Michelle, Samantha, and I attended the memorial service of Anna Luskin today, the twenty year old daughter of my friend Fred Luskin. Fred is an author I respect and admire, and he has become a good friend and a mentor of mine over the past few years. His daughter Anna and their fifteen year old son Danny were driving back to the Bay Area from San Luis Obispo two and half weeks ago and they got into a car accident that killed Anna and injured Danny. Thankfully, Danny is fine and looked as normal as he could look, given the circumstances, at today’s service. Anna, unfortunately, did not make it.
As Michelle and I have been reeling from this tragic news these past few weeks, we have read and heard some incredible stories about Anna. While we only met her once, she was the kind of young woman who was hard to forget – passionate, bright, beautiful, filled with energy and wonder, and an open hearted spirit that felt so good to see and be around. She was a writer – studying journalism at Cal Poly where she just finished her sophomore year. While in high school she got an internship at the Palo Alto Weekly and her boss there gave her an assignment after he found out that she had never stopped to watch a sunset. He told her to watch one and then write about it. She did and wrote in a powerful and vulnerable piece about her insights and struggles with this assignment. Her authenticity – both in this piece and in her life (from what we have heard about her and what we witnessed in our brief encounter with her a few years ago) – was beautiful.
At the memorial service today many of the people who got up and spoke from their hearts about Anna’s impact on them and her legacy, reminded us to watch more sunsets, to connect with one another, and to focus on love – as Anna did. It was very sad and also incredibly inspiring to be there today, along with several hundred other people.
I have been in a state of shock and denile about Anna’s death since we found out – feeling such pain, sadness, and grief for my dear friend Fred, his wife Jan, and their son Danny. How do you recover from something like this?!? I have no idea. Why does something like this happen? There are lots of sick, sad, angry, unhappy people in the world who are either waiting to die, or even wanting to die – why would God take such a young, vibrant, precious soul from us? I am not sure that there are any satisfying answers to this question or others like it. Life continues to be a mystery to me.
I trust, even in the midst of my fear, anger, sadness, and confusion, that there is a reason, that the universe is not random, and that as a new friend of mine said to me last week, “We are all going to the same place, some of us just get on the early train…that is what Anna did.” However, the tragic passing of this bright, passionate, loving soul is once again a powerful reminder to me (and anyone and everyone touched by her loss) to savor each moment, to let go of stupid grudges, and to let others know how much we love them.
In the midst of the sadness of death, there is real magic. I saw so many expressions of love, truth, beauty, kindness, appreciation, gratitude, and more today – even with all of the grief. Amazingly, life does go on and it will for the Luskin family. I am not sure how, but I know that it will. With the sudden loss of my dear friend and mentor Richard in December and now this shocking loss of a vibrant twenty year old woman, I am feeling humbled by the uncertainty of life and realness of death…and, at the same time I am deeply grateful for these powerful souls and all that they have taught me and so many others – in both life and death.
Let’s honor Anna by focusing on what and who we love, right now, and also by watching as many sunsets as we can.
In honor of Anna Rose Luskin and with blessings to her family…
P.S. To read some wonderful stuff about and by Anna, check out https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=5343