The last moments before euphoria turned agony was a bright azure sky dotted with fluffy white clouds. I looked up and thought “Wow, how peaceful and beautiful.” And then reality struck.

I thought I heard Rich scream “Oh my god,” before seeing the flash of a white bumper.

“Did Rich hit a car,” I wondered.

As my body tumbled into the air, I realized with horror, “This isn’t going to end well.”


Even though we’d just returned from 11 days of sailing and sightseeing in Canada, the three-day Memorial Day weekend, was a welcome opportunity to get caught up. We started the rainy Saturday with a quick stop at McDonald’s for our customary iced coffees and Egg McMuffins. If you take an occasional sip, the coffees can last all day.

We were driving a 2018 Honda Accord with more “bells and whistles” than a herd of sheep wandering along an alpine trail. Earlier in the week, we’d brought our cars to the Honda dealer in Mount Vernon for routine services… and some unexpected necessities, such as brakes and tires for Rich’s Insight.

After visiting McDonald’s on Saturday morning, we drove to Mount Vernon to return the Accord, and redeem our newly maintained FIT and Insight, then headed to Costco for a little shopping and to drop off Rich’s hearing aids. We then proceeded to Value Village and Fred Meyers. Rich bought some CDs at Value Village, and I got vegetables and herbs at Fred Meyer. Before going home, we stopped at a grocery store in Oak Harbor to get our food for the week.

Sunday was spent gardening and doing household chores, then watching a couple movies. For us, working together and checking-off “gotta’ do’s” is fulfilling.


Memorial Day, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before “suiting up” to take Gatsby, Rich’s Harley, for a spin around Whidbey Island. Since it was warm, I argued with Rich as to why I needed to wear leather gloves. I recall Rich saying, “In case you fall.”

Be careful what you say

We’ve always seen our Coupeville house as our final home, joking the hallways are wide enough for wheelchair races.

The worst day of our lives

Memorial Day was overcast, not too hot, not too cold. A nice day for a motorcycle ride.

Rich wanted to explore several parks at the south end of the island. We mostly took back-roads, stopped at three small parks, including the Clinton Beach Park, Pier, and Dock by the Clinton ferry. While we’ve passed by this park numerous times, we’ve never stopped, owing to its limited parking, and our focus on leaving or arriving on the ferry.

Operated by the Port of South Whidbey, the Clinton Beach Park has several interesting features, including a covered picnic area with sedum on the roof and tables and benches created from driftwood, sandy area for kids (and adults), and informational signs about the area and local wildlife. And ironically, what stands out is an accessibility path… a blue mesh-like material stretched over the sand.

Because a ferry had just arrived, we waited in the parking lot until most of the cars passed then headed to Ken’s Korner, a strip mall near Clinton where Rich wanted to have Mexican food. However, the restaurant was closed so we went to the Whidbey Island Bagel Factory, which was teeming with hungry customers.

Rich and Julie at Whidbey Island Bagel Factory, before accident

Our bagel sandwiches were fabulous, which we ate at an open-air seating area. We also chatted with the owner of the Bagel Factory, learning about his business, and the challenges of keeping up with demand in Oak Harbor with only one oven running until he can install ventilation for the second oven.

I remember feeling euphoric with Rich and I having finally reached a point in our lives where everything had clicked together. I had a great job, working from home for Bridge Partners Consulting. Rich finally secured a fixed route, driving a bus for Island Transit, so he knew what he’d be doing day-to-day.

Our garden complex – shed, greenhouse, raised beds, drip irrigation, rain barrels, and critter-proof fence – was producing amazing results. Most of our Coupeville house has been updated – aside from remodeling the master bathroom, updating outdoor lights, and small tweaks like removing an old thermostat and hanging a few recently framed pictures. We’d finally purchased a dining room set, and I’d started sketching out plans for small dinner parties in June.

Hanging from the ceiling of the garage is our double kayak, which we planned to extensively use this summer, along with our bikes, and hiking boots. There’s lots to do around Whidbey Island and with less to do around the house, this was going to be our first summer to take full advantage of outdoor activities.

In September, we were planning a short motorhome trip to see more of Canada, and test out the concept of taking our cats, in preparation for longer trips in 2020 around the U.S.

Our life was perfection.

After eating the bagels, we headed to Greenbank Farms to check out their yard clippings composting bins. Building and adding similar bins would complete our garden complex.

We then hopped back on Gatsby and headed home.

As we approached the outlying field for the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, on a tree-lined straightaway, a woman in the opposite lane evidently signaled to turned left, then made the turn, directly into Gatsby, instantly severing Rich’s left leg and crushing mine.

We don’t know if she thought she had enough time to make the turn before we passed or thought we were going fast enough that if she started turning, she’d miss us. In either case, a two seconds made the difference.

And the difference destroyed our current lives.

to be continued…