Author Michael Lewis speaks of grief over daughter's car crash death

‘The grief is exhausting’: Moneyball author Michael Lewis says he still doesn’t know what caused car crash that killed his daughter, 19, as he reveals family’s agonizing grief and how he goes into her untouched bedroom to be close to her

  • Dixie Lewis and her boyfriend Ross Schultz, 20, were killed in a crash near Truckee, California, on May 25, when their car struck a Freightliner semi head on
  • Lewis opened up about the tragedy on an episode of Andrew Sullivan’s The Weekly Dish podcast
  • The bestselling author said there is still little clarity as to what caused the fatal crash saying ‘no one knows’ why the couple’s car crossed into the opposite lane 
  • Lewis said he has ‘never known grief like this’ describing the last two months as ‘the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life’ 
  • The grief of losing a child is especially ‘exhausting’, Lewis said, because the ‘natural order’ is that parents die first
  • Lewis described how he finds himself going into Dixie’s bedroom to look at the plans she had for life and to flick through photos of her 
  • He said he knows he shouldn’t ‘go looking for grief’ but ‘it’s easier said than done’ as the grief has become a ‘stand-in’ for Dixie so he doesn’t want to let it go 
  • The father paid tribute to his daughter as a ‘pistol’ who ‘was full of life’ 

Moneyball author Michael Lewis has spoken out about his 19-year-old daughter’s tragic death in a car crash for the first time, describing his grief as ‘exhausting’ and revealing how he goes into her untouched bedroom to feel close to her. 

Dixie Lewis and her boyfriend Ross Schultz, 20, were killed in a head-on crash near Truckee, California, on May 25. 

Schultz was driving the Ford Fusion sedan they were in northbound on Route 89 when the car veered into the left lane and struck a Freightliner semi head on. 

The young couple were both pronounced dead at the scene while the 45-year-old driver of the truck suffered minor injuries.  

Lewis opened up about the tragedy on an episode of Andrew Sullivan’s The Weekly Dish podcast. 

Moneyball author Michael Lewis has spoken out about his 19-year-old daughter’s tragic death in a car crash for the first time. Pictured left to right Michael Lewis, Dixie Lewis, Tabitha Soren, Walker Jack Lewis, and Quinn Tallulah Lewis at the premiere of The Big Short in 2015

The bestselling author said there is still little clarity as to what caused the fatal crash and said he has ‘never known grief like this.’ 

‘I’m going through the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life and I can’t even think of what number two is,’ said Lewis. 

‘My 19-year-old daughter Dixie Lewis was killed in a car accident on May 25 – so a little more than two months ago – she was with her boyfriend who was driving and nobody was drunk.’

California Highway Patrol said at the time of the tragedy they did not suspect alcohol or drug use and were investigating why the couple’s sedan crossed into the oncoming lane.  

‘No one knows why they crossed a yellow line and went straight into a truck,’ said Lewis.

‘And she had such a gift for living and she was loved as much as a human being can be loved and she knew it.’

Dixie was a ‘pistol’ who was ‘brave’ and ‘worked her a** off’, Lewis said, adding that he ‘was so proud of her.’  

‘She was full of life and had a great life ahead of her and it’s very hard day to day when you know the last thing you’re going to do when you go to bed is think of her and the first thing you’re going to do when you wake up is think of her,’ he said.  

Lewis told Sullivan how the ‘gutting’ grief he is feeling is like nothing he has ever experienced and that ‘none of the metaphors’ people use to describe it come close.

‘It’s been an absolutely gutting experience and it’s an interesting thing how you respond to such an experience,’ he said. 

‘None of the metaphors that I’ve been handed on the shelf seem to really work. The idea that it’s a process that you get through – I don’t think that’s really true.  

‘That it’s a journey that you go on – it doesn’t really feel like that.’ 

Dixie Lewis and her boyfriend Ross Schultz, 20, (pictured together) were killed in a head-on crash near Truckee, California, on May 25


Schultz was driving the Ford Fusion sedan they were in northbound on Route 89 when the car veered into the left lane and struck a Freightliner semi head on. The young couple were both pronounced dead at the scene

The father-of-three likened the family’s grief to ‘a hole’ in their lives and said he is trying to find a way to ‘grow’ from that hole. 

‘It does feel like a hole has been blown in our lives and the question is what do you grow in that hole and how you grow from this experience,’ he said. 

The grief of losing a child is especially ‘exhausting’, Lewis said, because parents imagine a future with their children in it and the ‘natural order’ is that parents die first.

‘This particular grief – I suppose all grief – is exhausting,’ he said.

‘Less exhausting than it was a month ago. And I’ve been asking myself why do I feel so depleted and I think it’s because i think your mind maps a sort of reality at any given time and you sort of have an imagined future and that child is in that future.

‘You cant imagine a future without that child – the natural order of things is that I go first.

‘Your mind is already working to prepare you for the death of your parents and from a very early age you kind of think that will happen. And when it happens it will be sad but you kind of prepared yourself for that.

‘Your mind does not prepare you for the death of a child.’

He likened it to a computer freezing: ‘What I think is happening is it’s like when your computer freezes up because it doesn’t have the RAM to deal with whatever it’s trying to do.’

‘You’re simultaneously getting through your day and rewriting this imagined future and it’s not just a painful thing, it’s a depleting thing.’  

Lewis described how two months on from the tragedy he finds himself searching for the grief by going into Dixie’s bedroom to look at the plans she had for life and to flick through photos of the 19-year-old.

Michael Lewis (pictured) opened up about the tragedy on an episode of Andrew Sullivan’s The Weekly Dish podcast

While he acknowledged that he knows he shouldn’t ‘go looking for grief’ by doing these things, the grieving father said ‘it’s easier said than done.’ 

