On the eve of the 4th anniversary of losing our beautiful daughter Merritt (18) to a distracted driver who was texting on July 3, 2013, I think about how we four – Rich, Hunter, Joe and I – have moved through our lives without Merritt.

Before we received the shocking phone call on a Tuesday afternoon in the heart of a lovely summer – the call every parent fears – the call no parent or sibling is prepared for – the unexpected, unanticipated call to “come and come quickly.” 

The call where your husband and best friend on the other end of the phone whispers, “Merritt’s been in an accident and we might loose her, Anna.” 

That call.

How hours later the four of us scrambled to Memphis to sit vigil in a trauma center with our once vibrant daughter and sister, hours before her journey to Beyond.

How family members and dear friends stopped – in an instant – to get to Memphis to say good-bye to Merritt – not the going-off-to-college type of goodbye but the real goodbye. The goodbye that humbles. The goodbye that hurts. Forever.

How Merritt’s friends across the country and the world, from the Cape to California to France to Spain, held each other and prayed and wrote cards and writhed in pain.

That call.

How in an instant our collective lives of family and friends went from the imperfectly perfect to the tragic. How we each quickly shifted gears in our own way from worrying about the trivial day-to-day to the new constant contemplation of the Universe and secret things no man or woman can ever understand since the beginning of time.

The fragility of life, the importance of love, the eternal connection we feel towards those we meet who matter, the obligation we have to be our best selves because life is fleeting, and we don’t know when four seconds will change everything.

Four seconds of Texting.

Four seconds of distracted driving took Merritt. Four seconds made my beautiful five a weakened yet resilient and determined four.

Four seconds made life as we knew it unfathomable.

Four seconds ended a life so precious the heavens must have surely cried.

Our lesson from this unfathomable, life-altering moment of losing Merritt is super simple: be present, especially and always behind-the-wheel.

Pass it on. Don’t text and drive. If you see someone texting behind-the-wheel, say something. Speak up.

Because four seconds matters.

Tomorrow is the 4th anniversary of TextLess Live More. Tomorrow we will turn off our phones and be present with one another. Tomorrow we will honor Merritt – her joy, her spirit, her humor, her brilliance, her kindness, empathy and ability to love.

Because she was worth it. Because we are all worth it. Because four seconds matter so, so, so much.

We love you, Merritt. We have not forgotten. We will not forget. We will end distracted driving. My darling, we are working on it. We promise.

Your adoring,

Mom, Dad, Hunter and Joe