In Memory of Strangers

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Boulder.  The sky above was the deep Edgewood blue that Colorado is famous for and underneath to the horizon was a wonderful day to be outside.  My son and I walked around Pearl Street, had lunch and went for ride up nearby Flagstaff Mountain.

The trees are starting to sprout leaves and the ground is greening-up I noticed from my vantage point on the passenger side.  Blissfully lost in the sights and beauty of the day my attention was pulled to a simple little sign attached to a curve warning sign.  It looked liked it belonged there and simply read “In Memory Of Amber McDonald”.  As we continued driving my mind wandered and the questions came.  Who was Amber McDonald?  Was she young or old?  Did the location of the sign have significance?  Was Amber a lover of the mountains?  Did she spend a lot of time outdoors?  Did she ride her bike up Flagstaff  Mountain Road?  Lots of times?  Was she single or married?  Did she have children?  Brothers or sisters?  

Later I spent about an hour searching on the Internet for clues as to who Amber McDonald was.  I found the first and last name combination is fairly common.  Sifting through them all I could not find that name with any ties to Boulder.  Lacking any definitive history I invented some.  

Based on absolutely no facts the story I created and settled on was Amber McDonald was probably a college age girl (University of Colorado Campus is close by).  She was a bike rider and a successful student just about finished with her Master’s studies.  I imagined Amber as single and happy.  Thinking that someone who loved the scenery at least as much as I do could no longer see what I was seeing made me appreciate the mountains more than usual.  It was a gift I got for remembering Amber McDonald through my made up story. 

As it turned out Amber McDonald paved the way for me to “meet” another woman.  When we stopped to take in the view at scenic overlook close to the top of the mountain I noticed a bench with a small plaque made into it:  “In Loving Memory of Judy McMillan Feb. 27, 1941 – Feb. 5, 1997”.  Judy lived until shortly before her 56th birthday.  Was she a wife?  A Mother?  A Grandmother?  Was this scenic point special to her?  I filled in a few blanks and felt she was all of the above.  I added in my thought that the spectacular view where the bench was located must have been her favorite.  I felt like she came there often. 

Adapted from “I Am Not There” – Mary Elizabeth Frye

I give you this one thought to keep –
I am with you still – I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning’s hush
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone –
I am with you still – in each new dawn. 

Knowing almost nothing about the two women, but spending time with their memories made my day better and more memorable at a unique level.  I honored the wishes of those who put the signs up for the Amber and Judy to be remembered.  It made me more grateful to be alive. 

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.  Henry David Thoreau

One thought on “In Memory of Strangers

  1. Funny you should write this blog on May 28…the day after my birthday…the day my best friend’s daughter drown in the Illinois River while on a float trip. The “I Am Not There” verse you wrote speaks quite loudly to me…for it was literally that attitude I took, had to take, after my brother died. I recall believing he spoke to me when the leaves in the trees rustled in the gentle wind…when a bird sat atop my fence and sang so sweetly. Now, a 24 year old mother is gone…leaving behind a precious three year old child…and many lives are shattered. I will share what you have written and hope it brings some comfort to my friend. I was feeling sorrowful…remembering my brother and knowing how my friend must feel at this very minute…and now I feel better.

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