My name is Kailee Wojtaszek and I can ecstatically say that I’m the winner of the Signs of the Times photo contest at the Dave Matthews Band Caravan – Lakeside, Chicago. I’d like to share with you the story behind my adventure in Chicago.
I’m from Hamburg, a small suburb of Buffalo, NY. I’ve been a Dave Matthews Band fan for as long as I can remember. I have two older sisters who’ve influenced my taste in music and I’m very thankful for that. Dave Matthews Band is my most favorite band ever. Without the music they create I wouldn’t be who I am today. Everything about them, what they represent, what they create, and the love that they share with their fans, friends, and families are all reasons I admire them.
Leaving the morning of Thursday, July 7th I traveled with a friend of mine and drove over 8 hours and 500 miles to reach our destination. When we arrived to our hotel, we settled in our room and were getting ready for a night out on the town. When I stepped out of the shower, my friend had knocked on the bathroom door to tell me that I had a phone call. Standing there, wrapped in a towel, I took the phone to hear his sister’s crying voice tell me that the father of our Best Friend Alex was involved in a motorcycle accident. My heart sank and I instantly felt sick. She continued to tell me that he didn’t make it. David Brown was killed in an unexpected tragic motorcycle accident less than a mile away from his home on Thursday, July 7th. He was the father of seven children, served in the United States Military, and a well-respected business man.
I could not process everything she was saying to me. My head and heart hurt so bad. I was so happy to have been in Chicago, but at the same time, I wished I could be home to be there for Alex. Fortunately, as someone who actually works in the funeral business, I have a great understanding of how arrangements are made and the process a family goes through when they lose someone they love. This allowed me to rationally conclude that it was not necessary to pack up and head home. With the emotional state I was in, I wouldn’t have been able to travel all the way home. I wasn’t even able to get out of bed for the rest of that tragic night. I laid there for hours thinking about Alex and her family and how much love was lost after he was taken from them. I began to put my life in perspective and thought of my own family and friends… those who I love.
As guilty as I felt, I stayed for the Caravan and tried my hardest to make the most of this heartbreaking situation. When I decided that I’d stay for the weekend, I realized that my purpose for being there had changed. With the grieving process setting in, my experience at the Lakeside Caravan helped me understand and accept what had happened. This is just one of the many moments in my life where Dave Matthews Band helped me through it. My entire trip had a whole different purpose: to help me grieve and build my own inner strength, to be able to support my Best Friend when I returned home.
When I walked up to the HeadCount tent to enter this contest, I had no idea what it was about or what I had to do. With Alex on my mind and in my heart, I looked through every single one of those posters for the right one to use in my photo. When I saw the one with the word ‘NOW’, all I thought of was to ‘LOVE NOW’. Alex was my inspiration. She and her family now live their lives with that thought in their hearts and I figured if I could share this with anyone, I would try my hardest to. Everyone should Love Now and NOT later.