Without him

A SU photojournalism senior shares the heartache, rage and raw emotions that have enveloped her past two years since her 18-year-old brother died.

I had my brother, Lucas Robert Reiss, for 18 years, five months and four days. I lost him on January 9, 2009, at 2:10 p.m. to a negligent truck driver on Ortega Highway.

That Friday afternoon one impatient trucker crossed the double-yellow line in an attempt to pass slower traffic, running my brother on his motorcycle off the road and into the guardrail. Fleeting peace could be found in the consolation that the end was quick; that he was doing what he loved most -- accelerating down the highway on his 2007 Suzuki DR-Z 400 SM.

Photo: Self-portrait
Mackenzie Reiss

But even knowing that doesn’t make dealing with his death any easier; it doesn’t make me miss him less.

A few days before the start of the spring semester of my sophomore year, I got the call. I was hungover at a friend’s apartment and I almost didn’t pick up the phone. At first, my mom said nothing about Lucas, and then suddenly the words came:  

“Lucas was in an accident ... and he didn’t make it. He didn’t make it.”

With those words, everything I knew changed instantly. I felt like an observer of my own life, watching it pass by, and going in all the wrong directions. But there was nothing I could do to stop it. He was already dead.

I went home to California for the funeral and simply existed. I let people hug me, I cried, I yelled at God, and sat in his room for hours waiting for someone to come in and tell me that this was all an awful dream, that I could wake up now, that everything would be alright. But it wasn’t.

Lucas Reiss Funeral by Mackenzie Reiss

Back at school, no one -- apart from a few close friends -- said anything to me about my brother’s passing. Maybe they didn’t know what to say, or didn’t want to make me sad; but their collective silence made me sadder than anything else. I had never felt so alone.

It’s been two years now, since Lucas died, and I’ve learned a lot in that time. That first semester back, I dealt with it, by not dealing with it. When I missed him, I cried alone in my room. When people asked me if I was OK, I said yes. But internalization isn’t how you heal. And even though it still hurts to think of him, in producing this piece, I’ve found a way to turn something horrible, into something positive.

When I think of him now, I remember this: He taught me to find the humor in life when I had given up looking for it; he taught me to be a better rider and to be a better friend. Those who knew him well will lead fuller lives because he was a part of each of theirs.

And as Lucas would say, “Ride to live, live to ride.”

Crying like a baby after

Crying like a baby after watching. Good stuff.

Missing Lucas

Dear Mackenzie,

What a beautiful tribute to Lucas - we still talk about what a wonderful, caring boy he was.  You both had a special bond - the whole family could see that!

He was so sweet to my grandchildren.  The boys love to ride their dirtbikes and Lucas shared his bike stories with them and showed him the bikes he had.  They thought he was really "cool".


Your Cousin,

Christine Ghiselli



Dear M,  The tears were rolling off my cheeks watching your article.  I had forgotten the sound of his voice.  It was nice to hear.  Your Dad looked so happy.  Your article was so wonderful and sad at the same time.  You will never forget him!  He is such a part of you now more than ever.  Love you more than you know, Love Aunt Patty


I am so proud to have such a talented, brave, and caring friend. Your work has the power to move thousands and this is proof of your extraordinary visions. Lucas will always be missed and I'm sure he's very proud and touched by what you've done for him. Beautiful, job Mackenzie.


<3, Kristin




That was just a beautiful article that you wrote about your brother.  He would be so proud of you.  We are very proud of you too.

Always glad to hear on how you are doing.  Your grandma just loved you and talked about all your accomplishments.  She was very proud of you too.

Stay as sweet as you are.

Love Ya,

Uncle Joe & Aunt Carol Jean

Re: Lucas

Dear MacKenzie - Our hearts also bleed for you and your Mom & Dad as we look next door and remember all the fun times talking over the fence, the fun parties you had, and you and Lucas growing up.  I cherish the times I picked him up from Marco Forester Jr High & Saddleback  H.S., and the conversations we shared.  He was a fun teenager to converse with (as were you) and it filled a void in my life since my kids had grown up and moved far away.  David also enjoyed connecting with him on a "mechanical" basis when he taught him to change brakes on our car (and wouldn't take any pay for it) and they would have many deep conversations about vehicles,  performance and safety which they were on the same page and shared many magazines.

I thank you for submitting such an excellent article and deservedly getting it picked for this honor.  I'm sure writing it was probably the most difficult thing to losing him but somehow writing about hurts we have in life seems to help us deal with that hurt and help us go on.  Learning to live with this heart wrenching loss is difficult, at best, but I know he would want us all to be happy and remember the good times we had.

We have enjoyed you and your family over the years and altho we miss seeing you often, we enjoy the times you have spent visiting and hope we can connect again soon. 

Love, Hugs & Blessings, Myrna & David


Without Him


You beautiful sweetie-pie.  What a private beautiful love letter to your brother. Your words hurt my heart as I looked at his face and saw my sister.  I wish I could express my feelings fior her half as good.  We all miss him and cry for you and your parents.  I think of Lucas often. Came across some archery pictures of him smiling and acting all goofy. Don't be afraid of forgetting.  You never will.

Love Judi

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