LIVERMORE, Calif. (KTVU) - A 30-year-old woman, whose life was cut short, left a precious gift behind. Michelle Tarwater was a flight paramedic. She died last month on a plane in Humboldt County while transporting a patient.
Tarwater recently celebrated her 30th birthday. She told her parents that she'd made a will, not out of a sense of doom, but because she was organizing her life. Unbeknownst to them, when she died last month she left behind a letter to her mother that she'd written five years ago.
Her mother, Nancy Horne, read the letter to KTVU.
"Dear mom, this is going to be hard for you to read. If you're reading this then something has happened and you've got a phone call that no parent should have to get."
The letter was found tucked in her daughter Michelle's laptop. On July 29th, the inflight paramedic died in a plane crash.
She was with a nurse and a pilot on a medical flight transporting a patient from Crescent City to Oakland when the plane went down in Humbodlt County.
"I was just stunned when I got the call that morning, it's surreal," said Horne.
Two days later, Michelle's stepfather found the letter addressed to her mother.
"I hope I went out doing something really awesome like saving someone's life," read Horne.
"This was her calling. This is what she wanted to do," said Horne.
Michelle grew up in Livermore, moved to Oregon six years ago to answer her calling: to save lives, working as a paramedic and a volunteer firefighter.
"If something happens to her while she's taking care of people, firefighting or rescuing someone, she says I'm good with that," said Horne.
In the letter, Michelle goes on to write, "You're going to feel lonely and sad but I want you to remember this: I died doing what I love: helping people."
Michelle's work for Cal-Ore life flight meant she flew several times a week to different parts of Oregon and California.
"I'm just so shocked that she's gone at 30-years-old," said Horne.
But she says the shock is tempered by the knowledge that her daughter lived a full life.
"She accomplished everything she wanted to do in zero to 30 because she was going 300 miles per hour," said Horne.
"Thank you for being the best mom ever than you for dragging me outside," read Horne through laughter and tears, often at the same time.
She's grateful that Michelle left her this letter, the most precious and unexpected of gifts.
"I can hear her voice talking to me," said Horne. She says it's a gift she wants to share with the families of other first responders who make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
"They didn't die in vain. They died doing what they love. I think that could help other people work through this too," said Horne.
Nancy says her daughter will live on through the countless patients that she's helped.
"I'm just so proud of her. My little child has grown up to become such an awesome wonderful woman. For her to be gone while doing that it's a comfort for me. She died with her boots on," said Horne.
In the letter, Michelle wrote, "Don't forget, I'll always be with you in your heart and soul."
"It is hard because she's gone so young. It's very hard for me to read over and over again, but yet it is very comforting.
Horne is planning a memorial for daughter here in the Bay Area September 3rd. She reads the letter at least once a day, sometimes two or three times.
For information on how you can make donations online, visit: www.Hafoundation.org/cal-ore