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A Life Well-Lived Gone; A Life Poorly Lived Goes On

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There will be time enough to think about how Matt Trujillo died, time enough to think about the young woman who police say was sleep-deprived and strung out on crystal meth when she ran a red light and mowed down Trujillo and his bike.

For now, those who knew the 36-year-old biker-hiker-skier have focused their thoughts on how he lived.

Which was, by all accounts, spectacularly well.

He had found the woman of his dreams, found the career of his passion, found his passion on the slopes and bike paths and mountains and the occasional coliseum or couch with his dad to watch an Oakland Raiders football game.

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He had found how to be the best Matt Trujillo he could be – fun-loving, funny, solid, serene.

“There just wasn’t anybody who didn’t love Matt,” says former Children’s Court Judge Marie Baca, whose daughter is married to Matt’s younger, only brother.

You meet people like Matt now and again who seem to have mastered life, those happy people who do not passively watch the parade pass them by, who squeeze every moment of living they can into the next adventure and then the next.

Matt Trujillo, whose motto was “Bike Ski Run Repeat,” was no couch potato. And when he wasn’t off skiing or climbing or riding his mountain bike along some far-reaching road, he was likely at REI, the sporting goods store in Albuquerque where he worked for 12 years outfitting others and offering his expert advice for their own grand adventures.

But he was no daredevil.

“He understood the limits of what he was doing,” brother Josh Trujillo says. “He liked to push the limits, but he respected the limits. My brother always followed the rules, followed all the manuals and directions. He did everything meticulously and neatly. Above everything else, he was always prepared and organized.”

Matt was prepared and organized when he embarked on what no one saw as a particularly limit-pushing bike ride to work on the morning of May 12.

Biking to work was the norm in the Trujillo family. His mother, Leslie Kern, a psychiatric nurse, and his girlfriend, a physician’s assistant, ride to their jobs at University of New Mexico Hospital. Brother Josh and his wife, Liz Trujillo, both teachers, ride their bikes to school.

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All of them have often taken part of Matt’s route that morning – a bike lane north along the residential part of Washington NE that hooks up with the auto-free North Diversion Channel trail.

Matt had entered the intersection on Washington at Indian School on a green light when the 1999 Nissan Pathfinder heading east on Indian School failed to stop at the red light, failed to stop before it slammed into Matt, breaking the frame of his sky-blue Bianchi road bike nearly in half and breaking Matt worse than that.

Matt, of course, was wearing a helmet, his family says, but his skull was fractured and his brain damaged just the same. The crash also broke his pelvis, clavicles, hip, leg and ribs and punctured his lungs.

The items he carried were still meticulously and neatly organized in his backpack.

Staff in the emergency room at UNMH recognized Matt despite the blood and the glass-and-asphalt-peppered gashes to his face. Many had met Matt through his girlfriend or his mother or his work at REI. An anesthesiologist knew him from their recent bike ride.

For two weeks – the most torturous two weeks ever, Kern says – the family hoped and prayed and waited until an MRI could identify how badly Matt’s brain had been damaged.

“My gut feeling was he was already gone,” Kern says.

The results were just as she feared. On May 26, life support was stopped. Matt died 1 1/2 hours later, surrounded, as he had often been, by relatives and friends.

So, a little time to speak of the woman accused of his death. She is Memori Hardwick, barely 20, with a history of drug and prostitution charges. At the time of the crash, she had a warrant for failing to appear for arraignment May 20 on a drug possession charge.

According to the criminal complaint, she is a longtime crystal meth user. When she was arrested, she told police she had been awake for days.

On the morning of the crash, she and passenger Guadalupe Silva borrowed a car and drove to the South Valley to score more meth, but she said they were unsuccessful – although the complaint reports that 17 syringes and three baggies of a “white powder residue” were in the car.

Hardwick told police they were on their way back to return the car, almost out of gas, when she looked down for a lighted cigarette she had dropped.

She hadn’t seen the red light.

She hadn’t seen Matt until he was lying crumpled in the road.

She didn’t stop.

Hardwick is charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

But it was no accident.

“When somebody chooses to drink and do drugs, when they choose to run a red light, it’s just as if they pulled a trigger,” says Baca, ever the judge.

Memori Hardwick, it is clear, has not lived life spectacularly, has not become the best Memori Hardwick she can be.

“My guess is, she’s had a hard story, a hard life,” Kern says. “But I can’t deal with that now.”

This past Sunday, REI closed its doors at the end of the business day and held a memorial for Matt, a man who could have taught Hardwick a thing or two about how to live.

“Matt just encouraged people to go forth with their adventures but to stay safe and responsible and have fun,” his brother says.

An important lesson. Because you never know when those adventures will end.

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, jkrueger@abqjournal.com or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal


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