It is one of those stories, so seemingly senseless and sad that I think it would break my heart a little even if I had never met her. Dacia Dunson, a loved and respected copy editor at The Sun, died at 33 of colon cancer.
She was diagnosed with a late stage of the disease one month before her wedding day and she died almost exactly two years later. She will be gone a year this Saturday.
It is hard not to think she - and we - were cheated. Like Dacia said herself in one of her very few moments of outward frustration, who gets colon cancer in their 30s anyway?
But after a year without her, she's still not gone.
She helps me make decisions about what to wear. She prompts me to cook and enjoy my food. She calms me when I'm frustrated in traffic. She reminds me to appreciate old movies and my friends and family.
I think most everyone who met her now carries a wisp of her spirit, an imprint beneath our flesh from witnessing a thousand of her everyday deeds and hearing a thousand of her everyday words.
Here are just a few of them:
She brought me lunch that she made herself, even when she didn't feel much like eating.
She insisted on taking care of me after my root canal, even though she was going through yet another round of chemo and battling unspeakable side effects.
She invited me over for an awards show and some witty red carpet criticism even after speaking became taxing.
She bought me a locket for my birthday three weeks before she died and included a note about what a good friend I was.
Some of my most lasting memories weren't even meant for me.
When we cleaned out her desk at work, I found a paper on which she had traced her hand. She drew a wedding band on her ring finger and wrote "Mrs. Michael Workman." Mike was the design editor at The Sun whom she married. She was in love and felt lucky, despite everything.
And maybe she was lucky after all.
Mike took her to Switzerland, the south of France, spring training in Florida. He took her to his mom's house in Richmond, which the girl from Alabama liked to call Mayberry for its genuine near-perfectness.
When she got sicker, Mike never let her spend a night in the hospital, or even on the couch, alone. With his air mattress and sleeping bag, he slept on the floor by her side.
Dacia had a sister-in-law who approved of very few before her. She had a best friend in Dallas who visited far more than her schedule allowed. She had a mother and two brothers who welled with pride when they spoke of her. She had an entire office full of friends who still smile when they walk past her desk.
Dacia impressed me from the minute I met her. It was on New Year's. She had battled traffic and bad directions to get across town to a party where she knew no one but Mike. She was smart and beautiful and warm, and she decided to make us her friends just because we were Mike's friends.
I tried to earn the friendship I'd been given. But selfishly, I liked it best when just the two of us watched TV together in our socks under blankets. Sometimes we didn't even speak.
I also liked Sunday dinners. She'd fry catfish and bake mac and cheese - the real, homemade and extra cheesy kind.
She said in an essay she wrote on this page a little over two months before her death that she tried to live her life as close to normal as possible. She worked full time. She went out with friends. She traveled.
Her 34th birthday would have been last Friday. We would have gone out to dinner and toasted her with a nice glass of wine.
If she felt loved, it's because she was. If she worried she wouldn't be remembered, she shouldn't have. If she thought her shortened life would lack meaning, she would have been wrong.