Oh Unlucky Day!

09/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I'm not the superstitious type. I've never avoided black cats, have walked under numerous ladders, don't even mind being seated in row 13 in theaters and airplanes. But I confess that I dread August 4 each year. Bad things have happened in my life on August 4 -- two cataclysmic events.

The first was in 1994 when I was carrying my then-20 month old daughter down a flight of stairs to our driveway. She heard a neighbor, twisted in my arms and began a freefall down the steps. I acted instinctively. I dove headfirst down the stairs, scooping her up along the way, and twisting to land on one leg. I broke that one in the fall and the other one during the twisting movement. I was the single mother of a toddler with two broken legs. I recall pleading with the emergency room doctor: "I can't have two broken legs. I'm a single mom." He wanted to help but had no special dispensation to offer.

I moved from that house before August 4 could roll around again. I wasn't superstitious but to borrow my favorite line from The Office, I was becoming at least a little stitious.

In the ensuing years, I became a little melancholy each time August 4 rolled around but would ride it out. Until 1999. We were on a short vacation in the hills of Virginia with another family when I used my mostly-forgotten cell phone to check home messages. More than a dozen had piled up in the 18 hours I'd been away, surely not a good sign. It was August 3 and my business partner and dear friend of 15 years, Janel Radtke, was on life support in a hospital in Nyack, New York. No one knew what had caused her to have a seizure in the night but she had suffered irreparable brain damage. We hurried home and Janel died the next day - August 4.

That was 10 years ago. My legs have mostly healed and I have learned to live in a world that is a bit darker and certainly filled with less laughter since Janel left us. August 4 is the birthday of my dear friend Laura and of President Obama. Good things have been known to happen on August 4 and I try to recall them each year as the date nears. But I admit that on that date there is a little more urgency in my voice as I tell my friends to "be well," and I try not to schedule errands or major trips. It may well be my own personal Unlucky Day or perhaps it's a reminder that we only have this one moment in time. Who knows what danger lurks around the corner or on the calendar? Perhaps once a year it is not a bad thing to be reminded of what is lost and what remains.

Be well, friends.