As day broke on the morning of March 22, 2008 I was giddy with anticipation of a Saturday ski day. Nearing the end of our ski season, I had really been looking forward to this day with my family. A fabulous lunch on the mountain of grilling burgers, fresh salsa and chips, chocolate dipped macaroons and of course snow-chilled Diet Cokes were part of the plan.
Although the early morning sun shone brightly in the bluebird sky, the air was crisp and bitter cold for a late March day. As we pulled into the upper parking lot at Beaver Mountain the car thermometer read -4 degrees. Dione, Jocie and little brother Chet declared they were not getting out of the car until it had "warmed up" to at least 0 degrees outside.
Dean and I hopped on our skis for a quick run down the mountain...just the two of us. All of The Beav's runs were freshly groomed corduroy and coupled with cold temperatures, were very fast. Dean skied down the ever familiar Stan's Bonanza run and maybe made one turn. I followed (not so close) behind. The frigid air temp at high speeds made my nose sting and eyes water despite my goggles. The mountain still mostly vacant, I delighted in the energy of zipping down an empty run.
And off she went.
My parting words were "Lunch is at noon, don't be late!" And then added a quote from our favorite lifty "Have fun, be safe!" followed by "I love you"! My message probably barely audible over the music plugged into her helmet, she mumbled back "Luv you too!"
I would see her one more time that morning... at the top of Harry's Dream getting off the lift with the girls. Normally she would be wearing her marijuana-leaf-looking ski suit, but not today. She was dressed completely in black from helmet to boot. The new black jacket a gift from her Daddy. As she skied off the lift, her brilliant red hair splayed loosely over her shoulders like a waterfall. It was as if the light of the sun shone brighter on Jocie and only Jocie at that moment. She sparkled! I leaned over to Dione and remarked at her beauty, "Doesn't she look stunning today?" Jocie waved at us, and skied off giggling with the girlfriends.
That glorious and final image of Jocie illuminated at the top of the mountain is something I will always treasure. When dark memories of the day invade my thoughts, I replace them with this image. Today is the 3rd anniversary of Jocie's angel day. On the first I was still clearly devastated, on the second, learning how to breathe again. And today on the third anniversary I am writing...I hear birds outside my door, snowflakes bouncing off the bedroom window panes, and the promise of another day spent wrapped around my family. So from me to you...hug your sweet loved ones just a little tighter today will you?