When Anna Luskin's parents finally arrived at the hospital in San Luis Obispo, where their daughter lay in an intensive-care bed on life support, they were met by Jarryd Guevara, her boyfriend of the past year.
"Jarryd sat us down immediately and took our hands and said, 'I love you guys so much I want to be part of your lives forever. Could I marry your daughter? I want to marry your daughter,'" Jan Krinsley, Anna's mother, recalled of the ending days of a horrific week in which they lost their 20-year-old daughter.
The ceremony last Friday evening was attended by about 30 friends and family members and a minister -- even though it was only a symbolic marriage because Anna could not officially give her consent for it to be legal.
"But they had talked about this, and Anna included it in her 'legacy' paper," Krinsley said. "He went out and bought rings. He bought flowers for her hair. I spoke on her behalf. "
"He had the courage to stand there and recite the vows to someone hooked up to the ICU," Anna's father, Fred Luskin, added in an interview this week in their Redwood City home. (Their son, Danny, 15, was asleep on the couch recovering from his injuries and trauma from the June 18 crash in Paso Robles on U.S. Highway 101. He underwent surgery to remove his spleen but otherwise is expected to recover fully from his injuries.)
To the family, she died as Anna Luskin-Guevara, aged 20, a young journalist.
The bittersweet memory of the ceremony capped a nightmare week for Luskin and Krinsley and Danny, who was to celebrate his 15th birthday last Thursday.
As Anna was wrapping up her second year at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, her parents decided they would fly back to Denver to watch the Yankees/Colorado Rockies game, as longtime Yankees fans.
They had asked if Anna could return home early to be with Danny while they were gone, but Anna suggested that he come down there to hang out with her instead. He took a bus, and they planned to drive home Wednesday to celebrate Danny's birthday with the family Thursday evening.
They took the U.S. Highway 101 scenic route. Then at about 8:45 p.m., as Danny slept and Anna drove, the car drifted toward the center divider.
Anna apparently over-corrected, throwing the car into a spin across the northbound lanes.
It smashed sideways into an oak tree on the driver's side, obliterating the side of the car with enough force to dislodge the seat and force it over the divider onto Danny.
A paramedic later told Fred that he believes Anna was gone by the time paramedics arrived. She was transferred from the community hospital in Paso Robles to a larger hospital in San Luis Obispo, where a neurosurgeon was available.
Luskin and Krinsley, in Denver, began to become concerned "a couple minutes after 9 p.m." when they hadn't heard from Anna, who maintained frequent phone contact with her mother. They tried calling repeatedly, and then there was a call from the hospital within an hour.
Danny had regained full consciousness and had given hospital officials the cell-phone number.
The parents were told they should get there immediately. But there were no flights available, and they spent a frantic, frustrating, anguish-filled night calling about her condition.
By the time they arrived in San Luis Obispo a second CAT scan had revealed brain damage that was below the initial hematoma, or blood swelling.
Her parents now are concentrating on the brightness of their memories of her. Krinsley is a second-grade teacher at Nixon Elementary School in Palo Alto and Luskin is a psychologist and Stanford University professor who has written books on overcoming stress and forgiveness.
They are acutely aware of some ironies of Anna's passing, from finding her paper on "My Legacy" that gave her vision of her life, to remembered conversations, to Fred's speaking last December at Kara, a grief-support agency, on how to deal with sudden overwhelming loss. While they live in Redwood City off Farm Hill Boulevard now, they lived in Palo Alto during the early years of school for Anna and Danny, and Krinsley's teaching job enabled the children to continue in Palo Alto schools.
Jan recalled the special closeness she had with Anna, which Fred acknowledged.
Jan retrieved a 2002 Mother's Day note from Anna, framed with cut-out pictures and illustrations: "Every time I think about you I realize how lucky I am," Anna had written. "How may people can say that their mom is also their best friend? Not many. But I can."
"And she said that all the time," Luskin added.
"She had the unique ability to appreciate and be grateful and understand the blessings of her life and be able to express them," Jan recalled.
"And I don't think most teenagers do that. I think as you get older and look back you realize how grateful you are for what you have and express it. But she never held back. There was no holding back from either direction."
Luskin said they held back telling Anna about a recent mammogram scare involving Jan, a false alarm, until after it was resolved. Anna was upset and told them, "Don't protect us. I want to be there to help!"
Anna called Jan back that evening and, crying, said she didn't know what she'd do without her.
"I said, and it's kind of amazing I said this to her, now, thinking about it, I said, 'Sweetie, the one blessing is that if anything ever happened to either of us we would have no regrets. We know that everything has been said. We have loved as much as we could. We have expressed it as much as we could.'
"And she says, 'I know, Mommy. I know.'"