Life’s lessons without the personal tragedy |

Life’s lessons without the personal tragedy

Kathryn Reed

There is supposed to be a natural order to life — and death. Parents are not supposed to bury their children.

So often that is not the reality. We started the school year with the death of a teenager. All she was doing was walking to school. Her first day of high school. She never got there.

Sitting in jail is the 21-year-old man accused of hitting her as he allegedly drove drunk down 15th Street toward Emerald Bay Road.

I could just as easily be the one who died. I could just as easily be the one behind bars.

I’m usually on my bike when I’m on 15th Street. I’ve looked both ways before crossing, but know the blind curves could make me invisible to a driver.

I know I have been behind the wheel of a vehicle when I’ve had too much to drink. I would like to say it’s something I only did in my youth — blaming it on being young and dumb. But I must admit I’ve done it when I knew better.

I’m not proud of this. I am ashamed. There are plenty of other adjectives, but ashamed says it best. I have no excuse for my behavior. I offer no apology because none is good enough.

I have been lucky. Those on the road with me have been even luckier.

There are certain times in life when we are hit with a wake-up call. I’ve had three in the last year.

The first was a time when I drove home that to this day I don’t remember. At 37 one would think I would not drink and drive. It scared the heck out of me.

The next was when a friend got a DUI. We had been at the same event. I didn’t realize he had had too much to drink. I even asked if he was OK. He said yes.

Don’t we all?

I’ve learned to keep a better eye on myself and friends. So much so that at a party I had earlier this summer I took keys away from a friend. He was pissed. I didn’t care, still don’t. The important thing is that he is still around and no one else was subjected to him being on the road.

The third lesson was earlier this month with the death of Marissa Bassett. I don’t have children. I can only imagine what it would be like to lose my 15-year-old niece. She’s the same age as Marissa.

I didn’t know Marissa nor any of the Bassetts. I can only promise them that their loss has pained me in a way that other tragedies like this have not. Maybe it’s guilt — that I could have been behind the wheel.

Maybe it’s that finally I get it. Obviously intellectually I have known for years the hazards of drinking and driving. But emotionally I have never made the connection.

I have not stopped drinking. But I won’t drink and drive. I may choose to take risks in my life, but people don’t deserve to have me put them at risk.

Life is precious. I’m just sorry it has taken me so long to realize this.

— Kathryn Reed is managing editor of the Tahoe Daily Tribune. She may be reached at or (530) 541-3880, ext. 251.

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