Anyone who has seen The Second Cooler knows that on the night of April 17, 2009, my daughter and her boyfriend were killed by a drunk driver in Huntsville, Alabama. Leigh Anna was 16 years old. Her boyfriend, Tad Joseph Mattle, was 19. The driver was an undocumented man from Mexico. I want to explain here why I included a “postscript” in the film about what happened that terrible night.
Because the film advocates for undocumented immigrants, there were people who felt the film would have more impact on audiences and help me achieve my purpose with the film if I made her death a bigger part of of it. Or, rather, making more of the fact that I forgave the man who killed her would help my purpose in making the film.
Others, after seeing an early version of the film wondered if it was a good idea to include any acknowledgement at all. They wondered whether it might appear self-serving or, worse, negatively affect the ability of the audience to reflect upon the content of the film itself. I, too, worried about both these things.
Yet, I felt I had no real choice but to acknowledge what happened. There were two reasons. The most important reason was that as an advocate, my mission is to pull back the curtain on reality, to expose reality as fully as I can. I concluded that I could not, in good conscience, suppress this piece of reality.
The second reason was that I believed that if I did not acknowledge her death in a way I thought might be helpful, that others would in ways that would not be helpful. Not 48 hours had passed after their deaths before some people were calling me “the worst mother ever” for forgiving the driver and Tad and Leigh Anna a couple of “stupid kids”.
Needless to say, her father, sister, and I grieve every day of our lives. And we miss, Tad, too, whom we absolutely adored, every single day. We miss the married couple they might have become. The children they might have had. But we cope and try to honor them in ways we feel they would have found meaningful.
Why am I telling you this now? Because on this coming April 17, the sixth anniversary of her death, I will be putting The Second Cooler into distribution. I do it in memory of LAJ and Tad.