Maryann spent her life advocating for people who accidentally killed others : NPR

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Maryann Gray founded the Hyacinth Fellowship, which also researches unintentional deaths.

Chris Yaw


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Chris Yaw


Maryann Gray founded the Hyacinth Fellowship, which also researches unintentional deaths.

Chris Yaw

In July 2003, an 86-year-old man drove his car into a farmer’s market in Santa Monica, California, killing 10 people.

The public was outraged. Some called him a murderer.

Local resident Maryann Gray heard about the incident and wrote in NPR. Not with outrage, but with compassion.

“Like most people, I am horrified and saddened by the devastating car accident,” Gray wrote in a letter that she also read on air. “My heart goes out to those who have lost family members and friends. But unlike most people, my deepest sympathies are with the driver.”

She also had accidentally killed someone – decades before. When she was 22, an eight-year-old boy ran out in front of her car.

“Although the justice system has absolved me of any legal responsibility, I blame myself for his death. For 25 years, I thought about Brian every day,” Gray told NPR.

That was the first time Gray had shared her story publicly.

“As I apologize to Brian and his family in my heart every day, I also try to forgive myself,” Gray said at the time.

She braced for hate mail after airing her story, but instead, support poured in — including from other people with similar experiences. And so, she dedicated her life to supporting people who accidentally caused someone else’s death.

Just a few days ago, after suffering complications from a serious medical procedure, Maryann Gray herself died at the age of 68.

The ripple effect of kindness

For the reverend Chris Yaw, finding Gray was like finding a soulmate.

“Someone who really shared this deep sense of hurt, because I think it comes out of love. Maryann was such a loving person,” said NPR this week.

Yaw also inadvertently caused the death of someone in 2013. So, a few years later, when he found out about Gray’s blog Accidental Impacts, he immediately reached out to her.

An idea that Yaw and Gray often talked about was the belief that “pain that is not transformed is transmitted,” he said. “And she worked hard to transform that damage into something good.”

For Gray and Yaw, that “something good” meant starting an organization and support group for people who had killed or seriously injured others. It is called The Hyacinth Associationand they also do research on unintentional deaths.

For example, according to their data, someone accidentally kills someone else every 18 minutes in the United States.

Bishop Mark Bourlakas was also involved in an accident that killed someone when he was a teenager.

“The organization gives people who have experienced this particular type of trauma a place to share and feel that there is some hope, that maybe I too can find myself from what at this moment seems impossible,” he said. .

Bourlakas is also a board member of The Hyacinth Fellowship and said that over the years, he has seen how Gray’s non-judgmental approach has drawn people to her, and probably saved many lives. And somehow, he said, she managed to keep a cool about it.

“Sometimes when you’re talking about this work, it’s this dark, dark thing,” he said. “But she had a wonderful laugh. And she could joke a little with people, which sometimes you need levity in these moments.”

Before she died, Gray was in the process of writing a book with Yaw — a guide of sorts, to be titled, Accidental Homicide, Survivor’s Handbook. Yaw said that nothing like it exists, and he planned to finish it in the coming year.

“I have to,” he said. “You can’t bring someone back from the dead. But what you can do is live a life to help others for their sake. And so I think this is very honoring Maryann and honoring her work.”

He hopes their book and Gray’s legacy will help people lead with compassion, as she did.

“We can never make up for what we’ve done,” Gray told NPR in 2021. “We can never tip the scales. But we can regain a sense of agency and efficacy that we not only do bad things, but we can also do good. things in the world.”

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