real life

'When my sister was killed, I struggled to grieve. Then we collected her belongings.'

My name is Kris Thomas. I'm a mum to four teenage daughters, a wife, and a primary school teacher.

Below is a photo of myself with my beautiful sister Sal.

Image: Supplied.

On December 21, 2011, a road accident occurred resulting in her death; she died just after midnight.

I still miss her every day. This piece is about love and grief. It highlights the trauma of road accidents; speed and alcohol related.


The man responsible for Sal's death spent just three and a half years in jail. He was driving at a speed of 204km and was charged with two counts of drink driving.

Sal spent her last moments, fighting to survive in the middle of a wheat paddock in country Victoria, many kilometres from her family. Trapped.

Kelly, the detective, told us the car landed close to 80 metres from the road after being airborne, flipping, losing the axel and engine and landing on what was left of the car’s roof. We were informed by police a courageous man came across the accident and sat by the car with Sal, in an attempt to comfort her the best way he possibly knew how. What this man did was so heroic, there doesn’t seem near enough words to express to him how much this means to our family – that a stranger cared for Sal during her final moments with such compassion.

We have not been able to thank this man in person, which we understand and respect. I made contact with him online, and he replied to my email in the most sincere, caring and humble manner. Although I desperately (almost too desperately) longed to talk to him in person, he felt it was not something he could do. He explained to me that the trauma he experienced was profound. In his response, I was reassured that Sally would always have a special place in his heart. This brought extreme comfort to myself and my family.

The detectives who fought endlessly for Sal’s justice were amazing. They cared about Sal. They cared about her life lost, and they cared that the person responsible for her death had no remorse. They cared my parents had buried their daughter, and they cared that too many lives are lost on our roads every year. Sal’s death was an example of one that could have been prevented.


Something our family considered just after we received the shocking news that Sally had died, was the impact this accident would have on the driver. We were thinking of the driver responsible, even in those early hours of shock and complete and utter grief, we considered their future. We were mindful of the anguish and devastating guilt they personally would be haunted with for the rest of their life.

Later that week our family discovered the driver did not care. He did not care about what he had done; he did not care about us, and he did not care about Sally. 

So, just three and a half years, after the crash, a driver charged and jailed for the death of a gorgeous, fun, loud, kind and incredibly amazing girl, destroying her future, was able to walk free to live his life as he pleases.

Death happens. Death is unfortunately a large part of our lives, but when it is one of your own and they leave you suddenly and tragically, it changes everything.

Watch: What no one tells you about grief. Post continues after video.

Video via Psych2Go.

Sally was not having a ‘drinking night’ that night. She was driving her ute home to her unit, excited to pack for her trip over the border to spend Christmas with her family. 

The next day, she should have been tooting her horn, happy to be homeward bound. But she never made it. 

Before December 2011, I was so far removed from grief that I would often pinch myself and consider how lucky I was to be somewhat ignorant towards it. I think it is human nature at times to consider how we would personally react, or respond or deal with grief. Until it is your own, there’s truly no way to know. 

What I've learned is a confusing, slow and challenging journey. I really struggled to connect with it at first, but then, two months after the crash, we received Sal's belongings. 

Among them was a post-it note. It was the grocery list our fun-loving Sal made for her contribution to our 2011 family Christmas ‘Suka’ (supermarket) needs. Christmas fun and planning was a huge deal to us, and especially to Sal.

Image: Supplied.


I love this list, and at the same time I hate it.

I love it because it is her messy handwriting and exudes her excitement about organising and planning. They may only be grocery items but they run much deeper than that. There is a lot more to the post-it note pictured here, than the ink on the surface.

I hate it because, just like this list, Sal never made it home for ChristmasI saved it and I always keep it close. Amongst many other moments, that day was gut wrenchingly painful and sad.

Maybe this coming Christmas, five years on, it is time to get the Punch bowl and Rum Balls going again and to bring these ingredients to our family table… for Sal.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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