About twenty years ago, more or less, when I first started spending time in North Idaho, I hired a young woman named Amber Coffman to be my son’s babysitter. She was a beautiful, kindly student at Sandpoint High School, as sweet hearted and attentive to our son Tommy as I could have wished.
She had violet blue eyes that just shone any time night or day. They were almost extraterrestrial.
We became friends and I stayed in touch with her as she grew up, always cheerful, always full of ideas, always glowing with those luminous violet eyes.
She was interested in nutrition and in beauty treatments. She studied in California and in Hawaii, then came back to little, charming Sandpoint to run a spa and then to own her own spa.
She was always as devoted to our son as she could be, always inquisitive about him, and always had those spectacular eyes. Three years ago, she married a young man in what was a big event for Sandpoint. They were luminously happy in their house on the Pendoreille River and in their speedboat.
I saw Amber and her father on July 3, just before fireworks were starting here. (For some reason they had them on July 3. I don’t know why. ) She was as bubbly and effervescent as ever, the soul of happy, endlessly optimistic youth. We had a long and wonderful visit and I took photos of her and her father.
A couple of hours later, Amber and her husband watched the fireworks from their boat, then took the boat towards their home. Then they got a call from a friend with boat problems and they sped back -- far too fast -- to help their friend.
In the dark, Amber and her husband Darby crashed into cross beams supporting the immense highway bridge here. They were killed instantly.
It was pure loss. Just thinking about those young lives and those spectacular eyes extinguished on this earth because of an accident that never had to happen brings me to my knees. Those of us who loved her will never get over it.
Young people. Old people. Life is incredibly fragile. In a car. In a boat. Anywhere. Life is fragile. Please take care. Life is fragile and when you leave, you leave behind broken hearts.
Hart Crane, one of the greatest of twentieth century American poets, put it well. (I am paraphrasing.)
O brilliant kids,
Frisk with your dog,
And fondle your shells and sticks,
Bleached by time and the elements,
But there is a line you must not cross,
Nor trust spry cordage of your bodies
Too lichen faithful
To too wide a breast.
The bottom of the sea is cruel.
God bless you, beautiful, luminous Amber.