Kevin Keegan and his wife, Tracy Keegan, were preparing to celebrate his 55th birthday and eagerly awaiting the homecoming of their daughter Marina and a college boyfriend they hoped to get to know better, just days after the two graduated from Yale University.
But instead a state trooper arrived at the Keegan's door to deliver devastating news: There had been a car crash and Marina Keegan, who had a promising position as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker magazine ahead of her, was dead.
"I was waiting with my lobster and birthday cake, which she loved," said Kevin Keegan. "I couldn't understand why after a week she wasn't home. Why can't she just be back?"
Marina Keegan and Michael Gocksch were en route to the Keegans' summer house in Wellfleet, Mass., when Gocksch lost control of the car. The Lexus hit a guard rail, spun across the road to hit the opposite guard rail, then rolled over twice, according to the Cape Cod Times.
Gocksch was uninjured, but Keegan died at the scene.
This week her prophetic and inspirational essay, "The Opposite of Loneliness," with its heart-wrenching lines "We're so young. We're so young. We're 22 years old. We have so much time" has gone viral.
The piece had appeared in a special graduation issue of the Yale Daily News days before her death on May 26.
Her parents, still raw with emotion, cried and laughed over memories as they drove back from Yale, where they had heard tributes from students and faculty, and told ABC News.com that they had taken comfort in the way their daughter continued to inspire other young people with her idealistic voice, now immortalized in her writing.
They had transcended the horrible circumstances of their daughter's death to forgive and console Gocksch, who was driving the car.
"She was very in love," said Tracy Keegan, 54. "She loved the Cape and the water and wanted to share her favorite place. I had never seen her so happy. She so loved and admired him."
Gocksch was an American studies major, "the most well-read" man Marina Keegan said she had ever met, according to her mother. Keegan served as president of the Yale College Democrats, and Gocksch was its vice president.
"How are we doing?" asked her mother. "We are just running on adrenaline, just guessing the value of trying to honor a soul like Marina's. I can hear her now: 'Just don't screw up this interview.' She was the one with the eloquent soul.
"She absolutely kept a constellation of friends and people whom she loved," said Tracy Keegan. "She was also a deep thinker. She would go about her everyday things and then something would strike her, and she would need to work it out and understand it in a larger way -- to pull back from the current to a larger picture, like most of us never do."
Their daughter cared about whales (and wrote about it), the legalization of same-sex marriage, the decriminalization of marijuana and helping college-bound undocumented immigrants realize their dreams, according to her parents.
Active in the Occupy Morgan Stanley campaign, Keegan told her mother she was proudest of her essay, "Even Artichokes Have Doubts," an analysis of why so many Ivy League graduates abandon their dreams and end up in finance that was published in both the Yale Daily News and The New York Times.
"This fall when she was a senior, she called and said, 'Mom, I got a call from a recruiter who wanted to pay me $100 to meet with him for one hour to talk to me about working for a consulting company or a hedge fund. Why are they calling me? I'm an English major?' Then she realized, 'Wait a minute, they're calling everybody.'"
Keegan knew she could have a "great impact" as a writer, according to her father, and by "making a difference."
Max de La Bruyere, a rising senior from Alberta, Canada, and editor-in-chief of the Yale Daily News, said Keegan's writing and activism "really challenged people to think."
They took a creative writing class together and De La Bruyere was in awe of her talent. "Every piece she shared, and I was amazed at how well she was with words and thoughts," he said. "The quality of her writing was off the charts."