In recent weeks the bunches of flowers on a roadside pole on my way home have been a visible reminder of a teenage girl who lost her life there. She was hit by a car.
A single sight, a sound or a smell can take you right back into a moment from your past, just as a single instance can become a defining moment that brings fresh insight into an aspect of your life.
The date of the school girl’s death – 28 March 2013, the day before Easter Friday – is etched in my mind because that was also the day I found out that I had lost my job.
I had walked home because the trams were impacted by the crash and when I came across the scene at that Melbourne intersection, it was the policeman diverting traffic who told me what had happened there.
That became the defining moment of my day.
Not the moment when my boss told me they were making my role redundant.
Not the moment as I left the office when it hit me that I would only be coming back there for another two weeks of paid work.
Not even the moment when I sat having a drink with a good friend who had dropped everything to come and support me.
At that corner, sometime in the previous hour or two, a 14-year-old girl had lost her life.
Standing there as blue plastic shrouded the aftermath of this tragedy, that was the moment that really brought me undone.
I remember like it was yesterday and how I cried for the little girl who would never graduate and get a job, for her family and their terrible loss, and yes, out of clear new perspective on my own situation.
That moment gave me a sense of connection to this girl I had never known. According to media reports, she was part of the next generation of an East Timorese refugee family who had sought the safety of a new life in Australia.
How could I be anything but grateful to be alive? Grateful for my loving family and friends. Grateful to have a place to live and food to eat.
In the days that followed, I placed a bunch of flowers on the pole and stood to reflect on the messages from dozens of others like me who were touched by the senseless loss of this young girl. I don’t pass that corner now without thinking of her.
A year later, the flowers are back.
There aren’t as many as there were last year, when the pole was encased with tributes a foot deep, from the ground to well above head height. There’s plenty enough though, to show that she is remembered and loved.
The past fortnight has been a time of significant anniversaries for me.
A year since my role was made redundant. Four years since my Dad passed away. Approaching a year since I started blogging at pinchmyself.
As I emerge from that year, I feel the same gratitude with which I started.
I’m still loving life and through my experiences in the past year, the friendships and love in my life have grown. These are the important things.
In the past few months I’ve also been fortunate enough to be back at work full time.
That’s boosted my appreciation once more – both for the opportunity to work now and for the freedom that I have been lucky enough to enjoy in the past year.
My thoughts are also with the family and friends of the young girl as they mark the sad one-year anniversary of their loss.