My first thought was that the young woman who belongs to our pool - and who was trying out for the US Olympic Dive Team - made it. But then, when I saw the puffy eyes and looks of anguish across the faces of lifeguards and coaches, I realized that they had set up this memorial for one of our former swimmers. Who, I'd later learn, had lost her life in a tragic car accident just two days prior.
From what I'd heard from others, she was only 19-years old and the youngest of four children. She had traveled to more than 90 countries and all seven continents and was majoring in Spanish as a rising sophomore at the University of Virginia. She was a bright light to everyone who met her. For many days, I thought about Julia - and I thought about the absolute devastation that her family must be feeling. And every night, when I tucked our children in to bed, we said a prayer for her family, a family that we'd never even met. When the children asked why it was that we were praying for people we don't know, I told them it was my hope that by holding this family so tightly in our hearts, it would make their hearts a little lighter. Even if they didn't know us, I was sure that they could feel the loving energy that was being channeled their way.
A few days later, I read Julia's obituary and it surprised me that her father and I coincidentally work for the same company, in the same building. It suddenly made sense why this young woman was a worldly traveler at such a young age - since it's commonplace for our company to move its employees all over the globe. It turns out, Julia's father sits just a few floors above me. So I logged on to our corporate website, found his MySite page and could not stop the tears as I gazed at a picture of his beautiful family, all smiles, and permeating happiness. Although I hadn't reached out to the family, beyond our nightly prayers, I felt compelled to write him a note. So I crafted an e-mail and hit send. Today, he distributed a thank you note to all of his colleagues telling us how appreciative he was of our thoughts and prayers. He's made the decision to leave the company in a few weeks but he has requested that we please remember his family in our prayers. In closing, he provided a link to his eldest daughter's blog. So I'm sitting there at my desk and I click over to her blog and am instantly pulled in to the grief of a family that is mourning the loss of a beloved member.
(Not a wise choice when you have a meeting in less than 15 minutes.)
If you are in a position to do so, I would encourage you to read the tributes that have been written for this amazing young woman by her family, especially those by her doting siblings. It crushes my heart that a person in the prime of her life would be taken so early and leave a gaping hole in this family and in this world. And yet, after reading through the archives and seeing all of the awesome adventures that this family has had TOGETHER, my heart is overflowing with love and admiration. I'm so inspired because when I think of the legacy I want to leave behind, at the absolute top of my list is raising a family that is as devoted, committed and faithful as this one. And when I think of Julia - albeit only 19 years old - what an incredibly blessed life she has lived. May we all be so lucky.
So tonight, as I sit down to jot down some thoughts and I'm thinking of Julia and the incredible fragility of life, I received a message that our dear friends and former San Diego neighbors, Tom and Dawn, were in a terrible car accident when a man who was escaping the police, struck them head-on going 110 miles per hour. The man, whom they never saw coming, was killed instantly. Thankfully, our friends survived and now have matching broken arms.
A week ago tonight, there was the horrific tragedy in Colorado. And tomorrow marks the three-year anniversary that our sweet friend Deana left us. This isn't my most upbeat post, but to me, it's a sobering reminder - no one knows what the future holds. In a split second, life can change. So breathe in deeply, hug your loved ones tightly, give with all of your heart .... and savor this moment.
It really is a beautiful day to be alive.