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A Brother's Grief

February 7, 2014, 9:55 PM by Perry Groten

A Brother's Grief

A South Dakota man, who grew up in California, remembers a time when drunk driving was less frowned upon than today, but no less tragic. It's taken him years to come to terms with the death of his sister who was killed by a drunk driver.  It was a long overdue visit to her grave that helped with his healing.

Being in the beer business was always Chris Comeaux's dream job. 

"I'm fortunate, I sell great beers, I work for a great company, and it's a fun job" Comeaux said.

One would think distributing beer would be the last thing Comeaux would become a success at.   After all, it was alcohol that led to a major loss in his life.

"There isn't a day, probably a week that doesn't go by that she doesn't cross my mind," Comeaux said.

In 1982, Comeaux's 16 year old sister Annette was struck and killed by a drunk driver who ran a red light an an intersection in California.

"On impact, he immediately broke her neck.  And the sad part about it, is she was in my sister's car and my brother-in-law got the call and he was a police officer in California and he showed up at the scene and he thought it was his wife and he found my sister.  I've never talked about it, I've never asked him questions and I know he's never talked about it.  But I always think about what he went through," Comeaux said.

Comeaux was 19 at the time.  He's been haunted by his sister's death ever since.

"She's never met my kids, she's never met my wife and you think about those things so that's a never-ending battle in life you're going to have once you lose a member to a drunk driver," Comeaux said.

Grief turned to anger when the drunk driver who killed Comeaux's sister got off with a light sentence.

"The hard part for our family was the fact that he had such a big, prior rap sheet.  To do 9-months for taking a family member away from a family," Comeaux said.

The emotional pain kept Comeaux from ever visiting his sister's grave since her funeral.  But finally, over Christmas, his mother convinced him to go to the cemetery.

"My mom asked me to go and I would do anything for my mom," Comeaux said.

After a nearly 32 year absence, a graveside reunion between a brother and the sister he lost so long ago.

"I feel that she knew I was there and she knows I finally came," Comeaux said.

That cemetery visit helped Comeaux turn a corner in his grieving.

"Losing a loved one, it was just hard to face it. There are certain things in your life you eventually face, and that was one of them that I needed to do.  The older I get, I needed to get through that point in my life that I could go there and visit her grave," Comeaux said.

Comeaux sees no contradictions with working in the beer industry yet losing his sister to a drunk driver.

"I don't rationalize like that, because each person makes that decision how much they're going to drink, I can't control that.  All I can do is put great beers out there for them to drink," Comeaux said.

What troubles Comeaux is when drinkers get behind the wheel because he knows first-hand the unending anguish they cause.

"When I see it happen here once and a while, it breaks my heart for that family," Comeaux said.

Comeaux says the Christmas time visit to his sister's grave in California will better prepare him for the next time.  He's planning on returning to the cemetery in June or July.

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