Missing Sri

Christine LaPado is a Chico jazz musician and writer and frequent contributor to the News & Review.

Srijaya Dalton, known to her friends and family as Sri, was mowed down by a hit-and-run driver shortly after 3 o’clock in the morning on Monday, May 26—Memorial Day—on San Francisco’s notoriously dangerous 19th Avenue. She was crossing the street after leaving a party celebrating her graduation from San Francisco State University two days earlier. She lay in the road dying until someone finally saw her and called an ambulance, which arrived at 4:30. Sri died in the hospital at 6:30 a.m. To say that her death is a massive tragedy is an understatement.

Sri was only 22 years old. Her mother and father have lost their precious daughter. Ari has lost her beloved sister. Her friends have lost their very dear friend. The world has lost one of the loveliest and gentlest persons I have ever known.

I met Sri through my son Benjamin and his friend Paul. The three of them were friends and fellow musicians in Leonard Duarte’s Chico High School Band. Sri played alto sax. Later, I would get to play with her and Benjamin in Chico State’s Symphonic Band.

Between the time she left high school and when she moved to San Francisco, Sri used to pop in regularly to the Upper Crust, where I was working at the time. Her visits would literally light up my day. When she walked in the door, with her limpid eyes and glorious shy smile, it was like a sunshine fairy had entered the room. Always angelically radiant and soft-spoken, Sri and I would catch up on the latest that was happening in our lives, always with the plainest loving sincerity and interest, always asking about Benjamin as well, who was away at school in Chicago at the time. I can’t emphasize enough how pure she was.

The loss of Sri is mind-boggling. We’re all reeling from it. The senselessness of it is almost too much to bear. It’s as if a butterfly were smashed with a hammer—that brutal and that ridiculous.

The only sense I can make of it is that God needed another angel in Heaven, because Sri was the closest thing to being an angel of just about anyone I have ever met in my life. She was child-like in the very finest sense of the word—loving, trusting, joyful, beautiful and kind.

Angel flying too close to the ground, I wish we could have patched up your broken wing and kept you here with us longer. But that was not to be. Sri, I will miss ever being able to see you again. Since you left us, I have found myself praying to you, as if you have become a guardian angel. Perhaps that is the way that the most people possible can be touched by you.

With love to you, Sri…