become a crusader against the very issue that cost her husband his life. She’s quite open about her personal story. Even as I wrote this post and interviewed her, she emphasized to me the importance of telling the story and not holding back on the details of it. Her mission is to decrease the number of families that have to deal with the tragic news that their loved one was in a fatal crash caused by drunk driving. She says, “When you hear about drunk driving, you generally hear about how another family has been ruined by a drunk driver. In my case, my husband’s decision to drive under the influence cost him his family and his life.”
She has done quite well in raising her son, who’s now 12. He is a gifted, well-adjusted student who is on his middle school basketball team and is a percussionist in the band. Sadly, he has no recollection of his father since he passed 4 weeks before his 2nd birthday. He only knows of the thoughts that others share with him about his dad.
Ironically, this week is the 11th anniversary of Carrie’s death. So I’m certain it comes with mixed emotions for Myra. Yet, she continues in what she sees as her life’s work – and she does so with great diligence, knowing that hers is a higher purpose. Her message to others – particularly fathers – who may consider drinking and driving is, “Think about your choices carefully, because they don't only affect you. The choices that you make today, may affect your children for a lifetime.”
I hope after reading this powerful story, you would agree with me that Myra McRoy Constable is very deserving of this recognition. What a message for a great woman to share with the readers of The Upbeat Dad! The purpose of our organization is to recognize the pivotal role that fathers can have in their children’s lives. But her son did not get that privilege. Instead he has had to learn of his father’s goodness through others.
Myra was put into a very difficult situation but she has responded like a champion. I believe that her life now has greater meaning and that the lives of others will forever be enriched as a result of her decision to turn her tragedy into triumph. For this, on behalf of the readers, I applaud her.
Please join me in recognizing her as the Person of the Week. And I trust that each of us – especially fathers and mothers – would think about the life lesson that’s embedded in her moving personal testimony. I also hope that we would always exercise good judgment, particularly as we celebrate in this, the most wonderful time of the year.
Have a safe and happy holiday season!