Each of us gets a limited number of days. Tuesday was the last day Melissa got. That morning she woke up, dressed, dropped her three children off at school, went to work, then ran some errands before lunch … never knowing it would be the last time she’d ever do any of those things again. She was having an ordinary day when an extraordinary tragedy took away all the wonderful things she had yet to do.
It was close to noon when she likely thought herself lucky to find one of the diagonal parking spaces on Girard, in the heart of the village of La Jolla, near the shop where she needed to drop something off before grabbing lunch. Did she hear the revving engine of the car across the street when she reached into get something out of the car? She had no reason to suspect she was in any danger. It wasn’t dark, she wasn’t in a sketchy part of town, there was no reason at all for her senses to be on alert. But seconds later she was hit, by a 91-year-old woman who inexplicably gunned her car when backing out of her space on the other side of the street, speeding across two lanes of traffic and ramming straight into my friend, pinning her between the two cars.
Before the lunch hour was over, Melissa’s life ended. This beautiful, talented mother, killed on a sunny street in an almost-perfect village on the Pacific Ocean. Because someone was driving when they shouldn’t have been, Melissa couldn’t pick her children up from school, cook them dinner or help with their homework. Now she won’t see them graduate from high school or help them pick colleges or dance at their weddings or babysit their children. She can’t share her recipes with her daughters when they move off to live on their own, or tell her son how proud she is for the man he has become. She can’t give me brilliant advice on communicating ideas or hosting events. She can’t wake to the beams of sunlight streaming in her window or walk along the beach, toes in the sand, watching the sun set as the sky glows orange and purple as she listens to the surf pound against the rocks.
What a sad and brutal reminder that life is short and unpredictable. I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the importance of living each moment well, of appreciating every day I get to spend on this earth, of leaving my many computer passwords accessible and updating my will and making sure my children know how much I love them. But this week the lesson that I must be mindful and appreciative of each moment came home to me in the worst possible way.
I will miss you Melissa. You are loved.