When most people think of parties they think of happy times, balloons, candles and cake. I suppose I could talk about things like that when in truth the two parties that come to mind for me both bring thoughts of sadness.
The first is the one that would prove to be the last for my daughter, Jasna, the one that would leave me with the only physical reminder of a family taken too soon. It was her 4th birthday, and somehow we were able to return to Zagreb to celebrate it with our parents, our siblings, with aunts and uncles, cousins.
I don't remember when I had last laughed so much as I did that day and I know I didn't realize how much I missed having family so close. It wasn't like we had a choice though, Vukovar was where we needed to be for my classes, and it wasn't like we were going to be gone for that long, or so we believed. I can't remember who took the picture of Danijela and Jasna that day, a small black and white that would freeze both in time. I only know that without it I would have nothing to remember them with but my memories.
The second party would come years later and half a world away. This one wasn't a true party in the sense that Jasna's was, it was held at the hospital in Chicago where I was working, a celebration of Valentines Day. I remember it wasn't really busy and when Mark handed the board off to me I didn't really think there was anything wrong with letting the staff enjoy themselves.
I've replayed that day's events over and over in my mind since then and I can't think of anything that happened that could have warned me of what was to come, or of anything I could have done to prevent it. Even knowing that, it doesn't change the fact that while we were having a good time two other staff members were being stabbed by a schizophrenic patient. We found them too late to save one of them, Lucy a med student died, Carter, one of the residents battled back from his injuries for months. I can't help but wonder if we could have prevented the attacks, saved Lucy's life if only we hadn't had that party, but I guess we'll never know.