A very dear Department colleague, Mia Victori, passed away early this week, on November 29, the victim of an unexpected, massive stroke. She was only 44, and died while enjoying with her children and her sister a long-wished for sabbatical in California. We are all devastated, groping in the dark for clues that allow us to understand, if only a little, what has happened. It seems as if she might still return any time from the States and all this might turn out to be just a very sick joke.

My last image of Mia, which is a beautiful one, comes from a chance encounter by the photocopier in mid September. She announced to me then, absolutely radiant as if she had just fallen in love and full of what I can only call pure happiness, that, finally, she was going away, returning to California. Yes, returning. Here’s the appalling irony that makes this sad death even sadder: about 15 years ago, Mia had spent two years there on La Caixa’s well-known scholarship, and this was her chance to give herself and her three children another taste of American life. Somehow, the feeling sticks that she had to go California because this is where her destiny was leading her for this final act.

And so, in the book that was her life, the heroine dies and there is no happy ending. A husband, three young children, the rest of Mia’s family and friends, all her colleagues are left staring at the final page, angry with that bastard of an author –if there is one, I know there can’t be– who has used a cheap deus ex machina to cut short the captivating work. Mia did plenty of value in her 44 years of short life, both personally and professionally but, precisely because she was doing well and doing good, it is hard to accept that she didn’t deserve 44 more. After all, let’s say it out loud, other people who’re up to no good get to enjoy even more years. I simply don’t understand how anyone can believe there is a God. It (yes, it) certainly has not a clue about (poetic) justice.

The obvious lesson to learn from the short book of Mia’s life is that every moment should count as if it were the last one. I personally regret not only her untimely death but missing the opportunity to be more than a Department colleague. As we are civil servants, or aspire to, in Spanish academic life it seems as if people will be around for ever and too often relationships stay shallow. Mia was my own age and she had become a member of the Department also in the early 1990s. There were periods when we’d meet quite often, and enjoy our lunches together –she was always cheerful and warm– and there were others when we hardly saw each other, as everyone is so busy. Now it’s too late. End of the story. End of the book. I’ll miss you.