Friday, October 15, 2010

Today We Remember Leah Oliver

Today we remember Leah Oliver, just 24 years old. She would never see her 25th birthday, which would have been September 12, 2001. A vibrant, smart, determined young woman in the prime of her life. Leah began a job she loved, working for Marsh & McLennan just a few months before September 11th, and had recently started dating a new guy. She loved her family and filled those around her with joy and spirit. She was on top of the world. Leah was sitting at her desk on the 96th floor of the North Tower on Sept. 11 when American Airlines Flt 11 struck the WTC.

A Dad’s Brief Remembrance of His Daughter
For Leah Oliver, by Walter Oliver, 10/20/2001

Of all the people in the world I could quote at a time like this, I am most moved by the words of comedienne Gilda Radner, taken from us early by cancer, who said "I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned the hard way that some poems don’t rhyme and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what is going to happen next."

Life is about not knowing. Surely the last few weeks have proved that to all of us. But bringing Leah into this world is one thing I know for certain I’ve done absolutely right in my life. I love all my children equally, and I’m equally proud of each of them. Leah was just that little bit special because she was my first. As oldest children often do, Leah marched through life with a sense of purpose, determined to be successful. And she exceeded my expectations all along the way.

Despite this determination and her young age, she stopped frequently to look around her and enjoy what God’s earth had to offer. She brightened everyone’s life with a heart full of genuine concern, an ear always willing to listen, a hand ready to help, a cute little wink and the most beautiful smile in the world. She loved life, and she loved us all.

Leah was like me in many ways and we understood each other. Sometimes I thought to myself "how awful for her", but more often I reveled in it. Oh, she could be cranky now and then, like her dad, but no one who knew her needs to be told that she was a warm, kind and sensitive person. I hope her dad had something to do with that, too.

For a time we shared one of my passions - motorcycling. We’d head out on beautiful Sunday mornings to tour the countryside of northeastern New Jersey and up into New York State. We had an intercom on the bike that allowed us to share our thoughts about the ride as we passed interesting things along the way. We both enjoyed the way motorcycling or even driving a convertible with the top down can make you a more active participant in the modern mechanical world - closer to the smells and textures of the outdoors. We felt so free. She was a wonderful passenger and it was always my pleasure to have her along - on the road, as well as in my life.

I am filled with sorrow at having lost my daughter. Grief recedes with time and grace, but we will never forget all the possibilities and hopes we had for Leah that are left unrealized. Part of my soul has been ripped away from me, and I will never be the same.
We had several jokes between us, but the one I enjoyed most went like this: "Leah, did you know you were my favorite daughter?" And she would always reply, "but Dad, I’m your only daughter."
Leah, you will always be my only daughter - frozen in time one day before your 25th birthday.
I know that you have passed into a better world. And I pray that someday, we will tour the wonders of that world together.

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