A lot has changed for Michelle Varty over the past six years since the untimely death of her best friend Julie Moon. The former alternative education student just graduated from Victor Valley College (and she's eyeing a four-year degree), and she's happily married with two children.
But one thing has stayed the same - her steadfast, fond memory for a special young woman who left an indelible imprint.
"It's been six years today," Varty, 26, said as she and Moon's mother, Kelly Moon, created a roadside memorial for Moon.
Julie Moon died while she was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her friend, Tiffany Bedolla. The pair's vehicle was struck when Bedolla made a turn onto Mariposa Avenue.While the driver sustained catastrophic injuries when she was broadsided, Moon, who had just turned 20, had barely a scratch.
"My little girl had one mark on her," Kelly Moon said. "She died of blunt-force trauma."
Although the 10:10 p.m. accident was just a few blocks away from the Moon family home in Hesperia, Kelly Moon didn't find out until three hours later.
"I didn't believe it was her," she said. "I said, 'No, no!' Then they showed me her purse. It was like a nightmare."
Her friend Michelle Varty also clearly remembers when she learned about the tragedy.
"Kelly called my mom," Varty said. "My mom came and woke me up. I didn't know if she was serious. She had just changed in my house. Her clothes were still on the floor."
When Julie died, she and Michelle were working at a convalescent home and planning on careers in nursing.
"Julie had a scholarship from Dr. Prem Reddy (owner of Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville)," Moon said. "Today when I read the paper (the Daily Press), those girls were graduating from the nursing program."
But the death of Julie, who Varty referred to as "funny, so funny," has helped propel her friend and her mother on to doing good, helpful things for others. As a member of Umbrella Ministries, her mother has prepared and sent more than 150 seed packets to others who have lost loved ones. And Varty is making plans to get her psychology degree and help others as a grief counselor.
Having studied the stages of grief, Varty knows she has worked hard to get through the pain. But as she puts a white, wooden cross into the hard cleeche, she also knows the memory of her dear friend must go on.
"To me, it's part of the grieving process," she said. "At some point I have to say it's God's will, and it's not for us to know."