Sunday, February 20, 2011

Three years later, she remains more than just memory

Marisa Joy Williams
before the prom in 2005,
just less than three years
before her death.

What wounds time fails to heal are those whose aches remind us that we have survived.

I still walk outdoors on a cool springtime morning when there’s not a cloud in the deep blue sky and tremble at the memory of the day, three years ago, when a trooper’s phone call awoke us to tell us she was gone.

It’s amazing how much life has changed in that time. And how little, considering the most beautiful and perfect of days remains a bittersweet reminder.

Marisa Joy Williams was my son’s best friend, and she was like a second daughter to us. Regular readers of this column will know that she died in a single car accident on Feb. 23, 2008, driving in a thunderstorm to pick up her boyfriend, who had been stranded when his car broke down. She was 18.

The next morning, the sun rose anyway. The sky was blue, the air crisp and cool. For three years, the sun has continued to rise each day.

As those days passed, Marisa’s parents, Donna and Charles, and her extended family and friends raised money and last year established a perpetual scholarship fund in her memory at Gulf Coast Community College, where she had earned her associate’s degree in technical theater. A playground was constructed and named for her on the grounds of her church, Springfield Methodist.

She will not soon be forgotten. Years from now, children will play in the Joy Playground and students will continue to receive the scholarship in her name. Her memory will live on long after those of us who tremble at perfect spring mornings are gone.

Three years later, I still can hear a noise at the front door in the morning and look up from my coffee, half expecting Marisa to be standing there. Every day for the better part of two years, she would come by to pick up my son for school and would have apple juice in a Mason jar. He was always late getting ready, and we would talk as she waited.

Now I can’t even buy apple juice without thinking of her — particularly, how she reacted one morning when she came in to get her regular jar and discovered brand name juice in the fridge instead of the Walmart label. She gave me a skeptical look as she poured and drank.

“Yuck,” she said, and I asked if the new juice was too refined for her palette. She took another drink, made a face and shook all over.

We still only buy the store brand.


This was my Undercurrents column for the News Herald on Sunday, Feb. 20.
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