This month is the five-year anniversaryof one of the most tragic events of my life.
Driving back fromthe airport after a great vacation, the Bores family dropped off theirtwo eldest daughters at their homes in the Twin Cities and continued onto their own home in Cameron. On the way, their van collided with acement truck. My best friend Dani, who was 12, and her mother, Jane,were seriously injured, but her sister and father were killed.
Kayla Jo, 14, and her father Robert, 52, were amazing,energetic, loving people who will never be forgotten. Although they didnot survive that horrible accident, two who are just as incredible werereturned to the loving arms of those who prayed for them. This is onetime I don’t feel bad about being selfish. Dani and Jane have beensuch an important part of my life, and I thank God every day that Istill have them here with me.
“Okay, Janie,” Iyelled as I bent to put on my shoes.“Bye!”
“Bye, Bear!” she yelled back.“Thanks so much for your help today.” Dani’s momreached for the refrigerator door and disappeared into its chillydepths. Her sweet voice, however, reverberated from its inner recesses,continuing as if she were still talking to me eye to eye.“Aren’t we lucky that it was such a beautiful day? Thelighting was perfect!” she added as she walked to thedoor.
Lighting - only a photographer like Jane would havenoticed. Even though I’d worked with her all summer in her studio,she continued to mention the all-important quality of light to meseveral times each day. Thinking once again how lucky I was to have heras a mentor, I reached out and gave her a big hug as we exchanged ourgood-byes and love-yous.
As I walked away, I watched the sidewalkpass beneath my feet. The trees cast shadows on the lawn, and the dewbegan to settle on the leaves. I felt the fine mist of autumn’swind, and the cool air filled my lungs with a calm sensation. The sunwashed over my face, warming my soul, and my mind slipped back to thedays when Jane and I had had our deep talks.
We were somewherebetween Puerto Rico and St. Thomas on a cruise. The ship slowly rockedfrom side to side, and the beautiful breeze rushed over me. I felt ahand touch my shoulder as I stood at the rail looking at the majesticstars.
“Hey, Bear,” Jane paused, peering over therailing at the waves as if she were carefully selecting her words.“How are you?” she asked quietly. Her voice still had itsusual cheerful tone, but there was an underlying hint ofconcern.
“Oh, I’m good,” I respondedautomatically. “I just came out for a breath of fresh air and tolook at these amazing stars.”
Jane watched the sky as if itwere speaking to her. She parted her lips but only a sigh cameout.
“What’s on your mind?” I asked, realizingsomething was troubling her.
There was a long silence. Then tearsbegan to well in her eyes and the trembling of her breath showed thatshe was forcing back a lump in her throat.
“Sometimes...” she stammered, “sometimes I remember...”
She looked at me, expecting me to know exactly whatshe was thinking, and I did. She let the tears fall. Her soft voicetrembled as she continued, “I remember the sounds of the vehiclescolliding ... and my daughters ...”
She didn’t haveto say anything more. It felt as if I were brought back to that horribleday through the expression that haunted her blue eyes.
“Ilove Dani so much,” she explained, her voice barely audible.“I don’t know what my life would be like withouther.”
“I know, Jane, and she loves you,” Isaid.
The reminder brought our hearts to the same spot, for weboth love Dani - one as a mother and the other as a“sister.”
“Bear, when I lost Kayla, I thoughtthat my life was over, that things would never return to normal,”she whispered, shaking her head. “But when I see Dani smile, I seeKayla smile, too, and I still have my baby girls,” she said,smiling. “I still have so much to live for.”
My tearswere now streaming down my face, for Jane had figured out what millionsof people strive years upon lifetimes to understand. My eyes shiftedfrom her beautiful face to the sky, and in that moment I realized thatlife does not end with death. In the ones we love, we remain alive forothers to continue to love.
I looked at one of the strongestwomen I know, seeing the look in her eyes as she stared across theocean. That night, Jane proved to me that love is more than a word, morethan just a feeling. Love is the way in which we live ourlives.
I look up into the sky now as I walk. The sunis setting behind the green pines and poppies covered in bright yellowleaves. I whisper a prayer for Dani and her family, and as the last dropof sun hits my face, the wind blows the leaves off a nearby maple.Someday the sun will set on all of our lives, but for now I shall awaittomorrow’s sunrise.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.