I found a piece of writing yesterday that I wrote a little over a year ago. I wish I hadn't found it; wish I had never had to write it. But it didn't care. As I read it again this morning, it was just as fresh as it was the day I wrote it. I wonder of that will ever change...
For Jess, Jan. 2, 2012
I don’t want to forget yesterday. It was clear and chilly when I woke up, and it warmed into a beautiful winter’s day – the kind you feel you have to get outside and enjoy, especially here in rainy western Washington. It was the first day of 2012, and the sky was bright outside my window as I made my coffee and let the dogs out into the early morning sunshine. I took my cup and opened the blinds before sitting down at my computer.
Then I read the news. You, with your sky-blue eyes, long blonde hair and wonderful smile, were killed in a car crash along a country road near your hometown. I hadn’t known you were even home, it’d been so long since we talked. As the details filtered in through posts on Facebook with your friends and family, I learned you and the three people you were with had taken a turn too fast and slammed into a tree in the early morning hours after New Year’s. I try not to imagine what that was like. At least, I think in my desperate attempts at putting it together so I can deal with it, it was fast.
I sat in front of my computer for most of the morning, sifting through the facts of your death and finding out about your life and the parts I’ve missed over the past six months or so since we last had coffee at Starbuck’s. I browsed your pictures on Facebook and reread our posts to each other about the books I gave you on life and death and what it all means. The messages were still so fresh, I couldn’t connect the words with the fact that you aren’t here any more. That there would be no more posts or messages. I even opened up the chat window just to check. Your name was there...the green dot beside it wasn’t.
I read until I couldn’t take it any more and had to leave to go out into the bright sunshine and walk my dogs around the lake. Seagulls called your name over our heads as we walked. I kept thinking that you died on a beautiful day. Except that’s not true. You never got to see it. It was night when that truck hit that tree. And I try not to think about what your sky-blue eyes saw last.
I stood in the grocery store after the walk, trying to locate the brand of cereal I wanted. Not finding it, I felt this hole open around me of something else I couldn’t find, and there in the bright florescence of Safeway, I felt alone, sad and afraid. I miss you, and I can’t reconcile the ledger of all the time that passed that I didn’t see you with the depth of this hurt. Maybe it’s the curse of being a teacher – that we care for our students, but only get a short while with them - four years if we’re lucky - of counseling, laughing, coaching and watching them grow– and then it’s over, they’re on with their lives, and we are left behind. And as your former teacher - and I’m speaking to my students now - I take comfort in the fact that, even though you are gone from my classroom and my life, I know you are still on the planet, still walking around, breathing, learning, growing, living. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
But Jessica, what I can’t get used to is that even though nothing has changed in my routine of not seeing you each day, everything has changed and you are not in Centralia, in Eugene, traveling the country with Adam, or in Portland any more. No more coffee at Starbuck’s. As James Taylor said, “I always thought that I’d see you again.”
I left the store, not having found the cereal, my hands empty.
I will go to your service in a week or two. And I will see all the people you left behind who loved you, some of whom I care for like you. And I’m sure I will cry. I’ll cry for you, I’ll cry for me and I’ll cry for them... for all of us who don’t get to see you any more, ever. You were only 22, and you’d done so much and touched so many. We will all cry and hug and miss you as we remember.
I sure hope it’s a sunny day.