Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Earthquake

Out of the blue one day last week, someone brought up the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in the Los Angeles area. Oh, yes, that was part of a heartbreaking year, when my daughter was in a fatal car crash. Remembering that year, the earthquake triggers some fond memories, certainly not of the damage, destruction and death of many people, but of what transpired that morning of January 17. I received a phone call from my daughter asking if I had heard the news. I looked at the bedside clock which read 6:30 a.m. and said, “No, I was sleeping. What happened?” My daughter told me they had just experienced an earthquake of around 6.1 where she lived with her husband in Sherman Oaks, and she was under the kitchen table!” “Don’t worry, she said, we’re all right, and I called to let you know that.” (Always so thoughtful and considerate). I smiled. “Nothing was damaged,” she continued, but she called me first and needed to make another call to her dear friend’s mother in Tucson to let her know that her daughter was on the East Coast that week and that she didn’t have to worry about her. “Okay, I said. “I’m glad you called me.”

When my daughter died two months later, her friend’s mother came to the funeral. She said it was because she wanted to face me and let me know what a special daughter I had and how much she appreciated that call two months earlier. To myself I said, I know she was special, but it was still great hearing it from others.

All that month and for many after, I received many cards and letters telling me how special she was to others, and it always warmed my heart. Many years later, I even heard from her first boyfriend, who I think always had special feelings for her even after she broke up with him. He told me that it had taken him a long time to get up the courage to write me to let me know how much she meant to him and still does. He reminisced about many events we all shared, again bringing back wonderful memories for both of us.

Every time I hear someone mention 1994, I always associate it with the death of my daughter. It could be a casual remark someone makes about the O.J. Simpson murders, a marriage, a divorce, the death of a well-known personality such as Nixon or Jacqueline Kennedy, a sports team winning a championship or a statistic comparing the population growth then and now. My heart skips a beat when that year is mentioned, even now, more than 22 years later. I want to shout, “Hey, my daughter was beautiful inside and out, and I don’t want her to be forgotten.”  I know I never will.

Because of all the people who loved her, I know that will never happen. And I have made sure of that through all the meaningful things I have done in her memory including setting up a perpetual foundation to give financial aid to college students to finish their degrees.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my daughter, who died far too young. She had so much to do, so much to give…And after the pain that accompanies memories of people long since gone, I remember all the good times and the wonderful people I have met while I try to help others deal with their loss as I know my daughter would have wanted to do.

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