An unwanted bond, forged in the most tragic of circumstances.
Stephen Borjeson and Shane Gardner were on Wednesday united in their heartache as they recalled a shared experience that forever changed their lives 18 months ago.
Mr Gardner was driving along the F6 on the afternoon of June 21 when a truck travelling in the same direction shunted him into oncoming traffic and directly into the path of Mr Borjeson's car.
The impact of the crash left both men in hospital. It also claimed the life of Mr Borjeson's 84-year-old mother, Joy, who was sitting beside her son in the passenger seat of his Honda.
Windang man Brett Collison, the driver of the five-tonne Hino truck that struck Mr Gardner's car, was charged with one count of dangerous driving occasioning death and two counts of dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.
Prosecutors said Collison "suddenly swerved" into Mr Gardner's car at between 90 and 100km/h, sending the Daewoo sedan shooting across the median strip.
Collison pleaded guilty on the morning of his court trial last year to the lesser charges of negligent driving (occasioning death and grievous bodily harm).
During sentencing proceedings in Wollongong Local Court on Wednesday, the 43-year-old sat quietly while Mr Borjeson, his wife Suanne, son Mathew, and Mr Gardner read out statements detailing their grief at Joy's death, and the physical and psychological damage caused by Collison's actions.
"Mum was a week from her 85th birthday and we were preparing for a large family celebration," Mr Borjeson recalled on Wednesday as he choked back tears.
"But instead of celebrating her birthday, my family and I were grieving at her funeral."
Describing his mother as "the life of any party she attended", Mr Borjeson said he would miss her vitality and love of life.
"It is so wrong that her life ended on the side of the road; there was no dignity for a life well lived," he said.
Turning to his own trauma, Mr Borjeson told the court the crash left him disabled, in permanent pain and unable to continue working on the family's Albion Park horse property.
"We now face losing our home and our livelihood because I cannot do all the work or afford to employ people to run my business for me," he said.
"It's an ongoing struggle trying to come to terms with the consequences of what [Collison] did ... and although I have no choice but to accept how my life has changed, I will never forget or forgive what [he] did."
An emotional Mr Gardner said he too was angry and distressed over the accident, and was constantly struggling to come to terms with what had happened.
"There isn't any area of my family life that hasn't been impacted by this accident," he said, admitting he had suffered recurring nightmares since the incident and had tried to harm himself on two occasions.
"I'm a shell of who I used to be."
During his court statement, Mr Gardner briefly touched on the strong bond forged between himself and the Borjesons in the wake of the tragedy.
"If it wasn't for my wife and the Borjesons forgiving me, I wouldn't be here today," he said.
Speaking to the Illawarra Mercury outside Wollongong courthouse, Mr Gardner elaborated: "I feel like I'm to blame for this; Steve's told me I'm not [but] I live with [Joy's death] every day of my life.
"The first time I met Steve was in hospital, and he walked up and said 'I don't blame you for my mother's death'.
"If it wasn't for these people I probably wouldn't be here either because I do blame myself for it. "
Collison is due to be sentenced on February 26, after Magistrate Mark Douglass on Wednesday said he needed more time to consider the appropriate punishment.
"[The Borjesons] are stuck with the memories, I'm stuck with the nightmares. I don't think there will ever be closure," Mr Gardner said.