For those of you reading this who do not live in Petaluma and are unaware, our community was hit with a pretty big loss this week. A young man by the name of Danny Cox, was killed when his car veered off the road and hit a tree. Danny was only 19-years old.

Why this passing was particularly tragic, besides the fact that he was so young, was that Danny had been in the news just a year ago after he was paralyzed in a diving accident in Lake Tahoe. The community rallied alongside his family and friends to raise money through various fundraisers to help pay his medical bills. It was a tragic end to life for such a beloved young man.

I felt really sad when I read the news of Danny’s passing. I did not know him nor do I know his family, but I know a lot of people who did know him. I used to see his name pop up on the sidebar of my Facebook page showing how many mutual friends we had in common and suggesting that I “friend” him. I have several “friends” on Facebook that I don’t know very well (or at all really) but for some reason I never asked him to be my friend. I thought about it often but I never did ask him because in all honesty, this young man intimidated me.

How, you might ask, could a 19-year-old boy intimidate a 34-year-old mother of three? Well, besides the fact that I feel a little uncomfortable having really young on-line friends, I followed this young man’s story since I learned of him a year ago and I can simply say that this kid had star power. So in other words, I was star struck by a kid.

From an outsider’s view, this kid was an inspiration. Having undergone such a devastating injury, it seemed to me that he was beating the odds. I saw him getting movement back, smiling in photos, determined, and seemingly unstoppable. I would think about all the other people young and old who might be overcoming similar physical traumas who would be inspired by hearing his story.

And then there was little old me. Here I am with the ability to use all my limbs properly, having not had any physical trauma that I have had to overcome and yet, I was so inspired by Danny. I would see his image pop up on my Facebook page and I would wonder, as I have often thought about other people, “If I ask him to be my friend and I never hear back, am I going to feel rejected?”. So I never took a lesson in courage from this young man and asked him to be my friend. Truly, it was my loss.

So this week, I am sad for the McGowan and Cox family and all of the friends of Danny that I know and don’t know. But at the same time I feel so uplifted to be part of a community that still loves and cares for others despite whether we know them personally or not. Some of the biggest inspirations in my life are people who I’ve never met nor will I probably ever meet and I’m going to continue to count Danny amongst them.

His life was way too short and while I’m terribly sad for his family to have lost him in such a way I am grateful to them for having shared his story with me. I am a 34-year-old pregnant mother of three, who has learned that inspiration can come from anywhere, and I feel so fortunate to have been touched by Danny’s life.  I will always remember his positive smiling face and remember him as a kid who changed lives as his was changing.

Next Friday, August 19th, people will be wearing yellow and black in remembrance of Danny Cox. Yellow and black had a significant meaning not only his life but in his father’s life as well. Whether you knew him or not, consider putting on these colors to celebrate this young man’s courageous fight and honor his memory.

May Danny rest in peace and may he always be smiling down as he walks amongst the clouds happy and free.