January 20th, Every Year

Today is the anniversary of when my childhood friend, Donna, died. It’s been 22 years and I still think of her and her family every January 20th and every August 18th, which was her birthday. It’s amazing how certain events in our lives make such an impact and stick with us forever. Probably for the rest of my life, I’ll remember where I was when I heard the news. I’ll remember calling my brother, Gary, from a nearby payphone and having trouble forming the words on the answering machine. I’ll remember seeing the grief on her brother’s face as he walked into their home, seeing her best friend clutching the last picture they took together, and standing in her quiet room, looking at everything left as it had been that morning.

Donna was an old childhood friend of mine. We had known each other from birth. She lived around the block and we spent countless hours together when we were little. I spent the night at her house before anyone else’s (and called my dad to get me the first time that I tried to sleep over!). I learned to ride a bike because Donna already knew how to ride hers and I wanted to be like her. We shared many childhood memories together, and her death was the first time I’d experienced something that was so terribly painful and unfair in the way the world works.

I was thinking about all of these things this morning as they relate to my own children. I remember Donna’s mom, Adele, at the shiva talking about Donna’s life. As a typical fifteen year old, Donna had become difficult for her parents. Adele said that it had been such a blessing that on the morning that Donna was struck by a car, they hadn’t faught before she left for school. Adele said that it had been a good morning and that she would be grateful for the rest of her life that her daughter walked out the door that morning in a good mood.

This made me pause this morning and reflect on how I send my own children to school. Certainly, we can’t live our lives always worrying that when we say goodbye it will be our last time. We can, however, think about how we treat our loved ones and try, as much as possible, to treat each other well.

You can bet that I tried to be as patient and loving with the kids this morning as possible before they went off to school. I sat with the older boys for a few minutes while they ate and I told them all that I love them. Those extra few minutes really can make such a difference. I hope to remember this every day, not just today. But, for now, it was enough that I remembered it this morning.

You just never know what life is going to bring you.

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