‘My motto for the last two months and what I’ve said to Tabitha and the kids is don’t go looking for the grief as the grief is going to find you,’ he told Sullivan. 

‘It’s easier said than done. It’s easier said than done not to walk into her room that hasn’t been touched since she died and just smell her and look at the plans she was making for her future on the wall.

‘It’s easier said then done not to pull out old videos and photographs of her.

‘And it’s a part of you – it’s a part of me anyway and a bigger part of my wife – that feels that to move through the grief to something else is to leave her behind in a way you don’t want to leave her behind and that she is the grief now.’

Sullivan said the grief has become a ‘stand-in’ for Dixie so he doesn’t want to let it go.

‘I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think that she’s the grief. I think she’s something else,’ he said. 

Lewis appeared on the podcast to talk about his new book The Premonition: A Pandemic Story – a novel based on the COVID-19 pandemic. The author said he wrote about the grief of one of his characters in the book but that he didn’t understand it until now

‘But in this moment the grief is serving as a stand-in for her and you don’t want to let that go.’  

He added: ‘One thing I’ve learned is that all the advice people give you about this situation you should ignore – you’ve got to find your own path.’

Lewis said his path involves trying to find ‘distracted pleasures and normalcy’ and confided that he and his eldest daughter Quinn Tallulah have been making lists of things that make the feel better.

‘My path right now is the extent I can try to patch together hours of distracted pleasures and normalcy I should because the sheer sadness of the moment is going to surface no matter what so don’t go trying try to surface it,’ he said.

‘You’re going to see the dorsal fin of the beast whether you want to or not its coming. So evade some just to keep yourself sane.’ 

He added: ‘My eldest daughter Quinn and I have been compiling lists of things that make us feel better and the lists are getting longer.’ 

Lewis told the podcast host that he knows he needs to use his grief to ‘find ways to make beautiful things’.

‘The best thing I can do is live really well in her honor. The best thing I can do and that’s what I intend to do is to find some way to make beautiful things that might not  have been made otherwise because of it,’ he said. 

Lewis said he is trying to put the ‘pain’ and Dixie’s memory to some use and feels in a better place now than back in May. 

‘I’m trying to make that pain something that – I don’t want to say positive – but I want to use the pain to grow and I want to use the pain and her memory to be of some use otherwise you’re just in a dark place,’ he said. 

‘So I’m working with it and I don’t know where this ends up. I’m better of than I was two months ago but I feel my life just permanently changed.’ 

The author said he worried he would not want to write again but has found he actually believes he will want to memorialize his grief in his work. 

‘I was afraid I might not want to write again and I don’t feel that way at all,’ he said.

Lewis and Sullivan in April 2014. The bestselling author told him on the podcast there is still little clarity as to what caused the fatal crash saying ‘no one knows’ why the couple’s car crossed into the opposite lane

Lewis said he has ‘never known grief like this’ describing the last two months as ‘the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life’

‘I feel like that’s going to be an important part of getting through this and probably writing about this.’ 

Lewis appeared on the podcast to talk about his new book The Premonition: A Pandemic Story – a novel based on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The author said he wrote about the grief of one of his characters in the book but that he didn’t understand it until now.  

‘I have never known grief like this and we are in a grief trenched period in our history,’ he said.

‘And I wrote about it in an abstract way in The Premonition.

‘I described [a character’s grief from losing his mother to COVID-19] but when I described his grief I didn’t feel his grief. I tried and I tried it make the reader feel it but now I feel it, I know what it feels like and no one should feel it.’

He added: ‘Of course we all will feel it but no one should feel it.’

Lewis also said that his daughter’s death had changed his relationship with some friends who are opening up to him about their own grief now.

‘It’s changed my relationship to other people,’ he said.

‘It’s been interesting to be admitted as a citizen to the kingdom of grief. 

‘I have lots of close friends who have suffered devastating loss and who up to now have kind of been reluctant to talk about with me because they’ve sensed in me someone who might not completely understand what they had lost.’

Lewis described how he finds himself going into Dixie’s bedroom to look at the plans she had for life and to flick through photos of her (pictured above)

Lewis and wife Tabitha in 2015. Lewis paid tribute to his daughter as a ‘pistol’ who ‘was full of life’

He added: ‘Now it’s all coming out everybody wants to tell me the story of their loss – of their mother or their brother or their child and in a way they didn’t before.

‘I have this new relationship to this emotion that is a new and very painful emotion.’  

Lewis and his wife Tabitha released a statement paying tribute to Dixie following her death in May.

‘We loved her so much and are in a kind of pain none of us has experienced,’ said the statement.

‘She loved Ross, with whom she died. She loved to live and our hearts are so broken they can’t find the words to describe the feeling. 

‘Her mother, Tabitha, and I, and her brother Walker and sister Quinn are going to find ways for her memory to live in her absence.’ 

Dixie attended Pomona College, where she played softball and planned to study neuroscience. Shultz studied kinesiology at Cal Poly Pomona.  

Lewis is the bestselling author of Moneyball, The Big Short, The Fifth Risk and most recently, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story.    

The financial journalist, who is originally from New Orleans, attended Princeton University and graduated with a degree in art history in 1982, before starting a career on Wall Street after attending the London School of Economics in 1985.

His time working as a bond salesman on Wall Street was the inspiration behind his first book Liar’s Poker, which kickstarted his successful career as a non-fiction writer.  

Tabitha is a fine art photographer who used to work as a reporter for MTV News, ABC News and NBC News. They have two other children: Quinn and Walker.

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