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  • Gary Reed /

    Diana Reed, enjoying her wild ride on a lawnmower in Nashville, Tenn., on Memorial Day,May 28.

  • Gary Reed

Op images: Joy of life captured with a click, and then cut short

Published: Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 14A

Before we set out to mow the lawn last spring, my sister-in-law gave me an option: using the riding mower or the push mower to trim those hard-to-get-to places. I decided to do the trimming. Besides, I wanted to see her cruise around the yard on that thing. I was suspect of her driving abilities, with good reason, and envisioned her hitting a tree or two.

It's hard to picture Diana mowing the yard, much less at the controls of a mower with steering handles instead of a wheel. Back in high school I taught her how to drive a manual-shifting VW Beetle, and with Diana not being that coordinated, most people thought I was crazy to get in the car with her. She ground a few gears at first, and away we went. Eventually, I opened my eyes.

I thought it was a hoot that now here she was making sharp turns around a tree and flying toward me, seemingly a little out of control. I pulled out my iPhone, she laughed and waved, and I took two pictures that weekend in May. It was the last pictures I would take of Diana. Four months later my brother Wayne called to tell me that Diana was in the hospital, but was expected to get out soon. Instead, she died Oct. 3, one of the first victims of an outbreak of fungal meningitis from contaminated steroid injections.

Thirty-nine people in 19 states have died, 620 others sickened as of Thursday, and a federal investigation continues.

Thinking back, I feel grateful I was able to see Wayne and Diana in Nashville before driving on to Virginia for a nephew's high school graduation. I changed my original plans because I hadn't seen them in a few years and was feeling a little guilty. They had missed several Christmases at my parents' home in Virginia, because Wayne doesn't travel too well these days.

We spent two weekends talking about old times, catching up and revealing new things in our lives. I left Nashville feeling reconnected and closer to Wayne and Diana.

I didn't think about the photo shown here until people gathered around Diana after she slipped into a coma. They were telling stories about her and showing photos on their phones. Everyone laughed as I passed around mine. I think she only hit one tree that day, I said. They all agreed that the photo reflected Diana's personality. Wayne liked it so much he chose it as the photo to be displayed large at Diana's memorial service.

The photo reminds me of the importance of time spent with family and that life is fragile.

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