For those of you who missed knowing her… here are a few of my favorite photos of her… I’m categorizing them as “Artsy Day” because I use that category to tell the story behind some photos — this time, it’s the story of Sara.
Here are Sara and James, her last debate partner…
Here she is at a tournament in San Diego…and her first time in the mountains… The day we took this photo, it was really cold at home…
and our feet together on the beach — this one makes me know that she’s always with me in some ways…
The story of Sara is one that is kind of typical of many of my students, in an extreme way.
Sara was dyslexic — and smart. She never knew it until she came back to school…. after being a manager at a pizza place, an “exotic” dancer and several other occupations in between.
When I met Sara, she was in my Intro to Philosophy class. She was scared to death to turn in a paper and shook like a puppy in a thunderstorm every time she had to hand one in — every week . By the end of her college career, she was writing long articles for the school newspaper. I cried when she graduated, I was so proud of her.
In between Intro to Philosophy dand September 16, 2009 she was a debater of mine, a logic tutor, my friend, chemo support person and as close to me as a sister. Sara had her challenges and sometimes she wasn’t an easy person to be around, but she was funny, energetic and loyal… fiercely loyal to her friends and family.
By the last year of her life Sara had strong opinions about what she should do, both intellectually and morally. She became strong enough to make big changes in her life and seeing her do so gave me the courage to do the same when I needed to.
The last six weeks of her life were a time of ups and downs… she got kicked out of a dude’s house, lived with me for a while and met a wonderful guy… one who really appreciated her for her. I’ve often missed talking to her, if only because I know that she’d give me her honest feedback about what’s going on with me and mix it with her unique blend of humor, sarcasm and love.
When she lived with me two summers ago we spent a lot of time on my deck — Sara smoked, so we sat at the table and talked about the stuff going on in our lives — at the time, mostly her life but mine too. I wish she could join Andy and I on the deck for more good talks in the dark… if I could bring back two people Sara and Pam would be the ones. They’d appreciate porch time like nobody else I’ve known, and they would have liked one another too.
On September 16, 2009 Sara was on her way home — to her new man’s place. She got stopped in construction. She was driving her little VW Rabbit convertible. A 17 year old in a Honda was probably texting as she sped down the highway toward Sara — she hit her going about 70 MPH.
Sara survived long enough to be pulled from her car and airlifted to the hospital. They tried to save her for a couple of hours before she died. She was 32. She was a recent college graduate and she had a new job, a new love and a great outlook on life. The last time I saw her was on campus — she brought her new guy to meet me and she was glowing.
The night she died, her new guy spent most of the night trying to find her. She wasn’t answering her phone and she wasn’t anyplace he thought she’d be. He told me that he came to my place several times that night looking for her car — sadly, it was on the highway crumpled like a piece of tinfoil.
Speaking at Sara’s memorial service was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done — but I had to, because I knew she’d do it for me — and she’d haunt me if I chickened out. When she was a debater she often cried to relieve stress, so when I cried giving my talk I knew she’d be fine with it — what she wouldn’t have been fine with was having her family miss my unique view of her….
I painted a picture most of them only saw from the outside. I was blessed enough to have seen her growth from a trembling philosophy student to a confident debater (who was willing to, but never had to, take off her clothes to win a round), to a logic tutor helping others understand what had previously terrified her — to a member of the honor society and a writer for the college’s first edition of the student newspaper.
When my students frustrate and annoy me, I realize that I may be part of their transition from nervous student to a student who had been offered scholarships at very well respected universities — and who had plans for grad school. It makes me miss her more and it also makes me realize that every one of them has the potential to become as exceptional as Sara.
The two year anniversary of her death is a week from Friday — I’m writing this now because I suspect we’ll be spending some porch time in her memory that night…
I miss you a lot Sara — you were here for too short a time and it makes me sad to think that the world missed out on the tremendous things you would have done to make life better for others.
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