Michele Grgas Thomas The Triplicate

Iwas sitting at my computer Sunday afternoon downloading the photos I took at my granddaughter's first birthday party Saturday. The slide show started with Kayla in her Duck gear sitting on her dad's lap watching the game. Then she was transformed into "Birthday Princess Kayla" in a fluffy pink dress. The half time festivities were opening presents, singing "Happy Birthday" and watching Kayla eat cake with her fingers. I had pictures of it all and reliving those moments made me smile.

The party was in Grants Pass at Kayla's other grandparents' home. Being back (I lived in Grants Pass for twenty years) gave me the opportunity to have coffee with my dear friend Deanie and visit with former co-workers at the newspaper. And my three sons and I were together, which doesn't happen so often anymore.

I loved my time with my family, friends and my precious granddaughter, a year old now, but still so new to me. When I look into her eyes I see endless possibilities ahead.

As I looked at the photos, I was reminded of my own children's

birthdays and shook my head at how fast the time has gone. I started to

compose this column in my head, thinking I would write about this

happiest of birthday parties and how blessed my life is. And then my

cell phone rang.

"Michele, it's Shy."

I immediately recognized my goddaughter's voice. My first thought was that she was in town.

"Where are you?" I asked.

"I don't know an easy way to say this," she started, and immediately I

knew what was coming. I knew someone was very ill or worse. My mind was

racing. Was it one of her three beautiful daughters? Was it her sister,

Tessa? Was it her mom? But before I could even process the possibility,

she told me. "Dad died yesterday."

Shyla's dad, Steven, was one of my closest friends from college days.

If I had the space, I could tell you a hundred and one stories

involving Steven. He was extremely bright, charming, handsome,

charismatic and loyal to a fault. We were never romantically involved,

but I went out with Steven more than I did anyone else during college.

Out for Chinese food or pizza. Out for a beer. Out to see a movie or a

concert or to his home in Oroville for the weekend. When I had the flu

and was running a high fever Steven slept on the floor next to my bed

for two nights and took care of me.

After they got married, Steven and his wife (also a friend from

college) asked me to be their firstborn's godmother. That bonded us for

life. They settled in Sebastopol and we did a pretty good job of

visiting each other, sending Christmas cards, exchanging e-mails and

talking on the phone several times a year.

Steven was working on a home improvement project Saturday and went to

the lumber yard to get a board. He collapsed on the sidewalk and died

instantly. He was 62.

I think you can finish this column without me. You know what I'm

thinking. That life is short. That you are given incredible moments, and

heartbreaking ones. That if you have the opportunity to tell a friend

you love him, or kiss your children good night or hug your granddaughter

tight, do it now.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at

mthomas@triplicate.com, 464-2141, or stop by 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.