I haven't seen or spoken to her in a few years. Life and jobs pulled me away from her, and others, whom I had worked with for a long time. That, however, doesn't make her any less my friend. I remember, very vividly, how excited she was when she met the man who would be her husband and the father of her children. I remember how nervous she was when she found out that she was going to be a mother. I remember sitting in Denny's with her and another friend, Gaby, one night after work, discussing baby names for her daughter.
Mary Alice was funny and sweet and, yes, a little naive sometimes. I remember having to explain to her the mechanics of conception, because it wasn't something her very traditional, very conservative family had taught her. She used to tell me, "I didn't learn that- I went to Catholic school! I was a good girl!" And once she found out for sure that she was going to be a mother, almost the same second, she did everything she could to protect her family. She wouldn't lift anything heavy at work on the off-chance that the strain would somehow hurt the baby growing inside her. "I can't do it, I'm pregnant." That was how I would poke fun at her for it, but it was always said with love and she knew it. That and "Mary Alice, as soon as you pop that kid out, I'm so kicking your butt" but nothing was ever said with anger that wasn't completely in jest.
She was a good mother. She was a good mother up until the very end, when firefighters found her curled around her children in their smoke-filled home, trying desperately to protect her babies while Uriel, the love of her life, looked for a way out.
And Uriel... He was a good man. Steady. Solid. The perfect foil to Mary Alice's well-meaning flightiness. When I knew him, and granted this was some time ago, he knew what he wanted out of life and knew that, to get it, he was going to have to work for it and that didn't frighten him one bit.
It's horrible and horrifying that they were all taken at once. Four lives, cut down in such a tragic, heart-breaking way. As much as I hate myself for thinking it, it's a blessing that my friend didn't survive her husband and kids. Mary Alice, the Mary Alice I knew and laughed with and spent hours and hours and hours talking with, wouldn't have been able to handle knowing that she lived while the rest of her family didn't. It's kinder this way, that they all went together, even if those of us who knew and loved them all are left to pick up the pieces and mourn them.
If you read nothing else in this post, please read this:
CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS. Make sure you have them, make sure they work. The worst part of a tragedy is when you realize it was preventable.