Athena Ford was 33 years old when she died on October 23, 2016. About a year before she had been a passenger - with her seatbelt fastened - in a violent car crash that left her with a traumatic brain injury.
I'm having difficulty dealing with my grief. Athena and I were soldiers together in the campaign to get Obamacare passed, and we wound up walking from Philadelphia to Washington to promote the cause. It was a stunt. There were, I believe, eight of us. We had a lot of support, but it was a grueling march.
When we got to Baltimore, Athena wasn't feeling very well, and in a church where the historian Taylor Branch talked with us and an attentive audience, including my friend Greg Cukor, our organizers found a doctor to evaluate her.
I never knew what the doctor said, but she continued the walk, and we finished together.
About the organizers. One was Dave Ninehouser, who was my roommate in various hotels on the trip. A great guy.
One day, we were a little confused about what our various headquarters wanted us to do. In addition to walking, there were side missions to meet people and talk with them.
Dave, who had the unfortunate responsibility to be a force of authority in our little commune, said, "Well, they're in charge. They must know what they're doing."
We all waited a beat, and then everyone, including Dave, laughed heartily. It was a sixties moment.
When we got to Washington, a crowd of people greeted us in front of Union Station, and then we walked one last leg up to a Senate office building. There, in a cavernous caucus room, Harry Reid told us he was going to pass the bill.
And, by God, he did.
Now, with the election of Donald Trump as president, it looks like the Affordable Care Act may be repealed.
How do I feel about that? I feel like walking to Washington again. Only Athena won't be there. And that breaks my heart.
See also Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Having Fun Reforming Health, and We Were There All Along.