Thursday, February 23, 2012

Four Years

A lot can happen.

In four years, an economy can collapse and begin to recover. Presidents (and other officials) can change with the terms. Infants become toddlers become little people. Olympics return. February gets an extra day.

Pain fades. Memory becomes ever more treasured.

Today marks four years since we were awakened on a sunny Saturday morning by a phone call from the Florida Highway Patrol. Debra answered the phone. The man asked us to come over to Donna Williams' home. She had asked him to call us when he arrived to inform her that her daughter had been killed in a car accident overnight.

(I have sat here for several minutes, now, trying to decide what more there is to say about that morning that hasn't been said before. I believe there are volumes still to write. Moments that stretched like millenia. But I don't think I can approach those moments here, now.)

Here are other entries about Marisa on this blog (minus those somehow lost in the three-year gap of missing entries from Jan. 2006 to Jan. 2009). And here is her final entry on her Myspace, the story of her best friend and how she loved him and why. (And the extra Mom and Dad and Sister he brought into her life. ... And I'm crying right now.)

And following is a column I wrote in the days immediately after her death, originally published March 2, 2008:

All that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect, and in her eyes

Let me tell you about this girl I know.
I can’t recall how we met. I do remember my son, then a junior at Bay High, saying that Marisa was helping him with his math, and I said, “Who?” and he said something like, “She’s a drama kid.” But it seems no mere chance that the time our troubled lives began to get on track and start making sense coincided with her appearance.

Few anecdotes here, though. I’d need a warehouse of ink and paper to tell each story, and still they wouldn’t explain the complexity and (paradoxical) simplicity of her heart, mind and spirit. In fact, I don’t doubt that whenever I write from now on, some part of me will be writing about Marisa.
So descriptions instead, the briefest sketch to fit the page, though I wonder how one may capture a dream with words.

Beautiful in every way. Lightning wit. A smile that makes the world stop spinning. Rain boots and scarves. Silly accents. Accomplished hugger. Radiant. Made of pure love.
Sneaks across the lawn and crouches by the door (or just outside the front windows) and then calls on her cell phone to ask if she can visit. Says she’d have crawled back across the yard to her car if she’d been told no.

Forgives. Trusts. Leaves messages just to say “I love you” or “I’m coming to kidnap your child” or “I’m with the squirrel police and I have a warrant to search your house.” Rescues stray dogs and turtles in the street. Befriends strangers. Always asks questions, when her shining eyes tell you that she already has the answers to any mystery you could ever imagine.

Likes Bradbury and Vonnegut. Boondock Saints. Lucero. Johnny Depp. Power tools. Apple juice in Mason jars. Red Twizzlers. Miyazaki. Crayons. Puppies and kittens. Leg warmers, striped stockings and toe socks. Barrettes. Taking photos. Playgrounds in the middle of the night. Couch pile-ons. Naps.

Thoughtful. Bold. Gentle. Funky. Mischievous. Tolerant. Sweet. Acerbic. Delightful. Strong. Giving. Spontaneous. Willing. Capable. Funny. Real. Creative. Soft. Driven. Precocious. Perky. Deep. Courageous.

Hogs the shrimp at parties. Teaches friends to levitate. Wears an apron and flour “war paint” when she bakes cookies. Rules movie nights punctuated by Reefer Madness or Rocky Horror sing-alongs.

Secretly leaves gel hearts on your car. Quotes Moulin Rouge on her bathroom mirror: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Artist. Actress. Model. Techie.
Explorer. Instigator. Peacemaker. Dreamer.
Daughter. Sister. Auntie. Friend.

And so suddenly she exits the stage, her scenes unfinished, lines unspoken — and though we know beyond any doubt that she is one of God’s shining lights, she always has been and always will, that she watches us struggle and loves us from afar, still we ache at an emptiness only she can fill, the sense only she can bring to the world.

We hold our children close and gather in numbers to share our pitiful strength, and we watch for her in the stars and on the breeze, and listen for her in the sound of music and laughter of children, and find her in the widest skies and on the cool blue waves that sparkle like her eyes, full of answers and mystery.


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