A friend of mine, Tricia McCauley, whom I’ve known since 7th grade, was found dead today in Washington, D.C. I received a text from my sister this morning, who remembered her from our high school days together, and wanted to let me know that she had gone missing since Christmas Day. It’s now been about 45 minutes since I received that text from my sister, and I am just reeling from this news. It appears that she was murdered after googling her name and automatically ‘Tricia McCauley Missing’ populated in my web browser.
Tricia was, and I hope you will agree with me by the end of this post, still IS a bright light in a sea of darkness.
It is hard to process that she is no longer with us, at least not in the sense of having hope that I might see her again at a high school reunion, give her a hug, and thank her for inspiring me in this life.
When I met her back in the early 1980s she was this very short, very friendly, very curious, very intelligent, and I would be remiss not mentioning this, very hidden from plain sight her beautiful face and eyes due to ‘coke bottle-esque’ corrective lenses that she had to wear.
Tricia, Leigh Ammons, Sabrina Todd, Bradley Bannon, and I participated in a competition in the 7th and 8th grade together called ‘Olympics of the Mind’. It was run by one of the teachers at Socastee Middle School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina named Carolyn Powell. I have a fond memory of riding together with Tricia, Leigh, ,Sabrina, Brad, and Ms. Powell to some competition on a rainy Friday night, and all of us listening to the Footloose Soundtrack (circa early 80s), and all of us singing the title song at the top of our lungs, ‘Now I gotta cut loose, Footloose, kick off the Sunday shoes, please, Louise, pull me off of my knees, Jack, get back, come on before we crack, lose your blues, everybody cut Footloose!’
Singing that song this morning, remembering Tricia, nearly 30 odd plus years later (not at the top of my lungs for fear of waking up my 7 year old child), with all my 46 years on this pale blue dot planet of ours behind me, makes me appreciate what Kenny Loggins was trying to communicate to us in that song, and also what Tricia McCauley was in the process of teaching me about life. We are only here for a short time, so we might as well enjoy the time we have here by doing work and things that we like to do.
So now, on this incredibly sad day of realizing that your dear classmate, someone who smiled at you when you were the new kid on the block and said, ‘Hey Drew, do you want to join us for…[Insert XYZ activity]?’ (I can’t remember the exact details, but I’m pretty sure Tricia did that for me during my 1st year of middle school, being new and not knowing too many kids, that that someone has now passed away.
There are so many thoughts racing through my head right now on the life of Tricia McCauley, and how she impacted my life.
Most acutely though, I am thinking about Tricia’s immediate family members today who are experiencing a grief that is sadly not unprecedented on our planet, and a grief that is so incredibly painful to endure.
All of me aches for them today and for Tricia, one of the nicest, kindest people that I’ve ever known. She brought goodness, peace, and light into this world, and for her to have to exit the way she did over the Christmas holiday, is simply the deepest sadness for me. There are no good reasons or answers for why such violence and hate was visited upon someone who was the antithesis of both these realities in our species.
To Tricia’s mother and father, I express my deepest condolences on the loss of your daughter. And to Tricia’s brother, as a brother to my only sibling and sister on this planet, I grieve for you today on the loss of your sister. Tricia was an inspiration to so many. And I can’t help but think that the time she spent with all of you, Mr. and Mrs. McCauley and Brian McCauley, in her early years really molded her into the amazing human being she became.
Thank you for helping her realize her potential as a giving, loving, kind hearted human being. The world will never be the same because of what you gave to her and then what she gave back.
Even though my path in this life took me to California, I very much appreciated, respected, and tried my best to follow her incredible journey she made from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. and the many lives she touched through her work as an actor, and later through her work as a healer and teacher with agriculture, yoga, and sustainably produced health products.
She always invited me to her lectures and events in Washington, D.C. as it related to my interest in organics and farming and sustainability, even though I was 3,000 miles away in California. I didn’t keep in great touch with her over the years, although we did reconnect over Facebook back in 2008 or 2009 I think. We traded Christmas cards quite a few times I believe after my son was born in 2009, and we shared messages on Facebook about our times going back to grad school in our 30’s to pursue degrees in somewhat similar fields.
In closing this deeply sad letter, please let me share briefly an experience I had very recently about life after death, and how I think it relates to the life and death of Tricia.
There is a podcast that I enjoy that recently talked about death and how there is a kind of life after death that we can all help along with how we conduct our current time here.
The podcast episode I’m talking about entitled, ‘It’s Not Us, It’s You‘, was just released about 2 weeks ago on December 15th, 2016, and it features a man from India talking about how this podcast, RadioLab, changed his life.
At just before 11 minutes into the podcast, Robert Krulwich, one of the hosts of the show, introduces this young man, and later, at about 15 minutes into the podcast, this Indian man shares an experience of taking a road trip with his grad school classmates, and a RadioLab podcast entitled, ‘Life after Life’, is played. At one point in the podcast this Indian man and his friends are listening to, the actor, Jeffrey Tambor, is relating how there are 3 deaths for humans. The first is when the atoms in your body finally stop associating with each other like they have done since you were created in your mother’s body, and you are considered medically dead. The second is when you are grieved by whoever cares about you during some kind of burial ceremony. And thirdly is when your name and your story are uttered for the last time. This last death is what is so profound to me, and if you listen to the episode from December 15th, 2016, was so profound to the Indian man telling his story.
My reason for sharing this podcast, and this one particular episode, is probably obvious, but I will state it nonetheless. My hope is that by remembering these 3 deaths, especially the last one, that all of us help this one human being, my friend, my classmate from 7th grade, my fellow Olympian of the Mind teammate, Tricia McCauley, live forever. Please let us not forget her story, her joyful nature, the light that she brought into this dark world. Please let us not forget her parents and brother who participated so intensely in her early years on the planet to help her become the person she became. It is with a very heavy heart, but also a very hopeful resolve that we all learn something from Tricia and how she lived her life. It is my hope that we all learn to conduct our lives from this point forward like her brother, Brian, asked us to do, by holding onto each other. Thank you, Tricia. You will be missed, but your story will never be forgotten, and your life and your death will not be in vain. Peace to those who have to live on after you, especially your mother and father, and your brother. Your light shines on even amidst all the most despairing darkness.