What can I say about February 21st, except that we survived. It was not a day to celebrate, and most of the day we were preoccupied trying not to think about what was most on our minds.
We wanted to spend the day doing something that would honor Rachel and celebrate life. After we spent a little time lingering in bed while we drank our coffee and read the latest issue of The Sun magazine, I made an appointment to donate blood at BloodSource in Chico. Rachel received a scholarship from BloodSource for her efforts organizing blood drives on campus at Orland High School, and donating blood was one of the things Rachel and I shared. Jill is ineligible for the time being because of the tattoo she got in honor of Rachel. I would love to know what she thinks of her mother getting a tattoo. I am sure she would approve.
I had forgotten about the drive into Chico. Because it was exactly one year later, the world looked as it did when we received the news of Rachel’s death: breaking into the blossom of early spring. Spring, with its promise of life, and the beauty of new beginnings...
The road into Chico is the road I was on when Jill called me with the news that Rachel was missing. While she was talking to me, she was visited by police chief Bob Pasero with the news that Rachel was “gone.” The way to BloodSource takes me past the exact spot on the road when I answered the phone and the exact spot I learned that Rachel was dead. It takes me past the exact spot I turned around to go back home, where everything had changed and nothing would ever be the same. How often I have wondered how life would have been if that call had never been necessary, and I could have driven past that otherwise unremarkable spot in the road and into the life that lay ahead, the life that included my daughter’s loving presence and her bright future. There are no roadside monuments to mark those spots in the road where my life was changed, but they are indelibly carved in my mind...
After I gave blood, Jill and I spent some time at the Chico Farmers’ Market. For us, a visit to the Farmer’s Market is always an uplifting experience. There is laughter and fellowship and beauty and an abundance of life. Whether we need produce or not, just to stroll past the vendor’s stalls and look at the fruit of their partnership with earth and to observe people enjoying themselves and one another and the miracle of another day of life is ample reason to justify a visit. There is always a positive energy that pervades the atmosphere at the Farmers’ Market, but, with spring in the air, it was almost palpable. We left refreshed, lighter in spirit.
Unexpectedly, we had lunch with a man we became acquainted with through Rachel’s involvement with the Every 15 Minutes program when she was a senior in high school. At that program Daryl Spessard described his experience losing his daughter Andrea to a drunk driver. Rachel lingered after the program was over to thank Daryl for his presentation and to express her sympathy for the loss of his daughter. Daryl remembered Rachel’s compassion, and he attended her memorial service in Orland and has made a point of making himself available to assist us in our grief. Daryl remembered the significance of February 21st for us, and he arranged to meet us for lunch at a favorite cafe in Chico, Flo’s. Daryl encouraged Jill and I to participate in a Smart Start driver’s education program the following Wednesday night, to share Rachel’s story.
Lunch with Daryl seemed a fitting end to our visit to Chico. It was beginning to cloud up after a beautiful morning and early afternoon. We thought we should head back home. We took the back roads through the countryside to take full advantage of the spectacle of the blossoming almond orchards. It was a sad day, to be sure, but not worse than we feared. We took the time to appreciate the goodness to be found, and we felt better for doing it.