Pat Goldhahn, of Fairfield, Montana, held an assembly on safe driving at the Baker High School on March 27, the seven-month anniversary of his daughter’s death. Lauryn Kate Goldhahn was 15 years old at the time of her accident. Lauryn was a junk food junkie, and she was always happy. She was the type of girl who could light up a room when she walked into it, making friends along the way, having a lasting effect on the people around her. Pat’s wife is a teacher in Fairfield; he has another daughter, Alex who is a senior this year. Pat also discussed with the students how much a child means to a parent. Even when they are not always seeing eye to eye on issues, parents never stop worrying and caring about their children.
Pat talked about how he has paired up with Montana Department of Transportation to stress the importance of wearing a seat belt. Lauryn was riding home from a dinner with the volleyball team when the driver of the car lost control. Lauryn was not wearing her seat belt at the time of the accident and was thrown 50 yards from the vehicle.
At the time of the accident, Pat was painting the crow’s nest on the football field, unaware that his daughter was one mile away lying in a large pool of her own blood. Lauryn was Mercy Flighted to Great Falls where the family learned there was no serious damage to the brain, so hopes were high for recovery. She was then put on another flight to Seattle. While in Seattle, the doctors decided that Lauryn was not going to make it, and if she did, she would never be the same. The doctors asked if the family would be willing to donate her organs. An Organ Gifter, as Pat likes to call it, is a person who chooses to donate their eyes, skin, tendons, liver, kidneys, and heart. Before the hospital goes through the process of removing the organs, they put a patient through several tests to make sure there is no sign of life.
After Lauryn’s passing, the Goldhahn family decided to have a celebration of her life. Many people came to support the family. At this celebration, his oldest daughter, Alex, sang a song “Jealous of the Angels” as a tribute to her sister.
Since Pat began talking about Lauryn’s death, he has handed out 70,000 ribbons in 48 states. These ribbons are blue, Lauryn’s favorite color, and they say #buckleupblue4Lauryn. Laurynn, a young girl from Red Lodge, came up with the idea as a memory for Lauryn and a reminder for drivers to buckle their seatbelts, ALWAYS.
At the site of the accident, there are blue lights and a shrine to honor Lauryn. The school left Lauryn’s locker open for the kids to place notes and junk food inside. The family has a memory box in in which students have left their stories, each telling how Lauryn had a positive impact on them. The parents treasure all of the notes and memories shared with them. The best Christmas gift they received was a letter that told them where Lauryn’s donations went. They hope to someday meet each of these people and celebrate that Lauryn was able to help others. Lauryn’s birthday is on Valentine’s Day, which is also the National Organ Donor Day.
Pat has given the driver of the car his forgiveness because the only person that anger and hate hurts is the person holding onto the hate. One in every five adults will lose a child; think about that, it is a stunning statistic. Pat stressed the importance of living every day as if it is your last because, you never know what might happen in the blink of an eye. It only took 10 seconds for the lives of the Goldhahn family to change forever. Remember, no one is invincible. Pat encouraged students that if they have a bucket list, do it. He also reminded us to listen to people with the intent of listening, not listening to respond.
Pat mentioned the Vision Zero program that Montana has in place, which promotes zero deaths and/or serious injuries on Montana roads. To date this year, there have been 29 fatalities on Montana roads, which is down 7 from this same time last year. The two key points that Mr. Goldhahn stressed were buckle up when you get into a car, and practice forgiveness. As you go out into life, think about some of the thoughts that Mr. Goldhahn shared with us. Be sure to share your thoughts and words with those you care for because one never knows what life has in store for us.