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We can help continue their legacies


Last week, waves of shock rippled through Las Cruces as the community got word of the sudden death of Las Cruces Public Schools Superintendent Karen Trujillo.

Then, just a few days later, we learned of the passing of Audrey Hardman-Hartley. Hardman-Hartley served the community in many capacities as director of nonprofit organizations and an enthusiastic volunteer for many causes.

An automobile-pedestrian accident claimed the life of Trujillo; illness took Hardman-Hartley. Both were way too young.

As the community processes these tragedies, we are reminded of the fragility of life. We can’t take for granted anything beyond the moment we have in our grasp right now.

If you’re like me, you’ve been processing other deaths, calamities and struggles among your circle of friends and family. For me, it’s a close friend whose mother suffered a stroke and now is in hospice. For you, it could be a relative facing an illness, or a child suffering an injury.

For many, the struggles are not physical health, but mental or emotional.

On Friday, Feb. 26, the day after Trujillo’s death, LCPS held a news conference that felt more like a eulogy, as several people close to Trujillo spoke of what she meant to the community.

Perhaps the most powerful moment of the conference came during the remarks of Ben Trujillo, Karen’s widower. Ben spoke eloquently of Karen’s passion for her work, and what she meant to him and their children. Ben had to have been in shock to some degree. We all would be in that situation. Still, he found the strength to ask listeners to pray for someone besides Karen and her family.

Ben asked people to keep prayers for the young man who drove the vehicle in the accident. When most people heard of the accident, the first reaction was shock, then sorrow for the family. The next thought, for many, was “I can’t imagine what the driver must be feeling.”

Almost all of us have had close calls with pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists. Sometimes those close calls alone are enough to mess us up for a while. Being involved in an accident where someone dies has to be terribly difficult for the accident’s survivors.

We should also take a lesson in the incident, to be more cautious with our own driving. Do we really need to run that red light? Can we look one more time in the opposite direction at the crosswalk? Can we take our foot off the gas a bit when we’re in neighborhoods with children and other pedestrians? And also increase caution as we walk or bicycle. Should our clothing be brighter? Are we on the correct side of the road? Are we taking into account the varying conditions such as weather and darkness?

Hardman-Hartley touched countless lives with the charitable work she did. Trujillo spent her life working to improve the education of our young people.

The tragedy of these deaths – as in all deaths –  rests partly in the wondering of what more they still could have accomplished. We can help carry on their legacies in the very simple, human way of giving service to others.

Godspeed, Karen and Audrey.

And God help us all to appreciate who we have while we have them.

Richard Coltharp